In 2015 I presented a Long Term Plan for our city - a 10 year plan that is working well. Now we need to continue to the next phase.
• Finances you can Trust
• Essential Services
• City Development
• Community revitalisation
• A strong economy
FINANCES YOU CAN TRUST
When I took over as Mayor three years ago, I inherited an unworkable Long Term Plan, with forecast rate rises of nearly 10% and a backlog of infrastructure projects that was putting both our environment and economy at risk. Deferred projects and unrealistic budgets had pushed problems into future years. Rates and debt caps were set to be breached and change was needed urgently.
Through strong leadership and rigorous management of our finances I am proud to say Nelson's plans now meet the test of financial prudence. Annual rates increases have been slashed from the projection of 9.6% I inherited, to 3.6% in 2015/16 and 2.8% for this year. Debt levels remain well within the caps and any surpluses are now directed to debt repayment.
This year’s projected rates rise was 3.4% but we managed to bring it in at 2.8%. And this is no election year stunt, We are now projecting annual rates rises at well below 3%, for at least the following 3 years, and this is without compromising our ongoing investment in pivotal projects connected with sport, recreation, the arts, social development and the environment. In fact, across the board this Council is showing it can deliver more by thinking smarter and managing budgets carefully.
How did we do it:
- By not taking extra rates for ‘just in case’ projects we haven’t thought up yet.
- By building an emergency fund.
- By not transferring money rom one activity area to pay for another. Money for stormwater can’t be transferred to pay for a festival.
- By requiring internal business cases to be undertaken for projects, with major project business cases coming to council for consideration.
- By setting priorities, which ensure we are able to focus on work that makes a difference.
- By aligning and timing scheduled work to gain the best use of skills and resources.
Now we’re operating like an organisation should when its responsible for $1.3 billion of assets.
The management and leadership of the city has, I am proud to say, earned an AA rating from Standard & Poor’s, the world’s leading credit agency. We’re in the very top tier of councils in New Zealand, and well ahead of the credit ratings for the major banks.
But we’ve still got areas to improve in and I want us to be continually looking for opportunities to use ratepayers' money wisely. To this end, Nelson City Council has now been accepted as a Foundation Council in the Local Government Excellence Programme. The Programme incorporates a comprehensive, independent assessment system that will see councils assessed by an independent team of expert assessors. Each participating council will receive an overall rating and commentary on their performance, with the results made public.
I am keen to see our Council work towards best practice and to be transparent and accountable.
There are some things that are truly the responsibility of councils. Efficient sewerage, water supply and stormwater systems are essential services that must continue to be funded as a priority. City Infrastructure is critical to protecting our city and environment. As we plan and respond to climate change these activities become even more important.
Not doing this work puts at risk people, property, and the environment. When I was elected to the Mayoralty in 2013 I promised a greater focus on this area. A review was undertaken that identified a major backlog of delayed essential maintenance projects and inadequate services. Addressing this backlog of core infrastructure projects has been a high priority over the last three years. Critical projects have been completed or are underway, but there is much more to be done and this work must continue. The scale and cost of the issue requires a long term commitment.
As Mayor I am committed to ensuring that rates are prioritised towards essential services that protect lives and the environment.
Connecting Our City to the Sea
A project close to my heart is creating a new gateway to our city and connecting the city to the sea. This involves revitalising the Elma Turner Library Precinct in a way that will effectively link the city to Rutherford Park and the Trafalgar Centre and then beyond that, to the Marina, the Haven Precinct and our magnificent waterfront. To get this right, it is important that no part of the city to sea link should be considered strictly in isolation - and that’s part of the big picture thinking I that I need to employ as Mayor.
City to Sea is not a new project. In fact improving this connection was one of the reasons I first stood for council in 2007 and I've written and spoken about the importance of improving our river and waterfront on many occasions. It’s also a critical part of the Heart of Nelson Strategy that has been strongly supported by the community and previous councils have made attempts at advancing projects along this link. Property purchases have been made and this vacant real estate needs to have its potential realised.
My challenge has been to bring these projects together through the Long Term and Annual Plans with allocated budgets that will allow work to get underway. Already you can see the progress made in Rutherford Park and a project manager has been appointed to oversee the Haven Precinct. IN addition to this, the long-muted Marina Developments are proceeding with an Advisory Group of experienced local people making sure progress occurs in the right direction. Also at the Marina, the Hardstand and Travel Lift have been secured. These bring us into line with other marinas around the country and round out the service package expected by boaties - both local and visiting. On top of this, the initial concept work on the Elma Turner Library is underway and will ensure that one of our most-used and well-loved facilities continues to be relevant and accessible into the future.
