Mayor's Blog

Thinking differently to meet our district's challenges

This whole mayoralty thing took me and my family by surprise. And so we have adapted and taken stock. Head down, listening, reading, asking questions and learning.  A year has gone by since the election and it is time to share my thoughts.

The organisation I find myself leading is perceived by many to be a little out of tune with some in our community. Lined up against its peers, it is financially strong with good people but we have a long way to go.

Our role should be setting the standard in community interaction, planning, operations and community building. The Council’s plans should reflect the collective needs and wants of people in the district, not some top down view. This job is about building trust and sculpting a long-term future for our people, place and prosperity. But what does that mean?
What it means is clear plans for roads, drinking water, waste water, storm water, new housing and new commercial and industrial zones stretching out over the next 30 to 40 years. It means a plan to minimise waste, maximise economic efficiency, facilitate energy efficiency and build community connectivity.

We also have to grow our quality of life, recreational opportunities, cultural activities and economic and educational opportunities. In a world that is all about ‘I’, we need to fund all this work in the face of a sceptical population who are being increasingly squeezed.

Inequality is the biggest single threat to New Zealand's way of life and we have to find ways to lift the standard of living of the poorest 10 per cent of our community, to reconnect with them socially, culturally and economically.

I'm not politically aligned but I make the following observation in Taranaki. The traditional right wing philosophy is low tax, small government, let people and markets decide how to allocate capital and resources. The traditional left wing is higher tax, larger government, let the bureaucrats ensure a fair spread of benefits across all people.

However in Taranaki many from the right are encouraging me to increase rates and invest in the region as long as we do so efficiently. While many from the left are equally vocal that rate growth must be stopped, calling for us to lower our expectations, cut service levels and leave stressed household incomes alone.

So we are thinking differently. We are asking what risks are we prepared to take to achieve a better future while building relationships with potential partners prepared to invest in improving our future prospects.

How do we grow the pie without undermining the future financial independence of our people? To this end you will hear us asking more questions, talking about taking calculated risks, considering different charges for locals and visitors, developing land and taking long-term positions.

The goal over the next few years is to build a hungrier, more efficient culture, to transparently show where every dollar and cent is spent and why and to do so efficiently. This describes the challenge ahead of us.

Phase one: Understand the challenges we face – complete.
Phase two: Reconnect with all of people in the district – under way.
Phase three: Collectively build our plan for the “Lifestyle Capital” – to come.

Building a Lifestyle Capital.

Mayor, Neil Holdom

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