2010 heralds sixty years since Napier gained city status. It is tempting to take a look back at the history and heritage that we today are privileged to continue building on, but this article is about this year and this time. No indulgences.

For our community, affordability still is a major area of concern. A world and a New Zealand economy which is unpredictable does not give residents confidence in a secure and sustainable future. For those on fixed incomes, increasing telecommunications and energy costs well above inflation rates are dramatic.

So, financial sustainability has to rate as a continuing challenge. Napier City Council has been working for a decade at reducing its dependence on rating as the core funding method. Our results are good. As well as prudent decisions for the community, we’ve reduced the percentage of rates to Council income from 58% in 2000 to a budgeted 43% for 2010.

Unemployment is currently high, and that often is linked to higher incidences of crime. However, unemployment and security are not uppermost in the minds of the community (unless you are out of work of course).

The continuing challenge of reducing our carbon footprint will be given added impetus with the “Greening of Napier” project, which will add trees to streets and walkways over and above the normal planting regime. Inner city lights are being replaced with metal halon – significantly low energy, but still producing the same level of illumination. Our reducing volume of solid waste to landfill has been spectacular for the last three years. A 23.8% reduction to landfill so far means a huge challenge to effect more gains in the future.

In the planning area, 2010 will see the community working with the Council to achieve the right balance for development in significant areas … the Hill Character Zone and greenfields – Jervoistown, Meeanee, Bayview and Poraiti. The conflict of development versus no development – or appropriate managed development that enhances these communities – is not an easy one to solve, given the differing expectations of the community. Solve them, we will – they are both on the agenda.

After the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy is adopted, we will be moving to a joint district plan for Napier and Hastings. Of course there are many similarities for common standards and rules to apply, and both Councils will be able to protect and enhance any special character features that are unique to their area, or offer points of competitive advantage to their community.

Ongoing renewal of infrastructure will see Taradale Town Centre being redeveloped; a decision made on Marineland’s future; and by the end of the year, a building permit lodged for Napier’s wastewater treatment plant. The Art Gallery and Museum has experienced immense community support from Napier and the wider Hawke’s Bay Community, and a partnership with Government will ensure a start on the redevelopment this year. The continuing battle against the forces of nature means the construction of a new groyne at Westshore. This enables us in the future to re-profile the beach renourishment to give a more pleasing aspect and make the foreshore more accessible.

We have significant opportunities around technology and the broadband initiatives.  The Council is supporting the lead being taken by Hawke’s Bays’ company Unison and, if they are able to partner with the Crown, there is good reason to believe progress will be made quickly. Business opportunities will expand rapidly when we are able to achieve communication speeds comparable with the rest of the world.

Parklands development is currently experiencing an increase in demand. Council has already committed profit from their subdivision towards capital improvements in the city without further impost on rates.

The Napier Hospital site remains an open wound on the skyline. Rapidly deteriorating and with no imminent purpose for the site revealed by the Crown Health Financing Agency, who has responsibility, it is both an opportunity and a challenge for the future. I would desire some action on it in this year, but doubt the fulfillment of that.

Napier realises that amalgamation is an issue that will be debated post-election.

The pundits tell us we’re coming out of the recession. The Council’s focus is on our community and their needs and expectations.  Napier hosted a great celebration to kick off a pretty good New Year … I expect it to continue.

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