New nesters

July 14, 2019

Stories from migrants to the Waitaki District:


Taxpayer paying business to compete with other business

November 16, 2018

An advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport is the latest beneficiary of taxpayer largesse through a donation from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The Taxpayers’ Union says the government is picking winners:

The Government should be delivering tax cuts to all businesses, not spending $48 million picking winners says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, responding to the Government’s announcement of Provincial Growth Fund spending in the region.

The Union’s Executive Director Jordan Williams says “Government should not be in the business of picking winners. Instead of spending $48 million on an array of projects in Manawatu-Whanganui, the Government should give all businesses tax relief.”

“If the business case for projects receiving funding from the Government stands up, they should be able to secure private finance. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidise businesses that cannot stand on their own two legs. Taxing more for Shane Jones to play Father Christmas is just a provincial merry-go-round.”

It’s worse than picking winners – it’s using taxpayers’ money to fund a business that is competing with another existing one.

An international flight school started operating at Oamaru airport a few months ago.

. . .Students from ”all over” would train in single-engine Tecnam aircraft, with one plane for every five students.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he was ”very pleased” the airline academy chose the Waitaki district ”to kick-start their operation”.

”As there’ll be a significant number of trainees and staff living and learning here, this is a win-win for everyone.”

Ten jobs would be created and up to 50 commercial pilot trainees would be in the Waitaki district over the next three years.

Council chief executive Fergus Power said each trainee would add an estimated $20,000 to Oamaru’s economy while living in the district for up to a year. . .

If a flight school can be established at Oamaru Airport without subsidies the Whanganui one shouldn’t need government assistance and it certainly shouldn’t be getting taxpayers’ money to compete with an existing business.

 

 


Census coverage more important than cost

February 28, 2018

The Waitaki District was used as a trial for the online collection of data for the census in 2013.

Everyone got a visit from someone who delivered the papers and explained there was choice of filling in the paper form or doing it online.

The trial was declared a success and this year the on-line census is being done nation-wide.

But unlike the trial in Waitaki, people will have to opt-out of the online  option if they can’t or don’t want to do it that way.

Instead of someone calling with forms, everyone will get a letter explaining how to fill the census in online and what to do if they’d rather have a paper form to fill in.

That sounds easy enough but the ODT reported on concerns for elderly, those with poor sight and others who don’t have computers.

These concerns have been echoed on Facebook where people are complaining about the difficulties faced by elderly relatives who rang the 0800 number to request forms.

There’s also concerns about people who can’t read and write.

The slowness of the postal system is another problem.

Mail is delivered only three days a week, if people didn’t get a form by yesterday, it will be tomorrow before one arrives. Even if they phone for a paper form straight away it could well be next Tuesday, census day, or later before the form arrives.

Completing the census is a legal requirement. It’s important that everyone is counted or districts will get less funding for health, education and other services and infrastructure which are allocated on a population basis.

The 2013 census showed only a tiny increase in the Waitaki District’s population.

That is difficult to understand when irrigation has created so many jobs on farms and in businesses which supply and service them.

There were 4 houses on our farm and our two immediate neighbours’ before irrigation, now there are 15. We’re the oldest in any of those houses by more than 15 years.

Most of the occupants are in their 20s and 30s and many have young families. This pattern has been repeated all around the district.

Irrigation hasn’t just created jobs on farms there are more in businesses which service and supply them and most of the people in those jobs live in the district.

Intensification hasn’t just happened on farms, there’s been a growth in lifestyle blocks too. There’s also a lot of new building in town and there     aren’t a large number of unoccupied houses.

Why weren’t these signs of population growth reflected in the census?

Could it be that a lot of people didn’t bother to fill in their forms, whether on paper or online five years ago?

With no one visiting each house as they used to do, it will be far easier for those who don’t want to fill in a form to ignore it, and far more difficult for those who would but can’t without help, to do so.

It will be much cheaper if more people do their census on-line but coverage is much more important than cost.

The on-line option should be the opt-in one rather than the paper one.


Put away begging bowl Auckland

October 11, 2017

Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher tells Aucklanndd mayor Phil Goff the city must put away the begging bowl:

Auckland, Put Away The Begging Bowl and Deal With Your Problems.

