Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Solving Auckland's problems

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I’m full of admiration for the My Masterton campaign, launched in February by the Masterton District Council in partnership with the Wairarapa Times-Age to increase jobs and population in the district. The newspaper offered $100,000 of “in kind” advertising; presumably this will be in the northern regions where their parent company owns The New Zealand Herald.

The District Council has a large graphic sign on its building set to indicate job increases. To date it would seem none have been signified, but its early days yet and it would churlish for us all not to get behind the campaign to endeavour to depopulate Auckland.

If we don’t succeed in this, the city of sails has the propensity to bring us all down.

If you are a saver the latest interest rate decrease announced by the Reserve Bank Governor last week is not much of an incentive for you to maintain your frugality, but much of what happens in New Zealand’s financial sector is determined by what’s going on in Auckland.

A promotional TV commercial was filmed in Masterton last week which presumably will be played to the whole country with Auckland as its focus.

There was time when TV advertisements were regional. Now they are beamed to a NZ-wide audience and many of these promote Auckland-based stores or services. Are you ever going to get the opportunity to buy a half-price vacuum cleaner from Godfrey’s well-stocked carpark for instance?

As I see the overflown TV views of the new housing estates in Auckland I wonder if they’ve thought about the whole package of facilities that make up a community. Masterton can offer ready-access to handy well-established schools, medical centres, churches, supermarkets, crèche’s, live theatres and movie theatres, restaurants, an art and history centre, splendid parks and reserves and an adequate public transport system.

Passage to all of these is just a short unhindered drive - and for many, within walking distance.

If Aucklander’s made the switch they would be amazed at the spare time they suddenly found they had. Most currently have to get up at dawn to get to work on time and return well after dusk. Meanwhile their mortgage repayments on a modest three-bedroomed home costing in excess of a million dollars don’t bear thinking about.

What I fail to see though is any significant growth or demand for new housing happening in Masterton. The Wairarapa Property publication, posted in our letterboxes each week, seems to be offering more and more reasonably-priced local homes for sale, many of them at least half the price of a similar dwelling in Auckland. However there is little evidence that these bargains are being snapped up by enthusiastic outsiders.

To exacerbate the problem Masterton’s retail hub is struggling, caused in part by internet shopping sales and also large superstores with free car parking locating on the town’s fringes.

Given that shopping is now an essential form of entertainment for many, anyone contemplating a shift to the regions will want to see a thriving retail centre.

And living in a small town can have its drawbacks. Ever since I put a Neighbourhood Watch sign on our front gate every Tom, Dick and Harry comes in and wants to know the time!

“The higher the buildings, the lower the morals” - Noel Coward


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