Growth Since 2013 Elections
Ask the retailers and accommodation providers and they’ll tell you that visitor numbers have been climbing for the past 3 years under this current Council after years of decline. Statistics show that Whanganui is now in a growth phase with rising house prices, a net increase in jobs, an increasing population and rising consumer and businesses confidence, all in the past 2 years. For a healthy District, we need to keep this momentum going.
I have been at the forefront of discussions around the Council table, supporting and arguing for changes to rating structures, marketing and reputation initiatives, encouraging businesses and supporting education and events. Council has been slow to adopt change, but it is happening, but needs to be faster. As Mayor I intend focusing Council more on the imperatives of jobs and population growth instead of just writing more policies!
The following list of significant projects, studies and changes have been completed:
- Town Centre Regeneration Study has been completed, providing a blueprint for the future development of the CBD to increase its viability for the next 10 years or so. The challenge will now be to implement the recommendations.
- Rates remissions of 50% are in place for flood and storm damaged properties. Further applicants are accepted for red stickers properties.
- Debt has been repaid of $18 Million in the past three years to 30 June 2016.
- River Road has been sealed enabling a growth in tourism and better access to farmland.
- A new CEO has been employed.
- Readjustment of the rating formula to spread rates more fairly.
- Taupo Quay road and car parking has been sealed and beautified, including the Saturday market area.
- The Opera House has been earthquake strengthened and fire protection upgraded.
- The Sarjeant Gallery collection has been packed up and moved to its temporary location on Taupo Quay and excellent exhibitions are continuing.
- A buy local policy with a 5% margin in favour of local contractors has been put in place for council contracts under $100,000.
- Mandatory Development Contributions Levies have been cancelled from 1 July 2015, reducing costs for developers of commercial and domestic buildings. This is a great way to encourage new developments, especially where no new infrastructure is required from Council.
- Council has won several prestigious awards including the international a Top 7 placement of the Smart 21 Cities.
- Whanganui & Partners established as a quasi-local government organisation. focus and enabling collaboration and economic growth in Business, education, toursim, technology use and innovation.
- A new vision statement has been developed that focuses on growth and technological development as a focus for the future.
- Tram tracks have finally been laid – on a small stretch of the riverfront.
- The Alexander Heritage Research Library has been earthquake strengthened.
- A formal partnership with UCOL to strengthen the long term future of this major tertiary educator in Whanganui. This has resulted in UCOL strengthening and reoccupying three heritage buildings on Taupo Quay and the roll out of the new Design and Arts Degrees along with other programs in Whanganui.
- The community glass facility NZ Glassworks opens in September 2016.