Last week was quite eventful in a number of ways, but when a fire started in a toilet/bathroom area of the council building, it quickly became the main topic of discussion.

The fire ignited in an area where part of the floor was coated in glue in preparation for replacement vinyl, and the wall burst into flame.

The fire grew in size very quickly but thankfully, due to the rapid response of our chief executive (aka Fireman Sven), who used a nearby fire extinguisher to douse the flames, major damage was avoided. The fire brigade had been called via the automatic alarm system and arrived very quickly to take control of the incident.

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A near miss, but on reflection also a reminder on how well served we are by the many volunteers in this district who provide services for us.

In this instance, it was the Fire Brigade, who are totally reliant on volunteers to provide the service to the community. The Stratford and Toko brigades are a credit to everyone associated with them and we are so lucky to have them servicing our district.

Other groups are also well served by volunteers and several spring to mind as examples of community minded people doing community minded tasks.

From the mayor's desk: Stratford lucky to have fire service, volunteers

The helpers at the Hospice Shop and the Salvation Army Store allow the labour costs to be kept to a minimum, allowing profits to be maximised and directed towards the fundraising efforts of the organisation. While other groups like Justices of the Peace, Foodbank, Citizens Advice Bureau and St John provide services that are very beneficial for the community as a whole.

Service organisations like Lions and Rotary are active in supporting others and over many years have worked on community projects that have provided a great deal of enjoyment for our people.

Sports clubs, social groups, churches, schools and special interest groups all have significant elements of voluntary input and collectively it this unity and comraderie that knits us all together under the umbrella of community spirit. The Stratford District has this in spades!

Let's not forget the contribution that our iwi groups Ngaruahine and Ngati Ruanui have made by providing health services, both testing and vaccinating, during the pandemic. There has been a high degree of voluntary labour and as a bonus they have brought a new sense of unity, inclusiveness and willingness that will ensure we will all be working together to achieve future community aspirations.

When I reflect on the challenges of the past two Covid-dominated years, our community spirit has never been tested as much as it has been in recent months. The current cloud of frustration, divisiveness and anger that hangs over the nation is testing the patience of everyone and is surely not the way we want the future to be. I see the Wellington protest as symptomatic of that unrest and the strain we are collectively experiencing.

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At a local level, I imagine most of us could point to unpleasant or unwelcome situations that probably wouldn't have occurred without the pressures of the pandemic, that is influencing everything we do. Almost every day, I hear someone utter the words "I'm over it" and who can blame them? I would challenge anyone to find a person that doesn't want the pandemic to end, the tension to end and a return to normal, albeit different than before.

With the Omicron cases surging ahead over the past week and Delta still hanging around, the new normal still seems a long way off. This situation highlights the need for tolerance of others and understanding that difficult decisions still need to be made.

I know at council we can't please everyone all the time, and on occasions it is just not possible to do so. A recent example being the introduction of limited-access restrictions placed on non-vaccine pass patrons wanting to use the swimming pool. This situation has caused some grief for some pool users, but we endeavour to do the right thing, live within the rules and box on.