There’s lots to achieve in the next three years and I’m looking forward to it.
I am committed to working with property owners, retailers, businesses and the hospitality sector, to ensure that Nelson’s CBD is the vibrant and busy heart of our region that it deserves to be.
Central cities around New Zealand are seeing rapid change with a digital presence, an exceptional customer experience and quality public spaces being shown as critical to long-term business success.
Our CBD is the biggest centre in the top of the South Island and we must ensure that it is an accessible and attractive destination for locals and visitors.
It is essential that Nelson's CBD is a vibrant, attractive and busy commercial centre for our city. To achieve this, we need more people living and working in and near the city, so that the CBD develops as a neighbourhood with a safe attractive and a modern urban vibe no matter what the hour. We also need to ensure people can easily travel to and park in the city. Good public transport will play an important role but I believe suggestions to limit parking, remove the free hour or push up current parking prices could risk business viability.
A vibrant city is about attracting people year-round in order to generate activity and jobs within the CBD's business, retail and hospitality sectors.
This Council has supported inner city living by waiving development contributions and is in the process of changing planning rules to allow creative solutions for better building conversions.
We will also continue to work closely with Uniquely Nelson to make sure Nelson’s CBD continues to thrive. Investment in quality public spaces is underway as Council partners with business in areas such as Church St, strengthens connections to NMIT, and lifts the moratorium on outdoor dining spaces. All have been welcomed by our City's businesses and valuable institutions.
In addition to these, I am aware that there is currently positive private-sector building developments being planned for the CBD across a range of precincts and, with Farmers retained in the CBD, I will continue to support the private sector to achieve a new generation store within the city. Lets not forget too, that expressions of interest will be called for redevelopment of the Council-owned State Advances Building and that too offers plenty of scope for urban revitalisation right in the heart of the city. One area really making inroads in the last year is the Nelson Tasman Tourism and conference venues. These venues experienced a very full programme of events over recent months and there is no doubt that this has been supported by increased air services to and from the region. As a proactive Council we've also kept the programme of sports and cultural events up for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. With the re-opening of the Trafalgar Centre and the Suter later this year and the re-opening of Nelson School of Music next year, there is no doubt that there is plenty of growth still to come.
The next three years will also see Elma Turner library redevelopment as part of the Riverside Precinct, greater summer use of upper Trafalgar Street and the opening up of the Museum frontage, city apartment construction underway, new private sector commercial development, and Rutherford Park grow and develop as an urban park.
If we’re going to be successful in achieving some of the things we want, the council can’t work in isolation. Partnerships help build a broader understanding of the community and allow others to share the load and the benefits. This fresh approach sees council working alongside the community rather than acting as separate bureaucracy and that’s very much how I like to work.
Top of the South Iwi /Nga Iwi of Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Maui
The Treaty of Waitangi Settlement legislation for Te Tau Ihu was enacted in 2014 and outlines Council’s obligations and relationships with local Iwi. The Settlement provides a platform for a strengthened relationship and we are all currently working through various ways to ensure that occurs. A forum of Te Waka a Maui Iwi Chairs and Top of the South Mayors is forming to facilitate this partnership for Tasman, Nelson and Marlborough and Memoranda of Understanding are already in discussion. The Post-Settlement environment is one of great opportunity for the whole region and working in partnership with Iwi will achieve numerous benefits for the whole community.
The relationship between Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council has grown considerably stronger over the last three years. Joint Council workshops are now formalised and held regularly throughout the year with chairing of these workshops alternating between the two Mayors. Together we are now taking a regional approach to representing Nelson and Tasman in order to better attract business and engage with government and government agencies. Council staff from both organisations are now working more closely together and shared services and resources are common. We are also committed to a joint approach to formalising governance, management and marketing of Saxton Field and this will be progressed as a priority in the new Council term. In addition to this, Regional Transport Planning extends across the Top of the South to encompass Marlborough District Council also.
If we can enter into project partnerships that distribute a share of the load from ratepayers then these should be explored thoroughly – whether through engagement with local groups, central government, or with investors from further afield who are increasingly identifying Nelson as a city with a very bright future. The potential is undoubtedly there for others to share the costs and also benefit from the outcomes.
To date, this approach has delivered across the board with new successful initiatives that will continue in the next three years. Here’s a few of them:
Nelson Nature is a priority project for the Council, which targets $6 million over ten years toward protecting and restoring Nelson's world class natural environment. Here we have taken an integrated and coordinated approach to environmental management for the region by partnering with the Department of Conservation (as project managers) and tapping into their technical expertise. In addition, local conservation groups work alongside to deliver truly amazing results for our environment.
