Voting papers arrive in the post this week for local elections. It matters that our Council and District Health Board are well governed and I encourage everyone to vote.
Our Council has assets of $1.6 billion, 267 staff and annually collects $75 million in rates. We need top governance skills given this equates to $120 million in assets and $6 million of rates per Councillor.
A good Council also needs diversity of gender, age and skills. We need Councillors who understand infrastructure. We need others well connected to business and our central city retailers. To keep our city vibrant and healthy we need Councillors who understand the importance to Nelson of the arts, environment and sports.
I confess to being cynical of candidate pledges to address Nelson’s increasing problems with traffic congestion and road safety at the same time they oppose the construction of new roads. The growth in Nelson’s population, exports and tourism is increasing vehicle volumes. The problems will only get worse if we do not grow the capacity of our transport network.
It takes real courage to back major infrastructure projects like the Waimea Dam or the Southern Link. They will always have vocal critics. It is much easier for candidates to fudge, call for more reports or pretend there are other options like rail or a tunnel. That is why our infrastructure is not keeping pace with growth.
I also urge voters to take an equal interest in our Health Board that is responsible for $500 million of services. I have been advocating for a major redevelopment of our outdated Nelson Hospital buildings with problems of seismic risk and insufficient beds. We need a Health Board that recognises how important this is to Nelson’s future.
A survey of Council candidates has been done by local National Party volunteers that is available on my Facebook page. It is useful in deciphering candidate’s priorities and values, cutting through the haze of political advertising. I also commend the Councils pre-election report on its website. A comparison of Council performance relative to others nationally is available from the Tax Payers Union website.
I conclude by acknowledging the service of retiring Deputy Mayor Paul Matheson whose service as Mayor and Councillor has spanned 27 years. His legacy includes the water treatment plant that has ensured Nelson has one of the highest standards of drinking water anywhere and the Millers Acre complex that is the best visitor centre in New Zealand. I also acknowledge the service to our city of retiring Councillors Luke Ackland and Stuart Walker. This is a role people do for their love of our city and not the money.
Only 52% of Nelson voted in Council elections in 2016. If you don’t vote you can’t complain! The average rate bill is $2700 a year or equates to $8000 over the three year term. Essentially your vote comes down to whom you best trust to spend your $8000 wisely.
Good luck to all the candidates. I commit to working with whomever the community elects to enhance this great little city.