Ed Said - Getting show on the road
Just when it appeared that Kaipara was again going to be the Cinderella on the list of recipients, the Governmental visit last week to the Otamatea Marae brought with it the allocation of a $27 million infrastructure investment package from the PGF (Provincial Growth Fund). This must be seen as something of a welcome windfall for the Kaipara District Council and indeed our Mayor Jason Smith viewed it as “a very significant day for Kaipara. The most significant announcement we're had in this district for many, many years and through the PGF, we've gone from zero to hero."
While the council has been focused on important things such as roads, bridges, building a wharf network and food industries promoting employment, it can be no secret that Kaipara’s relatively low ratepayer to extensive road network ratio makes progress slow for even priority projects. This together with incurred burdens of the past decade made Kaipara a good case for funding said Minister Shane Jones. Applications are in the pipeline for a number of projects and the funding announcement is therefore good news in itself but even moreso as it is specifically directed toward roading.
Strangely though, the announcement had barely been made and the sausage rolls eaten at the Marae when some wags on social media were already slating the Council for costs they perceived they would be lumbered with when such work was undertaken. The importance of a reliable transport network cannot be understated and the forthcoming completion of the Matakohe bridges will complement this. Other work will follow right across the Kaipara but residents need to understand that this work will not happen overnight.
Of the allocation, roading will receive the lions' share, or around $14 m. NZTA will also carry a large portion of the costs which should allay ratepayer fears with the balance shared among other projects. Roading is by far the most important and urgent task on the list however ratepayers still need to be patient as there are a number of steps to be taken by Council and the CEO before funds can be accessed such as feasibility studies on priority works. Then there will be the calling for tenders, negotiations and awarding of contracts before any major work will begin. Good things take time and this must be seen as a ‘good thing.’
Residents can be critical of the dishing out of significant amounts of cash for some projects in other than their own areas. This therefore will be a stern test for our council to make some well-considered decisions and with money now not being such an issue, it would be something of a travesty if this current team was not able to achieve some of the goals they have set themselves.
Following the February 2018 by-election, this present Council has not yet had a full year in operation. With this being election year I think it would be foolish to judge too harshly on performance to date and also foolish to consider many changes to what appears to be melding into a cohesive operational group. Given the recent funding boost, the next three years will be the true test as to how effective this Council can be.
There may also be Electoral Ward changes before the October elections allowing a more even ratio of ratepayers per councillor so the ensuing months, while appearing to bring some initial upheaval, should really provide a catylist to considerable growth across the whole of the Kaipara. It is an opportunity that cannot be abused but must be viewed by all with considerable optimism.
Just my opinion.