Nelson Nature is receiving New Zealand-wide attention and stands to become one of the most holistic, all-encompassing biodiversity projects carried out in the country.
The Council has partnered with Iwi, community groups, schools, government agencies and private companies to work together to restore and protect the Maitai for the benefit of those who enjoy it today and for generations to come.
This project focusses on improving the environmental health of the Maitai River and all its tributaries. It’s a four year programme running through to 2018, which focusses on improving the environmental health of the Maitai River and all its tributaries. These include Brook Stream, York Stream, Sharlands Creek, Groom Creek and Saltwater Creek.
The Maitai /Mahitahi is important to each and every one of us as a source of water, as a flood channel, and as a place to swim, fish, walk, cycle, take time out or picnic. And of course the river is also of immense significance to iwi.
Community Investment Funding
Here we’ve taken a new approach to investing in community capacity-building that allows council staff to work alongside community organisations who are able to deliver results toward key council priorities. This means that organisations with a focus on social development activities that support the well-being of the wider Nelson community are able seek partnership funding and support. One significant partnership success has been the Warmer Healthier Homes scheme, which has seen over 500 homes insulated to date and will provide benefits to the community for decades to come.
And there are plenty more partnership projects and relationships currently delivering great returns. These include the Nelson School of Music, Nelson Multicultural Council Arts Council and Light Nelson - to name just a few.
a strong Economy
The role of leadership is to ensure that we get the investment balance correct in terms of delivering things that matter to the whole community. Naturally we must pursue opportunities for growth, but that can’t be at the expense of protecting what already makes Nelson an outstanding place to live, work and visit.
Nelson’s growth has been strong over the last 3 years with our region increasingly being identified as a place that is ‘doing business in the world’ and is recognised by the world as ‘a place to do business’.
Establishing a clear regional identity to undermine our economy is a key part of the work of the being undertaken by the Nelson Regional Development Agency – the new identity that brings together both the Nelson City Council-owned Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency (EDA) and Nelson Tasman Tourism (NTT).
John Palmer -, former Chairman of Air New Zealand, agreed to head the Nelson Regional Development Agency for me and together we have established a forward-looking Board that can build on our regional strengths and identify ways to innovate in a changing business environment.
The value and success of our tourism sector allows us to market our region as a destination not just for tourists but also for business relocation and establishment, domestic and international migration, brand identity for exports, and as a key education centre for international students.
As Mayor I’ve taken a hands-on role in this area and have worked consistently to be a strong advocate for our region. The result is that over the last three years I have maintained and grown support for:
- Investment in key regional assets – Port Nelson and Nelson Airport.
- Investment in cultural assets, events and venues that support our lifestyle and economy - The Suter, Nelson School of Music, Theatre Royal, Trafalgar Centre, Light Nelson, Nelson Arts Festival, Arts Expo, Marchfest and more.
- Sporting Events that bring people to our region to share what’s great about our place with others – Cricket World Cup, Black Caps and International Cricket, Super 15 Rugby, Warriors, Silver Ferns, Masters Games, and much more.
- Planning for critical infrastructure including support for the Nelson Southern Link Investigation.
- A digital future for our region.
- Key regional Institutions NMIT and Cawthron Institute
- Innovation opportunities and support for new business hubs.
- Our relationship with China through our Sister City links and business development.
- Nelson being an international host – the Royal Visit, an International Conference Destination and Heads of Mission delegations
- Attracting new airlines and growing the local aviation engineering sector
- Ensuring the Ministry of Business and Innovation sees Nelson as a key part of New Zealand’s economic future and investment in our region.
- World class Cycling Tourism - including the Great Taste Trail, Dun Mountain, Gold Rated Mountain Biking and a Gondola opportunity.
- And a whole lot more…….
In the next term of Council this work will continue and grow as confidence builds in our ability to be a major player in New Zealand’s economic future.
COMMUNITY REVITALISATION and wellbeing
The ratepayers of Stoke and Tahunanui will continue to get my attention and a fair share of the rating dollar. But there is much more to do. Efforts to regenerate the town centres of these communities must be re-doubled if we are to retain them as liveable, active and integrated communities with unique heritages, residential groupings, features and characteristics
Tahunanui – the suburb that shares one of the world's safest and most family friendly beaches, is enjoyed year-round by locals and visitors, is a great place to live.
