Good wishes for the new year

AS we begin a new year and reflect on the past year which has flown by so quickly, there are probably many fond memories, as well as disappointment and regret at things we wish had gone differently.

Each year holds its own significance on both a public and personal level. Last year will be well remembered for the severe floods which caused such devastation, with long-lasting effects for some homeowners and local businesses.

We will also remember the selfless and generous response of members of the community to those affected, from the heroism of the NSRI volunteers who rescued people from their homes as the floodwaters rose, to the work by churches and service organisations who collected donations from the public to distribute to those left homeless and without food and clothing.

Last year was hard for business. More small businesses closed down and development slowed down as a result of the recession, but there are signs of life – like the new supermarket going up on the corner of Main and Biscay roads.

We welcome new shopping centres because we need them. Our community is growing and shopping in season becomes an uncomfortable battle. Additional retail outlets also create healthy competition, which is good for the consumer.

But as much as we want to have more choices, more parking space and greater convenience, we also want to make sure responsible development takes place. Developers need to commit to contributing towards upgrading infrastructure – water, sewerage and roads – that ensures we all have a good quality of life, now and in the future.

The same goes for residential development, much of which is holiday homes – an unaffordable luxury for most of the population. Development will continue as long as people have discretionary income and we welcome real investment in the local economy – holidaymakers who spend money here – but again, developers need to be held to account for the services that go along with new homes.

We want to trust our council and our municipality but we always have new reason to question their decisions and their motives. These are people elected to office to serve their communities or appointed as officials and entrusted with specialised jobs and budgets. All are paid out of the public purse. We have every right to demand accountability and good reasons for their decisions.

We hope 2013 will bring more joy than sorrow to our community, more reason to have hope than despair. We hope we can all be kinder, gentler people, good neighbours, people of honesty and integrity as we work towards making Port Alfred and Ndlambe a better place to live.

- Jon Houzet