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Published in: City Soapbox Column, Hamilton News

This weekend we’re all invited to a birthday party. It’s our party – and we’re 150!

While the original Māori settlement of Kirikiriroa began centuries earlier, the first European settlement of Hamilton occurred in 1864. I’ve been fortunate to be associated with a dedicated team, led by our Mayor and comprising council and community representatives, planning to mark the occasion, and it’s exciting to know the big day is upon us.

There was an excellent civic commemoration of our city’s sesquicentenary in Garden Place in August. Hamilton West School also marked its first 150 years in fine style last month. This year also marks 50 years since the establishment of the University of Waikato. Of course, it’s also the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1, so it’s a very significant year for a host of reasons.

One of the special features of Hamilton is that we warmly embrace new residents. Many of us were born in other parts of the country but are now passionately Hamiltonian.

We have an excellent record of welcoming migrants from other nations. We’ve become a genuinely multi-cultural city and – as the numerous ethnic concerts, festivals and celebrations that occur almost every weekend demonstrate – we’ve set a model for others to follow in embracing diversity. Our regular Waikato inter-faith events demonstrate what may be achieved through coming together to share and learn from one another respectfully.

And when tragedy strikes, Hamiltonians respond generously with their time, resources and genuine concern for one another, as we have seen with two horrific house fires that tragically claimed young lives in recent weeks. I extend deepest sympathy to all the families of the victims and best wishes to those who are recovering from injury and trauma suffered in the two incidents. Sincere thanks to our dedicated emergency service teams for their responses.

Sometimes we allow media reports of unsatisfactory incidents to cloud our perspective. A great privilege of my role is that I constantly witness positive initiatives and kind actions throughout our city. Hamiltonians are warm, friendly, caring people who readily support good causes and one another.

That community spirit was evident again last Sunday during the annual Round the Bridges event. Congratulations to all who competed and thanks to all the volunteers around the course who supported and encouraged them.

So come on down to Garden Place on Saturday afternoon. Bring your family, friends and neighbours and let’s make it a street party and festival to remember. There’s free parking nearby, cheap buses, a varied family-friendly programme with something for everyone – and a great city to celebrate.

Happy birthday Hamilton!

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