Over the last 3 years I’ve worked to establish strong and positive relationships with Natureland and Tahuna Beach Holiday Park, which has seen both enterprises able to develop and thrive.
Investment has also been made in the Tahunanui Community Centre and Burrell Park with expanded and greatly improved premises and the Tahunanui Drive pedestrian refuge was installed further down from the traffic lights to ensure safer crossing near the medical centre at this point.
In terms of flood remediation and future-proofing, I am very pleased that we have been able to finally get the Day's Track reinstatement underway and that council has been able to commit significant additional funds toward reducing stormwater risks and improving the overall sewerage infrastructure.
But there is much more to do. These involve:
- Progressing the Village Plan to encourage private enterprise and investment into Tahunanui that will support the heart and people of this vital area.
- Implementing better cycling links for both commuting and recreation – especially linking Tahunanui to the Great Taste Trail.
- Delivering a combined Sports Club House for the Tahunanui Playing Fields. These busy fields have limited facilities and it's time for a better solution.
In addition to directing actual community development, I believe a key factor to attracting much-needed suburban investment lies in focussing Council to get the tough decisions made around delivering the safe and workable roading network the people of Nelson deserve.
Stoke is Nelson’s fastest growing suburb and that growth isn’t slowing down. Three quarters of Nelson's total population growth is expected to occur in this suburb over the next 30 years.
To keep up with this inevitable growth, current community facilities will need to expand and a well-functioning commercial heart must be in place is Stoke is to remain a great place for people to live. Given the millions of dollars of Reserves Contributions, Development Contributions and rates that have been paid into the council coffers by Stoke residents over the years, I am determined to work with the community to see this returned through targeted investment in key community facilities and essential infrastructure.
Improving our arterial roading network and connections to the CBD and state highway network are also very important considerations for the Stoke Community. If we don't plan ahead for growth, Main Road Stoke will again face the congestion and intersection problems currently experienced along Waimea Road.
Spotlight on Stoke has been a key project over the last three years. Feedback from the Stoke community is being used to shape and plan a range of projects and has given Council clear direction on what was important. These include: development of the Greenmeadows Community Centre; cycle and walk way links; opportunities for making more of heritage properties such as Isel House and Broadgreen; better caring for Stoke's many streams, a Stoke bus loop, youth facilities, taking the next steps for further improving the Stoke Memorial Hall, improving traffic movement around the commercial centre, and redevelopment of the very, very busy Stoke Library.
Good progress has been made already and I will continue to work with private enterprise, schools and community groups in order to aggregate resources in a responsible and cost effective manner and ensure we get things right for the residents of Stoke, both current and future.
ROADS AND WATERFRONT
Every city needs a secure roading network that can be relied upon to work well on a daily basis and remain navigable in times of emergency. If Nelson is to realise its true potential as a liveable 21st century city and essential hub for the regional economy, then we need to move closer to making the tough decisions around how best to move freight and people in the future, and how best to ensure we are prepared should serious weather or earthquake events occur.
There is no doubt that Nelson's arterial network - including Waimea Road and Rocks Road - is showing signs of stress. Waimea Road is carrying traffic volumes well in excess of its design capacity and access from side roads is failing to meet reasonable standards. Travel time delays are being experienced and passage for emergency vehicles must always be maintained. Similar issues are occurring on Rocks Road, with spillover of traffic occurring on secondary roads causing disruption to residential areas and the average person's enjoyment of Waterfront walking, cycling, or rod fishing, being seriously impaired.
As shown by other cities of Nelson's size, a well thought out transport network across the city supports all forms of transport be that public, private or freight transport or more active transport like cycling, running or walking. To achieve an outcome that is fitting of a family, visitor and business-friendly regions such as our, we simply must address the failings of our current arterial roading network.
I believe that planning around roading must look to maximise opportunities that exist for increasing the accessibility and enjoyment of our waterfront. Currently the recreational, cultural, heritage, environmental and economic potential that exists between Haven Road and Tahunanui cannot be realised while we have a tightly constrained roading corridor carrying the current volume of traffic. This route should be part of the cycling experience of the Great Taste Trail and the economic and physical benefits this would afford but this cannot be achieved until we have a safer connection. As a community we need to show greater respect to this precious coastline and all those who wish to use it.
Like many others, I firmly believe that Nelson needs to make decisions around the Southern Arterial Link and set realistic and achievable goals that will allow all Nelsonians to easily, frequently and happily make the most of everything our spectacular waterfront can offer.
Creating a secure arterial roading network is about investing wisely in the future of our city and region.