The picture I used was about Queen St beggars, but I figured it was apt given that Auckland City Council has become the biggest beggar on Queen St… I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing that every problem that Auckland has, can only be fixed with money from all of us! Housing crisis, transport crisis, waste water crisis, port crisis, fuel line crisis, teacher crisis… The list appears almost endless! And the solution? They go to the government and tell them they need money from the rest of New Zealand. The latest call by Mayor Phil Goff is to have the GST that is paid on Auckland rates to be given to them. That is as much their money as it is yours or mine. We all pay GST, we all contribute, but it is only Auckland which is so consistently putting out their hand to central government. Our Waitaki District Council has long been criticised for having high rates. Residential rates across Waitaki were recently measured by the Taxpayers Union as being about 29th highest out of 66. It has been higher but we are driving efficiency hard. Perhaps too hard in some areas. However, we are paying our way.

Waitaki has dealt with almost all of its water and waste water issues, it maintains an extensive roading network and needs to improve that, it has a reasonable number of very good facilities and amenities, and it is successfully delivering economic development. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles, but we do ok for a district our size. Importantly, we have no external debt, and instead have been able to invest in our future through loans to irrigation and the community-owned Observatory Retirement Village.

Contrast that with Auckland… Indebted up to its maximum limit, paying staff outrageously high salaries which are exceeding the private sector, suffering from a massive infrastructural deficit, and spending money like it’s going out of fashion so that they can become one of the world’s most liveable cities. The Auckland Council has 11,893 staff. Over 20% of them earn more than $100,000, and 194 staff earn more than $200,000. The city spills diluted sewage into its own harbour every time it rains, and that will cost $1,800,000,000 to fix it! NZTA is spending up large to deal with their road problems, and the bill for light rail grows higher and higher by the day. This infrastructural deficit is huge, and is a result of slack governance over a long time. A lot of central government money is going into Auckland now, but still they want more. Waitaki is compared to Auckland frequently when it comes to our rates, but if they’d paid what our ratepayers have had to over the years, they wouldn’t be as (literally) in the crap as they are now.

Usually Mayors are reticent to comment about the activities in other districts and cities, but when Auckland so often has its begging bowl out to central government asking for money that belongs to all of us, then I say enough is enough!

Phil Goff – put away the begging bowl for a while please. Put Auckland rates up to pay for the things yourself, in the same way that most of the country has been paying for itself for years. Sort out your staff salaries so they stop putting pressure on the private sector and the rest of local government across NZ; and take ownership of Auckland’s problems. I know you’re worried that borrowing more to deal with the issues will affect Auckland’s credit rating and possibly that of other Councils, but I can assure you that when you have put money aside responsibly as Waitaki has, you won’t have to worry about credit ratings. Bite the bullet, and get it sorted.

Auckland is proof that when it comes to councils, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Some of its problems are an indictment on successive governments – local and central.

But the current council must accept responsibility for current problems and be prepared to make hard decisions about how to pay for solving them.

It could start by following the example of a smaller council like Waitaki which pretty much sticks to its knitting and looks after its core business rather than empire building.

It must look at ways it can fund solutions itself, including cutting costs and at least the partial sale of some of its assets, before it asks for yet more help from the taxpayer.


Voting age women outnumber men

September 19, 2016

Statistics New Zealand has marked Suffrage Day with a media release which says voting-age women in New Zealand outnumbered men by about 137,000 at the 2013 Census, and women are more likely to vote.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote. This year, Suffrage Day (September 19) comes just as local government voting papers go out on 16–21 September.

Census figures showed there were more than 1.66 million women in New Zealand aged 18 years and over (18+), compared with about 1.53 million men.

Women on average live longer than men which will account for some of the difference but just as women are more likely to vote, I wonder if they’re more likely to fill out census forms.

Women are more likely than men to vote in general and local government elections, according to past Statistics NZ General Social Surveys. In a survey after the 2011 general election more than 80 percent of women said they voted, compared with about 77 percent of men.

Almost 95 percent of women and men aged 65+ years said they voted in the 2011 general election, compared with just over half of those aged 18 to 24.

Voter turnout is lower for local government elections, at less than 65 percent for women and 62 percent for men. However, 87 percent of all those aged 65+ said they’d voted in local elections in a 2012 survey, compared with just 28 percent of people aged 18 to 24.

