PAULA'S BLOG

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Hamilton bigger versus better? Or can we have both?

The Funding Challenge of a Growing City.

When Mayor King proposed the consideration of a 12% rates increase within months of being elected the people of Hamilton reacted with alarm. No one likes rates increases especially unexpected rates hikes. However, the truth is ratepayers and citizens have some big decisions to make about the size and quality of the City and how to fund it. The City IS growing, housing IS less affordable. While houses ARE being built, unemployment rates have decreased, and economic growth is positive, the pressure is on to grow faster and do better. At the same time Hamilton is facing a need to renew and improve existing assets (libraries, pools, theatres) AND catch up on building new ones in areas where there are few, such as Rototuna.

I have always said I want a better city not just a bigger one. I want a City that is vibrant and has good quality facilities that a city of this size should. Surely a city like Hamilton should have good libraries, swimming pools and a performing arts theatre. Surely the centre of a river city should embrace the river that residents and tourist alike enjoy? Surely the our people should have affordable homes ( rented or owned)? The question is how do we achieve all of this?

The challenge for me as a councillor is the same as it is for you the residents of Hamilton. How do we get more houses built more quickly, not just bigger and more expensive ones, but ones that are affordable to first home buyers, ones that suit smaller family units and retirees? We have put a bid in for a Government loan and this will help fast track, but must be paid back the money at some future date. How over time do we fund the pay-back?

As Chair of Community and Services, I have visited and become familiar with most city facilities as well as the plans and strategies for them. It has been inspiring to see the vision for our city, meet our passionate staff and to understand the city's potential. But it has also been very concerning to see how little funding is already in place to do the work.
Myself, I like living here and want to stay here. I personally value theatres, parks and gardens, libraries, swimming pools, walkways and cycle ways, great events, good shops, good work education and work opportunities.But what I want is not the issue. The issue is what do you want? As someone who lives here, or even might come to live here, what do YOU expect of the City?

Councillors have just begun the debate to form a the draft Long Term Plan proposal for your consideration. I have made it quite clear that we need an honest and transparent conversation with residents and ratepayers. We need to be clear about what we include in the plan and why, but also what we leave out. We need to be clear about what the costs are and be willing to test a willingness to pay. We need to be brave, bold and, put our personal political views, pet projects or desires aside.

So, I welcome your views at anytime at paula.southgate@hcc.govt.nz. Tell me what are the essentials for you? What are the facilities a good city must have?