Community Address for September
The term “three waters” has been in the headlines a lot recently – but it’s a phrase that is unfamiliar to many. The explanation is pretty simple. The “three waters” are drinking water, wastewater (sewage), and stormwater – the three water services that councils all over the country deal with. The Government is reforming how these water services are delivered to communities. The top priority is ensuring everybody has safe drinking water, but the reforms also look at how the other two waters could be managed. Last month, Masterton District Council, along with most councils in the country signed up to being part of the reform process – that means being part of the conversation and open to discussions with other councils about working together to deliver water services.
By signing up (via a Memorandum of Understanding) our council has access to $4.4 million in Government funding for water projects, with an emphasis on drinking water. It may be a cliché, but in this case, the decision really was a no-brainer. It was passed unanimously by our council. I want to be very clear that signing the MOU does not bind us to future reforms, just sharing data and other information in good faith. We will only ever continue with the reform process if there is a clear benefit for our current and future residents and ratepayers. We are yet to hear details of how the reforms may develop in future, but at this stage we need to be part of the conversation and that is what signing the MOU has achieved. Also on water, now that we are in spring, after a winter that seemed to race past thanks to pressing issues like COVID-19, it is time once again to consider how we manage our limited water supplies.
By now, we should all be aware that restrictions are a normal part of summer, but as gardeners we can all take steps to prepare for what is coming. Look out for advice on things like mulching gardens and collecting rainwater as we all do our bit to keep the Waingawa River – the source of our drinking water – healthy.
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.