Census figures for 2013 showed there were 1.19 million European women in New Zealand aged 18+ years. There were about 193,000 Māori women in that age group, closely followed by almost 187,000 Asian women. Pacific women aged 18+ totalled about 90,000.

The candidates in my district and regional council wards have been elected unopposed which means the only decision I’ll have to make is whether to support the sitting mayor, Gary Kircher, or his challenger whose name escapes me.

The mayor is generally considered to have worked well in his first term so I’ll be voting to give him a second one.


366 days of gratitude

January 19, 2016

North Otago didn’t used to feature on many people’s tourist itineraries and Oamaru was once just another town to crawl through for people driving on State Highway 1.

But the growing popularity of the little blue penguins which nest around the harbour, the town’s stunning old (by New Zealand standards) buildings and its Victorian precinct and becoming the country’s Steampunk capital  started attracting more visitors.

Oamaru was dubbed New Zealand’s coolest town by Lonely Planet which has helped attract more visitors and help locals appreciate what we have on our doorstep.

Visitors’ appreciation isn’t confined to the town and exploration of the wider district has been boosted by the development of the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycleway which has been recognised as one of the world’s leading attractions:

North Otago’s Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has made it on to a list of the world’s best destinations in 2016 by travel publishers Frommer’s.

The trail runs from Aoraki-Mt Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru in North Otago.

Being named as one of 16 of the “Best Places to Go” in the world in 2016 is priceless marketing and “something that the whole region should be really proud of”, Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill says.

“It’ll be an amazing thing for the trail,” Mr Gaskill said.

“This is extremely important – it’s recognition that the trail itself, the infrastructure around it, the people who are operating on it and the people who are supplying it are operating to a standard that people feel comfortable to promote.”

Frommer’s describes the trail as ‘‘stunning and cheerfully hospitable” and starting the trail at Aoraki-Mt Cook “sets a perfect standard for awesome”.

“Your local hosts along the trail are happy to greet you and warmly organise food and lodging – after all, they pitched in to create this route for tourists – so come meet them under wide landscapes and huge skies… before the hordes find their way here,” the Frommer’s website said.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is the only New Zealand attraction to feature on the list and appears alongside destinations including Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Mongolia. . . 

The A2O isn’t finished yet but is already bringing lots of visitors and providing business opportunities for people servicing and selling to tourists.

Tourism is broadening the district’s economy, lessening its reliance of agriculture and it’s opening the eyes of locals to the many charms of our home patch.

Today I’m grateful for visitors who appreciate what we’ve got and help us appreciate it to.

P.S. The Frommer’s Best Places to Go list is here.

 


Council + community = progress

April 14, 2015

A challenge from Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher has resulted in the main road in to Moeraki being rebuilt:

. . . Haven St has been closed to through traffic since August 2013 when a 350m to 400m section collapsed following heavy rain.

The road is being rebuilt as part of a push by the Moeraki community to reopen the road because of concerns about the width of the alternative route via Tenby St and that visitors were having problems finding their way to local restaurants and accommodation providers.

A group was formed to work with the Waitaki District Council and manage offers of help and material from local people to tackle the work under the supervision of an engineer and work on the road began in February.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the rebuilt section of street was ”very impressive”. He was ”blown away” by what had been a ”fairly unique partnership” between the Waitaki District Council, the Moeraki community and local contractors.

”Numerous community members have done so well getting the road to this stage.”

He did not believe so much work had ever gone into the stretch of road, which had been notorious for slips for many years.

”Time will be the real test, of course. This work has been the chance to give it our very best effort. If this doesn’t succeed, I’m sure that nothing will, short of spending millions on it.”.

The project started as a challenge the mayor gave to the community at the meeting at the Moeraki Marae late last year.

”They more than met that challenge.”

An NZTA subsidy was not available for the road, and the district council offered to help pay if the community matched it in cash or in kind.

In the end the council would have spent about $60,000 of ratepayers’ money on the road.

He was keen to publicly acknowledge the huge impact the Moeraki community had made. . .

The popularity of the harbour,  Fleurs Place and the tavern leads to a lot of traffic on this road and the detour was less than optimal.

The rebuilding is a tribute to the people who accepted the mayor’s challenge.

This project could be a template for progress in other areas where there’s an opportunity for the council and community to work together.


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