Kia ora Masterton,
The past few weeks have seen some very important decisions made by Masterton District Council, and I’m proud of the leadership shown by elected members.
Last month, we voted to establish Māori wards – a historic move that is long overdue. It is the beginning of a process to establish an equitable role in decision-making for Māori and something that was supported by all of the iwi entities in our district.
And last week, we decided to build a civic facility that includes the library and archive, from 2022/23, with at least $4 million of external funding. That decision was the culmination of five years’ work, including four consultations with the public, since the town hall was closed in 2016. As I told the deliberations meeting on our draft Long-Term Plan last week, now is the time for us as elected representatives to step up, do our job, show leadership and good governance, and make a decision for our future generations.
I know there are a range of opinions in the community about the projects in the Long-Term Plan, but under the Local Government Act, our role is not just to hear from those in the community but we need to be the voices of those that are yet to come – our mokopuna and their tamariki, our future generations. It is the time to be brave and create something that our community will be excited about, something that embraces our Māori culture, tells our stories, and celebrates our diversity as a multi-cultural community.
I understand the frustration people feel about our inability to talk publicly about our preferred location for the civic facility, but I can only reiterate that when we have finalised the site, we will obviously share this information very quickly.
Hood Aerodrome | Your Questions Answered
In 2020 the Government came to town to announce its plans to invest $10 million into Hood Aerodrome. It’s left some people in our community asking why this project was chosen, especially when there seem to be other, more pressing, priorities, like social housing.
Let me answer some of the questions people have been asking me, and fellow councillors, out on the street.
Where is the funding coming from?
The Government’s $10 million is from a fund earmarked for construction projects that would see cash injected into our local economies – you might hear it referred to as “shovel-ready”. It was a direct response to COVID-19 and we only had the opportunity to suggest projects that were ready to go.
What’s so great about Hood that makes it deserving of such significant investment?
In aviation circles, the characteristics of Hood Aerodrome make it a sought-after location. For example, flight training schools are regular visitors to Hood because it’s a great place to learn how to fly.
There’s also increasing demand from people wanting to base themselves here, like hobbyist aviators and suppliers to the aviation industry, for hangar space.
But the reason we attracted the Government investment was the benefit the investment will have for the rest of the community.
We talk about transitioning Hood into a new era where it becomes a hub of aviation and tourism activity, attracting people from all over the country. To get there we need to invest in the aerodrome, because it’s just not up to scratch as it is. But once we make some changes, the people Hood attracts will stay in Masterton, spend their money with local businesses, and, ultimately, help keep people in jobs.
In the short-term, the construction work required to improve Hood Aerodrome will also help keep people employed.
What will the $10 million actually pay for?
A priority is safety improvements that will better serve those that are already operating from the aerodrome, and those that we’re hoping to attract.
The construction project is split over two stages. The first stage has an allocated budget of around $7m, with about half the budget to be spent on developing an engineering and aviation precinct for service providers. The remainder of the budget is allocated for initial runway widening and extension.
The second stage has an allocated budget of around $5.2m, with about 70 per cent of that budget allocated towards the more significant runway extension.
Is this just about getting passenger flights back?
The short answer is no. The work we have planned is about developing an aviation hub that puts Masterton on the map.
In saying that, we’ve always known that having a longer and wider runway is necessary if we want passenger flights back, so it does open that door for us again.
Why isn’t the money being spent on things we really need? Like housing?
Housing is absolutely a priority and we are doing everything in our power to encourage both private development and social housing. That includes continued, and prolonged, discussions with Kainga Ora about returning to Masterton.
But aside from our pensioner housing, Masterton District Council is not a housing provider, so we have to work on encouraging agencies that work in this area to increase housing stock.
Hood Aerodrome is an amazing facility for the close-knit aviation community and attractions that bring people here from out of town. Our vision for Hood is for a facility that continues to support these activities, but also broadens its use. We will all benefit if more people are coming to see for themselves the asset that is Hood Aerodrome.