Local Government Magazine
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How to right-size our towns?

Five mayors share their thoughts on how best to right-size their town or city in response to unprecedented demographic and economic change throughout the country.

They see their biggest challenge as incorporating expected future demographic and economic changes into their long-term infrastructure planning.

Whanganui mayor Annette Main talks of the need to restore and lift Whanganui’s reputation and have it recognised as a place with great work-life balance where people can benefit from local resources. She also stresses the need for education, keeping young people in the area, and partnering with business, iwi and community.

Waimakariri District mayor David Ayers says the town centres of Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Oxford are now seeing significant rebuilding underway after the Canterbury earthquakes. They are making the best of the opportunity to resize infrastructure and facilities for the future of the region.

Mayor Meng Foon of Gisborne acknowledges the importance of strong infrastructure for our regions sitting alongside reserves and planting of native flora and fauna. He highlights the strong and significant influence of iwi in the local community which is important locally to provide a strong sense of place.

He acknowledges the social issues his community is addressing and applauds the many businesses that are proud to call Gisborne home. The new 1000-year plan focuses on the environment and arresting erosion and supporting strong collaboration with forestry partners. He also spoke about water being the new gold of the Tairawhiti.

Mayor Stuart Crosby introduces Tauranga as one of the fastest growing areas, by percentage, in New Zealand. To address this growth Tauranga has a proactive strategic response called ‘Smart Growth’ which determines where to put people and infrastructure based on growth projections. It also provides a platform for collaboration with tangata whenua, business, industry and government.

Three councils in the region plan together as a sub-region in a joined-up way, moving from a crisis or lag situation to just-in-time infrastructure. Tauranga is now in the second generation of its growth projections.

Grey District’s mayor Tony Kokshoorn sees tourism as the jewel in the crown for the district, particularly with Chinese visitors. He also highlights the importance of collaboration with partners and local businesses in the area, and of ultrafast broadband as enabling a big opportunity for central agencies to shift back into the regions.

Education and the local polytechnic are also a strong focus to both attract and retain young people in the region.

This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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