State of the City

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE -

Rates rises of 3.8 per cent look likely for the 2016-17 year; the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing; tourism is up; and cap­i­tal works pro­ject com­ple­tion rates need im­prove­ment.

Th­ese were among the is­sues cov­ered by Mayor Grant Smith dur­ing his se­cond an­nual State of the City Ad­dress at the Palmer­ston North Lunch Club on Fri­day, a year on from tak­ing of­fice in 2015.

Ba­si­cally, de­spite a lack of co­or­di­nated plan­ning for a ‘‘strug­gling’’ CBD, and only slightly more than a 50 per cent com­ple­tion rate for cap­i­tal works, Grant says the city ‘‘is in good shape and grow­ing at a sus­tain­able rate’’.

‘‘There are some chal­lenges, but I be­lieve we are up to those chal­lenges.’’

Res­i­dents can look for­ward now to a time of ‘‘ac­tive gov­er­nance’’, with an em­pha­sis on en­abling the CBD ‘‘to have more soul’’.

The city is also tak­ing on more of a re­gional lead­er­ship role with its neigh­bour­ing au­thor­i­ties. A re­gional busi­ness growth plan called Ac­cel­er­ate 25 aims to dou­ble the re­gion’s GDP by 2025.

While sig­nalling that over­all rates in­creases will be slightly down on last year’s 10-Year Plan pro­jec­tions, Kelvin Grove and Ash­hurst home-own­ers may face higher rises due to sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased prop­erty val­u­a­tions.

If peo­ple wanted lower rates in­creases, they had to de­cide what they were pre­pared to do with­out.

‘‘It’s a bal­anc­ing act to main­tain [an ac­cept­able] level of ser­vice.’’

Land and prop­erty prices may be up, he says, but they are still af­ford­able. The city pop­u­la­tion is also up. ‘‘In the year to last Novem­ber we gained a fur­ther 1000-plus res­i­dents.’’

With 86,000 peo­ple, Palmer­ston North is the se­cond youngest city in the coun­try, with an av­er­age age of 33 years. Its res­i­den­tial con­sents are up 32 per cent on the pre­vi­ous year.

Tourism is an­other growth area with Palmer­ston North now the coun­try’s tenth largest tourist desti­na­tion.

Among projects await­ing com­ple­tion are the shared path­ways to Lin­ton and the next stage of the path­way join­ing the city with Ash­hurst. Grant would also like to speed up the city to Feild­ing path­way.

Up­com­ing projects in­clude the cre­ation of the Manawatu River Park, the Wild­base Re­cov­ery Cen­tre in the Es­planade, a mil­i­tary mu­seum in the Maori Bat­tal­lion Hall, the $25mil­lion Food Safety Sci­ence and Re­search Cen­tre, and the Univer-City pro­gramme with its fo­cus on ‘‘be­com­ing a real univer­sity city rather than a city with a univer­sity’’.

PHOTO: JA­NINE RANKIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Palmer­ston North mayor Grant Smith de­liv­ers his state of the city ad­dress at the Palmer­ston North Lunch Club on Fri­day.

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