Kia ora Masterton,
This is my final Monthly Wrap column for the year and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking 2020 will be a good year to farewell. We’ve certainly had our challenges as a council and a community as a result of COVID-19, but I am delighted and proud of the way I have seen people pulling together to get through some difficult times. Of course, we are not at the end of this crisis and I can promise that the council has as a priority continuing our work to support Masterton’s recovery. While there are some projects on which we have not made all the progress we hoped for this year, I am very pleased that in an extraordinary year, work has continued to make Masterton a better place to live. Below you can read about the work we are doing, and planning to do, to enhance our network of recreational trails.
They are already a fantastic asset but work to extend them, and add a bridge for walkers and cyclists across the Waipoua River, will make them even more of an attraction for locals and visitors. You will also see an update on the exciting project to upgrade the skatepark which will see real progress in the New Year. I hope many of you have the opportunity this holiday season to enjoy what is on offer, not only in our trail network, but also in the wider district from the mountains to the sea. And I would love to see as many people as possible enjoying the Christmas fun on Friday evening on the Queen Elizabeth Park Island, and again after what will be a fantastic parade on Saturday afternoon. I want to wish you all a happy and safe festive season and, above all, a wonderful 2021.
Hood Aerodrome | Your Questions Answered
Two months ago 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.