State of the city

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Brim­ming with op­ti­mism, mayor Grant Smith de­liv­ered his State of the City ad­dress on Fri­day to one of the the city’s old­est ex­tant clubs, the Palmer­ston North Lunch Club, founded in 1919.

‘‘I firmly be­lieve Palmer­ston North is start­ing to re­alise its po­ten­tial and is a city on the rise.’’

Smith said peo­ple might talk about the ‘‘golden tri­an­gle’’ of Auck­land, Hamil­ton and Tau­ranga, but the city was sit­ting at the cen­tre of the ‘‘plat­inum tri­an­gle of Taranaki, Welling­ton and Hawkes Bay’’.

‘‘Palmer­ston North is in a very good space... pos­si­bly the best it has been in two decades.’’

Ac­cord­ing to eco­nomic, cul­tural, and so­cial in­di­ca­tors, the city’s eco­nomic ducks were be­gin­ning to align.

‘‘The city is fly­ing well - de­spite fly­ing a lit­tle un­der the radar.’’

A grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of 86,500, and the cen­tre of a wider re­gional pop­u­la­tion catch­ment ap­proach­ing 240,000, was un­der­pin­ning strength­en­ing eco­nomic growth.

He wouldn’t be sur­prised if the city pop­u­la­tion reached 90,000 by the early 2020s.

Over the next three to six years Smith said the re­gion would see over half a bil­lion ex­ter­nal dol­lars spent on in­fra­struc­ture, with the $397 mil­lion De­fence Force cap­i­tal in­vest­ment pro­gramme, the $39 mil­lion food sci­ence fa­cil­ity at Massey Univer­sity’s Food HQ and the devel­op­ment of the re­gional ring road.

Smith called the re­gional ring road, which in­cludes the pos­si­bil­ity of a sec­ond Manawatu River cross­ing off the end of Camp Rd, ‘‘an ab­so­lute game changer’’, with work on the ini­tial phases be­gin­ning shortly.

He was equally up­beat about prospects for the Agri­food Cen­tre based around Massey Univer­sity and the Crown Re­search In­sti­tutes that could make the city ’’an agri-food powerhouse of the south­ern hemi­sphere’’.

‘‘I’ve had a look at the plans, and they re­ally ex­cited me.’’

The wide rang­ing ad­dress cov­ered top­ics from trans­port - in­clud­ing Ki­wiRail and elec­tric ve­hi­cles - lo­gis­tics and freight fig­ures, to CBD and Cuba St up­grades; a new grand­stand at CET Arena, and devel­op­ment of a new in­ter­na­tional hockey turf.

Smith also out­lined im­proved so­cial, cul­tural, and recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties and ameni­ties.

While the No.1 pri­or­ity was to de­liver value for ratepay­ers, as a coun­cil he said ‘‘we can af­ford to be a lit­tle more am­bi­tious - I think we have plenty to cel­e­brate’’.

ROBERT KITCHIN

Mayor Grant Smith ad­dress­ing the Palmer­ston North Lunch Club.

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