In 3 years, we’ve addressed overdue infrastructure upgrades, invested in pivotal community and environmental projects, and secured Nelson as a key regional economy. And importantly - we’ve got our finances back in shape.
After a successful first term as Mayor I am determined to see through the investment strategies, environmental projects and essential infrastructure upgrades that are underway and ensure that the city’s spending continues to deliver the most benefits to the largest number of residents[u1] .
Three years ago, when I first stood for Mayor, I laid out my priorities and now it’s time to look at my scorecard.
What did I say I would do ?
- FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY - spend reasonably/affordable rates, address excess wastage, develop and affordable programme of work, plan soundly and realistically. Nailed - 5/5
- CBD - find a workable parking solution, fair commercial rating, cut red tape, sort the Trafalgar Centre and improve Bridge Street. Nailed - 2 / Good progress - 2 / Bridge St - still a challenge
- COMMUNITY REVITALISATION - kick start the Tahunanui Plan, call for investment partners, review options for Stoke and Tahunanui Community Centres, create better links, progress sports facilities and library developments. Done and dusted -2 / Getting there - 4. / Progress on 6 out of 6.
- ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE – upgrade stormwater, flood protection, water supply and sewerage systems. Plan for natural hazards. Looking good on 5/5
- ROADS AND WATERFRONT– address the Southern link, work with Victory, maximise waterfront opportunities, work with NZTA and deliver safer streets. Nailed - 2 Increased NZTA Funding Assistance Rate to Nelson and safer streets with school zones and more crossing points and increased spend on footpaths. Made the best progress we’ve seen on a solution to our arterial transport network in a decade – and funded by central government.
- AFFORDABLE HEATING- review the airsheds, dry wood, partnerships, balanced decisions. I did everything I could here and got a plan change up and new plan rules that allow woodburners to be installed in some parts of Nelson. But battling lack of previous investment in air quality monitoring, the slowness of the RMA, NES on Air Quality that needs reviewing, and people who decided to say no to woodburners in order to try and stop new transport infrastructure, did make this one challenging. I’ll accept that as a small win and it’s definitely a Work in Progress for round two.
Given I got elected with what many described as a minority council I think I’ve shown that I can achieve a fair bit if you’re open and honest and genuinely have the community’s interests at heart.
However, while the above was what I set out to achieve, once elected I found myself with another enormous challenge – the state of the finances! That’s right, when I took over as Mayor three years ago, I inherited an unworkable Long Term Plan for the City that had forecast rate rises of nearly 10% and failed to address a backlog of infrastructure projects that was putting our environment and economy at risk. It quickly became clear to me that this plan would lead to rates and debt caps being breached and that to avoid that, change was needed urgently.
Long story short – three years later Nelson now has the best finances of any Council in NZ and the backlog of Infrastructure projects is being well and truly dealt with. I guess it’s a good thing I like a challenge.
Nelsonians deserve leadership that is 100% focussed on the needs of our city and a council that has the courage to make decisions that will stimulate growth and provide the best possible outcomes to the wider community. They want a mayor who sets priorities and doesn’t push today’s problems into tomorrow. They want an accountable mayor who has the community at heart and understands fiscal responsibility.
Like any regional centre, Nelson has aspirations for development as well as many essential services that need to be maintained. 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.
The Mayoral landscape has changed with the responsibilities of a Mayor increased and extended by the 2013 changes to the Local Government Act. These extended obligations require Mayors to set the direction for council decisions and to manage budgets accordingly. More than ever, this means that Nelson needs a Mayor who has the knowledge, experience and desire to work in partnership with the community and deliver results in a cost effective way.
Over my term as Mayor, and previously during my 6 years as both Councillor and Deputy Mayor, I have proven that I have the commitment, financial capability and personal integrity required to lead a Council that is able to move the city forward. I am committed to the people of Nelson equally - whether your family has lived here for generations or just arrived, whether you’re young or old, whether you’re a sportsperson, an artist or a gardener – my objective is to lead a community where people really do care about each other. I am committed treasuring the environment we love, I am committed to better infrastructure and I am committed to doing what we can afford. I believe that means focussing on priorities and handing forward a city that is in good shape.
I understand that talking about stormwater, sewerage or transport linkages is not as exciting as talking about new venues or events, but at the end of the day if we don’t have solid foundations to support our ambitions then any visions of future prosperity will remain just visions.
Good decision making starts with good listening and asking questions. Good decisions also rely on good quality information. As mayor I’ve always tried to give councillors plenty of opportunity to understand the issues and ask questions of staff. The community deserve well-informed decision-makers. I prefer to make council decisions through consensus and throughout this term, critical decisions - especially in regard to the Long Term Plan and Annual Plans - have been made either unanimously or with very little opposing vote. When it comes to the work of Council there has been a high degree of unity around the table.
However, it must be said that matters involving the Nelson Southern Link Investigation have led to some councillors’ personal views coming into the council chamber and this has not led to the quality of decision-making that I would like to have seen. The role of local government leaders is to ensure that we make decisions in the best interests of our community – regardless of our personal preferences.
I have lead decisions based on a clear vision and workable plan, financial prudence, and a respect for all residents and ratepayers.
As Mayor I am committed to leading a transparent, less bureaucratic council that spends every dollar responsibly, listens to what matters to you, and delivers results.
You deserve nothing less.
Rachel Reese - a Bit about Me
I was elected Nelson’s first female Mayor on 18 October 2013 having previously served on Nelson City Council for more than eight years, including three as Deputy Mayor.
I brought to the role extensive experience and expertise in resource management involving business, local government and the community including over 15 years’ experience in resource consent and plan change processes for private clients and as a City Council decision-maker. I am also an accredited Resource Management Commissioner.
In my limited spare time I enjoy walking, cycling, fishing, and occasionally - if I can find a quiet spot - there's nothing quite like sitting down with a novel and simply having a good old read.