The Southern Lakes district has a Big Heart
In amongst all of the scrapping over tourism growth, the environment, our airports and our lack of a proper hospital is one single, shining piece of good news.
The Southern Lakes, without a doubt, must have one of the strongest collections of communities in New Zealand.
The evidence for this lies in the thousands of volunteer and charity events that take place here every year - largely without fanfare and without proper recognition.
An example of this is that tonight hundreds of people have donated their time, money and expertise to help fund the free accommodation at hospitals programme that is run by the Ronald McDonald House South Island team. It's a Supper Club event in Queenstown where guests get to eat at mystery locations around the area. Every dollar goes to the charity and every bit of food, drink (and even some helicopter time) is donated free of charge by local businesses.
It's sold out - so this is not a push for any extra support - but it represents something that is important to talk about.
Our volunteers, supporters, donors and our charities are as much a defining feature of the Southern Lakes as our big tourism businesses, our artists, our small businesses and our emergency workers. We are bound together by the mountains, lakes and a deep sense of looking after each other. Our isolation is deeper than we realise - it is not only distance that separates us from the rest of the country but the unique set of Southern skills it takes to survive and thrive in our small, pressure cooker communities. We are different - and we should be proud of that.
Are we misunderstood by the rest of the country? Yes, probably - but is there any point in whinging about it? No.
It seems increasingly likely that the best fix for most of our local problems is going to come from us - not from Wellington, Dunedin or Auckland. That's a little disappointing but also exciting. And if we wonder if we can do it - address many of our problems on a local basis - then we only need to look at our existing performance with charities and volunteers to know that we can be very successful.
Well done to the Ronald McDonald House South Island team for their work. And Well Done to our communities for the thousands of projects that we all support. We should all be proud.