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Local economic growth is zero – What to do?

An article in the NZ Herald, Wednesday, 19 June got my interest, reporting that economic growth of the Coromandel District in the past year was zero. This is in sync with most of the country with industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing growing their contribution to our economy.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

The opening of the Kopu business precinct was clearly a much desired combined project with funding and hard work from central government, local and regional government and local businesses. Mayor Len spoke to this theme in his speech at the opening.

However, industries that rely on discretionary spending – think tourism, food services and retail are declining. Discretionary spending is what ratepayers do when we purchase something that is not essential, and it is what tourists do when they visit here.

In this article, the Mayor was quoted as stating that, “Councils would always struggle to get the balance right between their obligations to fund and future-proof core services and helping to support vibrant and dynamic business and economic environments.” This balance is always influenced by money, the essentials need to be done before you get too involved with the ‘nice to haves’.

You would think that a council that is struggling with this balance would put what spare resources it has into supporting businesses (as the Mayor alluded to), rather than competing with them. For example, The Coromandel Informer produces a very good seasonal, tourist promotional magazine that is distributed throughout the region along with the Waikato and Auckland. This is totally funded by advertising. To support this endeavour, the TCDC could approach The Informer to offer assistance of various types with the aim of making this publication the best it could be. But no, the TCDC has decided to compete with The Informer to produce their own magazine largely funded by rate payer’s funds and advertising that undercuts The Informer. At a time when our Council should be supportive and dollar conscious, it has decided to unnecessarily sting both rate payers and local businesses, for very little gain, if any.

With the pressure obviously being felt by the community it is time for the TCDC to have a serious look at its cost structure and look for reductions. Our central government and business communities have not shied away from this exercise so it would appear that our council should not place themselves above such entities. I am not suggesting cutting staff from core areas but I am sure there could be some culling of dead wood from “nice to have” and possibly administrative areas. How many Social Science graduates do we need?

The Council should also consider its desire for growth with resultant cost pressures on rate payers.

The Government is demanding that Councils, such as ours, that sought to change their region’s democracy without securing their voter’s approval, must now seek that approval.

What this means is that the referendum on Maori Wards that our Mayor and his team were trying to avoid, must now be held. Not being content with this situation, our Mayor has reportedly written to the Government to object to this. Who needs democracy when the Mayor knows best?

Regardless of your opinion regarding Maori Wards, the increase in the number of representatives will result in increased costs.

This happens because our laws demand that a balance must be kept between the numbers of Maori and standard Councillors. This would probably result in our councillor numbers increasing with a resultant increase in costs for rate payers. Is this the right time for such a move?

There are definitely things our council could do to ease the financial pressures they place on rate payers and by working with business, rather than against, that can be a positive influence on our region’s economy. But they cannot rescue our economy on their own, the community also has to help.

Many retired people who do not rely on the superannuation payment for all of their living costs are under no real pressure financially.

After all, term investments are paying quite well at the moment and the super payments do not get missed. Some even get an odd win at the bingo. This segment of the community is therefore able to carry on without economic gloom, to shop, to go out for lunch etc.

The retired population of Thames-Coromandel is 27% of the total population, compared with a national number of 15% (2018 figures). We are therefore blessed when compared with the rest of the country as we have higher numbers of well – heeled, experienced community members.

It is time they mobilised however, soif you are in this group, throw off your shawl, put on your glad rags and head down to the CBD for some serious work, rescuing our hospitality and retail businesses.