An initiative by Local Government New Zealand to help cyclone-ravaged communities is rapidly gathering steam.
LGNZ has launched Adopt-a-Community, a campaign that matches a council unaffected by Cyclone Gabrielle with a council and community that has been badly hit.
LGNZ national council member and Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan said the campaign’s aim is to raise as much money as possible for the adopted communities.
“Mayors will be driving the initiative and encouraging donations to their adopted community’s mayoral relief fund.
“We’ve all been watching the devastating scenes in the news and really wanting to help in a meaningful way.”
Cadogan said local councils play a leading role in the immediate emergency efforts and colleagues from other parts of the North Island and the South Island want to lend a helping hand in a positive and tangible way.
“That’s why we’ve come up with this concept as a practical way for mayors from other parts of the country to channel their energy, creating a direct connection with one of badly affected communities.
“This initiative is really gathering steam with more councils coming on board all the time.”
So far more than 30 “adopter” councils have signed up and LGNZ is sending a social media toolkit to these councils.
“There are a number of fundraisers underway at the moment and that’s great. Adopt-a-Community, however, will also look to medium to long-term initiatives because we know our colleagues will need that support throughout the year.”
As well as raising funds throughout the year, the concept has the potential to add additional value as impacted regions move into the recovery phase.
“For now, though, the focus is firmly on driving donations straight to the adopted community’s mayoral relief funds which gives mayors the autonomy to use the funds as needed.
“Local government shines at times like this. It’s been heartening to see so many mayors and chairs fronting their community during these challenging times.
“I know many of them and their councillors have been working day and night to provide whatever support is needed on the ground.
“The response effort shows that when local and central government and iwi work closely together we get the best outcomes for our people,” Cadogan said.
The Ashburton District Council has adopted Masterton, and Ashburton mayor Neil Brown said his council had no hesitation in signing up when they heard about the programme.
“We had already launched a mayoral flood relief fund locally, but this programme gives us a direct connection with a badly affected community.
“Masterton district is farming-based, around a similar population and not much different to our own community.
“We’ve all been seeing the devastating scenes from up north and we want to help in a meaningful way,” Brown said.
Masterton district mayor Gary Caffell said the damage was worst in the eastern and coastal areas, with the community of Tinui particularly badly affected by flooding, and farms in the area suffering damage to fences and buildings and loss of stock.
“We are humbled and very grateful for support from the Ashburton District Council and the people of the district in adopting Masterton,” Caffell said.
“We are very aware of the impact of flooding on their own district 18 months ago.
“Like Ashburton, we are very much a rural district and the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle ranges from damage to community facilities and individual properties, to businesses being compromised,” Caffell said.