Its easy to say and hard to achieve – attracting economic growth, jobs and population. We have been achieving modest growth in all sectors for 2 years after years of decline. But there are some easy places to accelerate growth and our opportunities are almost limitless – its knowing where to start on a limited budget:
- Our existing businesses are our best opportunity for growth. I’ll establish quarterly Mayoral Business Forums to share ideas, identify opportunities and issues!
- We’ll work with our regional neighbours and central government to develop the Regional Growth Study outcomes identified for our region which include aged care, honey, port developments and agri and hort initiatives. It’s possible we attract european immigrants to invest in new intensive farming enterprises to take advantage of our Grade 1 soils!
- Make Council truly business friendly and accountable for faster and cheaper turnaround of resource consents and building applications. Make it easy to do business here. This doesn’t mean we relax protection for the environment, just ensuring the process is not over complicated by beaurocracy.
- Strengthening of the Whanganui & Partners business model – it needs better resourcing and restructuring.
- Invest in the Town Centre Regeneration Study initiatives to bring more retail activity.
- Ensure we market ourselves effectively to attract visitors and new residents – they’re already arriving, but we want more! Our Heritage story is second to none, we have fantastic sports facilities and incredible cultural institutions, not to mention our river, the sea and our closeness to Ruapehu for skiing, cycling and river adventures to attract all ages and interests.
- With our hospital and airport we are also an ideal and affordable retirement option. Council efforts can be simple such as attracting more retired people to Whanganui, which has real benefits for the whole community – positive retirement does not require a big factory but it does quietly build growth around new houses, support services such as health specialists and they use our cultural offerings. Family always come and visit Mum and Dad and inevitably many young families decide to settle here.We need to establish an innovation and creative hub to attract and keep young people.
- We need to continue developments at our port and airport.
- Invest in infrastructure such as cycleways to attract tourism and adventure for the younger market and broaden the range of things to do in Whanganui. The Government and Transit NZ are partnering with us to develop 3 key cycleways by 2019.
- Ensure Whanganui is attractive to live in, including our suburbs such as Castlecliffe. Council is already investing in this area as its vital to attract residents and businesses.
- We’ll investigate ways to encourage landlords to fill their empty shop fronts, and keep empty sites attractive in the central city.
- We should not invest Council funds in private enterprise as a rule, but we have a significant role in facilitating the establishment of good businesses in Wanganui. Our purchase of the International Flight School will help financially support our airport operations and bring in overseas students – an opportunity not likely to occur from a private investor without our involvement due to this specialist operation.
- Appropriate support for education services is also vital and Council have an important role in continual liaison with all providers of this service in order to provide an attractive base for youth to study in Whanganui and grow a strong, vigorous and dynamic employment market.
- We need to be attractive to younger citizens, so more activities like a bowling alley and climbing wall would be a start. I don’t know how this is best achieved but we need to start discussing this with our key community partners such as Sport Whanganui.
What have I left out? The list is endless!