I've been speaking recently with a prominent New Zealand businessman/tv personality about how to resurrect Mataura and encourage business back into the town. I had hopes that he would be able to offer some pearls of wisdom, perhaps some encouragement and avenues of investigation for us to follow. But no, unfortunately he pronounced Mataura dead and told me that we are wasting out time trying.
Today, I was walking around Mataura delivering 'The Mataura Messenger" - our monthly news sheet and it struck me how very alive Mataura is.
I was impressed by how many tidy, well cared for homes there are. I saw groups of kids playing together and enjoying the summer evening. I admired beautiful, well-tended gardens. I noticed (with some envy) how many homes have bountiful vege gardens. I strode past neighbours talking to one another. I was greeted by people I knew - and people I didn't.
Our main street may well be dilapidated and almost empty, we certainly have more than our fair share of run down homes and uncared for sections of land, and there is no doubt that apathy is hindering progress towards a stronger community. But Mataura is not dead.
I think our Businessman's idea of a thriving, successful community is different from those of us that live here. We aren't looking to create a megacity generating huge profits (although huge profits would be nice I guess) and we don't need to be the centre of the universe to have achieved our goals. What we are looking to create is a community where people have choices. We want to be able to run our businesses in our town and have some control over our community destiny.
It will take time to rebuild our community. But there are certainly people who are prepared to invest their time to make a difference. It will also take perseverance and continued effort. Fortunately there are people who have been working towards this goal for sometime already and who are willing to keep fighting the good fight on behalf of the community.