Three-pronged attack for council assets firm

By john.maslin@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

Photo/File
Photo/File

The purchase of the pilot training academy, rejuvenating the city's port and pushing growth of gas reticulation are key initiatives being driven by the company looking after Whanganui District Council's assets.

Whanganui District Council Holdings manages council's commercial assets, which include the airport, port, forestry, quarrying and property.

Holdings has just published its first easy-to-read annual report in a bid to make it better understood by the community. The information is in the council annual report but Holdings chair Matt Doyle said while some would have a good understanding of it, "there will be many who won't".

"Our board is aware there's an election this year and this gives people information and background to our portfolios and what we've been doing," Mr Doyle said.

Also on the board are independent directors Harvey Green and Peter Hazeldine, along with mayor Annette Main and councillor Rob Vinsen.

Ms Main said this was the first time the document had been prepared in hard-copy form, and council had initially taken the information in confidence.

"But we looked at it and decided there was no reason why it shouldn't be out there in the public. The information hasn't been in this format before - it's accessible and in language that people can easily disseminate."

She was aware of confusion in the community about the role of Holdings and the role of Whanganui and Partners, council's over-arching economic arm.

"Holdings looks after council assets and looks for new ones, while Whanganui and Partners' job is around economic development.

"What Holdings has been doing is a really good story for Whanganui - they are creating other sources of income and that's something we're being encouraged to do by central government.

"And it provides that expert view that a council doesn't always have - it's advice coming from a team of experienced people outside council and I think that's a really good balance."

However, Ms Main said the ultimate decisions were still made by council.

Mr Doyle said the purchase of the Manawatu Flight School last June was an exciting prospect and was aimed at making the city's airport more viable.

Council would be briefed within six weeks about the final plans for the pilot training school.

"We have to have it in place by the end of the year. Come April-May, building consents for the hangar space we need will be in," he said.

Work has started on renewing the number 1 wharf at the port, a contract scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

Ms Main said a plan for overall port development would be in place soon.

"We want to see that recreational slipway project moved along, and there are other opportunities we're looking at."

Mr Doyle said Wanganui Gas was evaluating the use of smart meters. These replace existing home gas meters and automatically send electronic meter readings to the supplier. They also have in-home displays which give consumers an indication of their gas use.

He said the firm was looking at growth opportunities and had been in touch with developers of major housing projects in Auckland and Tauranga about providing gas pipe and metering for the projects.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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