Chamber media release 4.7.19

Please, Sir may I have some more? 

The answer might be no, but if you don’t ask you don’t get! So as Northlanders, what do we want?

Being a typically stoic region of the country, we are often ‘a little slow’ in coming forward with our needs. Needs I say, not just pie-in-the-sky wishes. Are our roads really so bad? Does our principal CBD (Whangarei) contain all we need to service the North today and over the next 25 years? What about rail? Do we understand the significance of Northport and its potential effect on the region? And the airport at Onerahi, what is its future?

These and many other questions need answers and for the most part, our communities here in the North simply do not engage in putting together the answers.

So, let’s get started with the roads. I see Dr. Shane Reti has again drawn attention to the changes in focus the current Government has taken with regard to funding road improvements, which affect not only the State highways but even our local roading improvements designed with efficiency and safety in mind. How is it, that respective Governments can arbitrarily change tack on elements of strategic infrastructure such as State Highway One? If this is allowed to stand, then these incredibly important projects will never be completed. Efficiency, economic growth and a reduction in the carnage on our roads will not be affected.

The Norths primary support hub, the Whangarei CBD, is failing. However, its demise presents an opportunity simply too good for us to miss. The ample under-utilised space allows us to not only follow the Whangarei District Councils urban plan but also prepare the way for our future citizens with the establishment of a University at the city’s core, paving the way for the development and retention of our young future entrepreneurs and leaders. The change in utilisation to the CBD through this project would be profound in every respect, helping to drive a total renaissance of the precinct.

Northport is currently performing well, although a declining throughput of logs (due to a hiatus in planting some years ago) is starting to make itself felt and will continue to for as much as ten years. However, an upswing in other types of freight may well offset this to some major extent. That said, it would seem the long-term future of the port is linked to a rail system right up to ship side, along with increases in national sea freight and an inland port facility supporting the inevitable increase in heavy road transport. Add to this significant growth of the associated industries in the adjacent industrial zone (Marsden Holdings) and it would seem likely we will finally see the emergence of a powerful new extension of the Norths GDP engine. One thing of course, where will the people needed for this growth be housed? There is currently no significant residential land being readied for parallel development.

In just two years we will see the arrival of the Whangarei districts first cruise ship visitors, will we be ready? A poor experience will almost certainly kill this opportunity before it barely begins, where is the investment in infrastructure and what shape will it take?

And the airport? Air New Zealand plans to operate larger more efficient aircraft. The problem is the current facility at Onerahi won’t be able to handle them, the runway is too short and can’t be extended. So do we spend the money on a new airport, subsidise Air New Zealand into buying smaller less efficient aircraft that can still land there or perhaps attract an alternative carrier to take on the service.  Of course, if we have the highway sorted, then the ability to arrive in Auckland on a more predictable time frame, makes quite a difference and to some extent makes the question of a new airport slightly less relevant.

Northlanders, make your self heard. In the short term, you can start by ‘talking’ to me via our NorthChamber web site. From there we can decide together a course of action that can compliment the more passive mechanisms of petitions and letters to the editors.  Action is needed if you want to see change. Our website is www.northchamber.co.nz

 

Stephen Smith

CE – NorthChamber

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