OPINION: Roaring great time in region as residents get out and enjoy events

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By Jacqui Dean

What a rowdy bunch we are in South Canterbury and the Waitaki! Over the weekend if we weren’t cranking up motors in Geraldine, we were cheering on soapbox racers in Timaru or out at the drags in Oamaru.

Despite the ever-increasing fuel prices, Geraldine’s Vintage Car and Machinery Museum’s annual Crank Up Day was once again a hit, with people flocking to see more than 2000 exhibits roar to life, while hundreds of people braved the noise at the Oamaru drag races at the airport.

The most fuel-efficient event would no doubt have to be Timaru’s soapbox derby! The colourful day out, which used to be held in the town’s main street in the ’80s, was reinstated last year and proved more popular than ever. Thousands turned up to see 60 competitors in their weird and wonderful racing contraptions.

It’s encouraging to see so many family-friendly events being run throughout the region. With so many people throughout the South Canterbury and Waitaki districts living rurally, any event which draws people together and strengthens our communities should be celebrated.

This is particularly true currently with so many Kiwis now pessimistic about the economy and their own prospects in the face of the Government’s propensity to drive up living costs.

The latest ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index shows for the first time since 2009 that more people are expecting harder economic times for the year to come. This is unsurprising given the rising fuel costs and more taxes than ever before.

With many of these changes hitting the rural sector particularly hard, it is just so important that people continue to rally together and look out for one another.

While travelling throughout the region I’m constantly reminded that the visitor season is now well and truly upon us. With summer just around the corner our small-town cafes and restaurants have once again come to life, cyclists can be spotted traversing the Alps 2 Ocean tracks and more and more campers and rental vans are on the roads.

I just hope locals can feel a little more confident this season, with rental companies now being urged to sign a new code of practice aimed at keeping visiting drivers safe.

The Rental Vehicle Association and Tourism Industry Aotearoa are pushing for all rental car companies throughout the country to sign up to the code, first launched in 2015.

Being MP for such a vast region full of tourist hotspots, I have remained vocal about tourist driver safety and I welcome this fantastic initiative.

It will not only provide a standardised set of agreed practices for operators to follow when assessing visiting drivers’ skill sets but means there will be increased screening of driver experience and more information sharing between operators.

I do hope this new initiative is picked up as road safety in the region is paramount. We need to do everything we can not only to keep New Zealanders safe but to keep our foreign guests safe as well. I congratulate the RVA for stepping up and pushing this initiative.

Jacqui Dean is the MP for Waitaki