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18 September 2018

Comment – Lyn Patterson, Mayor of Masterton

Masterton is continuing to grow, and it’s often lauded as a positive. But I’ve always said economic growth and development is only positive if it benefits everyone in our community, not just home and business owners.

The latest statistics from research firm Infometrics tell us the number of building consents for residential houses increased by 63 per cent in the year to June. Our gross domestic product (the total value of goods and services produced from our district) increased 4.5 per cent – higher than the Wellington region’s 2.5 per cent growth.

There are also more people visiting our district: both the number of guest nights and tourism expenditure increased by 14 per cent.
I’m aware some people are sceptical about these messages – and they’re right to be sceptical. What’s the point if not everyone is benefitting? For example, if we don’t have adequate housing for our increasing population then some are going to be forced out. Similarly with our roads, if we don’t have capacity for increased traffic flows then we’re only going to encounter problems. And there is the issue of whether the local medical services can cater to increased demand.

The Masterton community should be rest assured that Council has been working on these issues for years. We are in a much better position than other locations that have experienced rapid growth because we’ve been planning for it, but it’s a long game.
Our role is to lobby Central Government for things such as social housing to ensure our town’s growth doesn’t force people who can’t get accommodation to leave. We’ve had a win in this area recently with the Government announcing an additional 50 social houses to be built in Masterton.

When it comes to the lack of doctors in our region, we need to make Masterton attractive to people in these professions. The challenge in attracting medical professionals to rural provincial locations isn’t new – I clearly remember in the 1990’s while working at the DHB, we really struggled to attract specialists. We’re committed to helping where we can to attract these professionals. It should be noted that population growth brings with it people from different professions. So, we could attract a doctor and they may bring with them a partner who is a teacher, for example.

There’s also the question of our infrastructure; can our water and roading services handle a growing population? Here is the good news, our water treatment plants and roading networks have sufficient capacity to cater to increased population growth.
Where we need to make tweaks is to our water pipe networks throughout the district, which is part of our planning over the next few years.

It’s clear to everyone in our district that things are getting busier here, and more people are choosing to call Masterton home. I want to assure people that our focus isn’t just on attracting out-of-towners, we are also committed to ensuring we support the community we already have here. We won’t pursue economic growth if we don’t think our town can handle it.