Reduced debt achievable goal

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The Northland Chamber of Commerce surveyed Whangarei's 12 mayoral candidates on five key issues in the district.

Today,Vince Cocurullo's answers are published, along with his business response from the Meet Your Mayor night last Tuesday.

1: How would a council under your leadership establish what is an acceptable level of debt?

Acceptable level of debt can be determined by two things: firstly, how much can the people of a district afford and, secondly, what needs to be paid for. Under my leadership, our council will understand firstly what people can afford given that the median wage for Whangarei is $22,500. Secondly, they will put together a list of projects that can fall within this budget.

Personally, I believe our district's debt level should be reduced to less than $80 million within 10 years; that is $100 million less than it is presently. The new council will need to understand this and put in practices that will help to achieve this. It an important task for Whangarei and one that I believe is achievable.

2. What is the council's role in fostering economic development?

The council has a large role in fostering economic development, as it presently employs 300 staff and owns several properties within the area. However, our land holdings were designed for the purpose of providing an affordable means for new business developments to get established here. This has somewhat fallen by the wayside in favour of revenue gathering, but I would like to see a return to the ethos of supporting local businesses with better use and fairer administration of the assets we hold.

Finding other ways to encourage new investment in development and attract industry development and other enterprises to the district is a key part of how I would take this council forward, as long as it fits within the parameters of what the district can afford.

3. How would a council under your leadership foster a business-friendly environment?

Presently our commercial businesses are being taxed far too high. Many are finding it hard to own premises within the CBD, and therefore end up working from home and this needs to be changed. A business-friendly environment would be one that looks after the businesses within the district, encourages them to be there, and helps promote them to locals and visitors alike. Working with local business operators in deciding things like changes to traffic flow, pedestrian zones, parking and streetscapes will also help in making the commercial districts of Whangarei more amenable with people going about their business and a more attractive environment to shop, eat and spend time.

4. Is the council currently involved in any commercial activities that you feel it should not be? How would you remedy this?

For many years, our council has been involved in commercial property development. This is something that really should not be done by our council, and we should be encouraging business to purchase this land, so that they can then develop it further. Private enterprise is much better at land development than a council.

The types of land that council should own are parks primarily, or buildings where there are community interests in, for example: the old Town Hall, Old Library, information centres.

5. What single piece of infrastructure do you believe Whangarei is lacking that would stimulate economic growth?

A 1000-seat auditorium. It is the type of project that is achievable at a cost that is affordable for Whangarei, with far-reaching benefits.

Presently Whangarei cannot host any conferences larger than 600 people. Those which do come, find our facilities well below standard.

Mr Cocurullo's Meet The Mayor question was Question 2 - his response was:

The council's role in fostering economic development? Whew, well let's see, they have about 300 staff and loads of land around the district, so there is many, many ways, so there's many, many reasons how a council can foster economic development.

If you talk about the staff alone that's 300 people who are shopping within the district, making sure businesses stay going. Alternatively, if you talk about the land, we have several pockets of land which are not being used at all and can be sold, this selling of the land can then be put into community projects, back into the community.

We need to be stimulating the community and getting the community going, through work.

We've got, and I keep coming back to it, our median income is $22,500 per year, that's pretty tight. We need more people working, employed, to do that we need more jobs, we need more development, we need to be building a minimum of 300 houses a year to keep up with the growth.

- Northern Advocate

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