Kia ora Masterton,
In my column last month, I said the Council had asked the Government for clarity on 16 issues in its proposals to take management of Three Waters (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater), away from councils. Two weeks ago, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta surprised most councils by announcing that four publicly-owned water entities would be created to take over the Three Waters across New Zealand in 2024. At the time of the announcement, we hadn’t received a response to our questions, and I remain disappointed that the Government has decided to proceed with its proposed reform programme with zero local community consultation.
As I said then, our water infrastructure assets are owned by our community, and I have real concerns about how our community voice will be heard in how they are managed.
Since the initial announcement, and based on feedback from councils around the country, the Government has announced a Joint Working Group with local government, and iwi and Māori, to take another look at the governance, representation, and accountability arrangements.
We will all be interested in the outcome of the recommendations from this working group, and two others being set up to look at how three waters reforms will link in with reforms of the Resource Management Act, also underway, and issues relating to rural and community schemes.
There is also an opportunity for public submissions on economic regulation and community protection in the reform proposals. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has issued a discussion document on its website, with submissions closing on 20 December.
In the meantime, the Council continues to make water, and water resilience, a priority.
Last week we had the opportunity to purchase at auction 33ha of land next
to the Kaituna Water Treatment Plant to future-proof options for ensuring water resilience for Masterton. We need to take these opportunities when they come up. The Council has a provision in its long-term plan for $7.5m to be spent in 2023/24 expanding water storage at Kaituna to 40 days’ supply.
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.