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MP Dr Nick Smith has highlighted the region’s 100,000 population in his annual speech to Nelson Rotary, reflecting on the growth over his 25 years as a Parliamentarian and emphasising the need for investment in infrastructure, housing and facilities. 

“Nelson’s population this month tops 100,000 – up from 70,000 when I was first elected in 1990. We have the second fastest regional population growth at over six per cent between the last two Censuses, just behind Auckland. We need to plan and manage this positive growth, or we will fall into the sort of problems Auckland has had with sky-high house prices, congested traffic and inadequate facilities,” Dr Smith says.

“The overall picture of Nelson over the past 25 years has been positive. Our population is healthier, better educated and safer. Our economy is stronger, with more jobs and higher incomes across the spectrum. Our facilities and environment have also improved. However, we face challenges around water management, home ownership, transport, keeping our community safe, better managing our marine environment and strengthening our regional identity. 

“The Waimea Community Dam is crucial for our horticultural industries, improving the river environment and providing a secure water supply for the growing urban population in both Nelson and Tasman.

“The Government’s HomeStart scheme for first home buyers and the Housing Accord and local Special Housing Areas with council are needed to increase supply and reverse the long-term decline in home ownership. We also need to improve the quality of rental housing, predominantly used by lower-income families, by requiring smoke alarms, insulation and better enforcement of standards.

“A new airport terminal is needed to cope with the fivefold increase in passenger numbers from 150,000 in 1990 to 750,000 today, and the projection topping one million in the 2020s. The new terminal building needs to be functional but also an attractive shopfront for our creative arts, national parks and unique industries.

“The Southern Link is needed to reduce congestion, support economic growth and productivity, improve community safety and well-being, and improve tourism and recreational opportunities as confirmed by last year’s strategic study. 

The number of vehicles in the region is growing faster than the population and now tops 101,000. We must accommodate this growth in population, vehicles, freight and visitors by increasing the arterial capacity in and out of Nelson, of which the Southern Link is the only realistic solution. It is also a key partner project to the Rocks Road Cycleway and Boulevard.”

“There has been a welcome reduction in crime in Nelson over the past five years, but there are risks to manage with gangs, family violence and alcohol related offending. I have invited newly re-appointed Police Minister Judith Collins to Nelson to ensure every possible support is given to Police to try and ensure the Hells Angels presence does not translate into increased serious offending.”

“Nelson has a big interest in marine issues and this year I am working to progress implementation of the Kermadec Sanctuary, new Marine Protection areas legislation, the Marlborough Sounds Recreational Fishing Park and the feasibility study on the proposed Marine Education Centre and Fisheries Museum.” 

“I welcome the proposal by Council to merge our Economic Development and Tourism promotion agencies. My challenge for the new organisation will be to develop a new regional identity to supersede the “Nelson Live the Day” brand that has had its day.”  

Dr Smith also announced a new ‘MP in the Workplace’ initiative this year, where he will be spending a Friday a month in key Nelson industries and services to complement his presence at the Nelson market and his annual survey to help stay in touch with Nelson. 

“I have my busiest ever legislative year ahead in Parliament, with Bills on the RMA, rental housing, earthquake-prone buildings, recreational fishing parks and the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. I also need to work hard at home in Nelson to ensure I stay in touch with the 65,000 people I am here to serve,” Dr Smith concluded.

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