The subject of economic development is often trotted out at election time and especially by candidates competing for votes.

Revitalising communities, city centre development, strengthening the rural sector and growing tourism are hot topics and so they should be if we are to see our district grow.

Everyone claims to be an expert on every subject - they've been on holiday once so they know about growing tourism, sat on a business committee so wax eloquently about business growth. You know the story.

If Hastings district grows, reinforcing Hastings as the capital of Hawke's Bay, we need commitment from our civic leaders to put the development plans into action.


Every aspect of economic development, from farm paddock to town centre, from tourists to community facility development, all play a key part in successful economic development. And one success is ineffective without the others.

As a district we are fortunate previous mayors have left a legacy on which we can build our future, the most recent being the large-format shopping centre.

While many understandably bemoaned the loss of Nelson Park, our challenge now is to revitalise the main street retail sector, linking it to this growing development.

No doubt there are dozens of reports sitting gathering dust on shelves in the Hastings "Beehive" and containing some great ideas, exciting visionary plans - but having a plan is just pretty words if it's not put into action.

It's not good enough to prattle about challenges, making vague election promises then conveniently do nothing for the next three years. We must do all we can to support every aspect of business life.

Our families, neighbours, friends and colleagues rely on the living organism that is commerce - the stronger it gets, the stronger our society, the more jobs and the better standard of living for all.

I recall in 2005 the council brought Australian "Mainstreet development" guru Peter Kenyon to Hastings to provide a platform for city-centre growth. Twelve years later, most of what he proposed lies in a dusty folder somewhere in the archives, discarded for the latest version which, like so many other reports, will be ignored.

The key ingredient to growth is strengthening existing business activity - including all business from retail, trade, hospitality, support industries and agriculture and horticultural sectors. And strengthening includes avoiding ludicrous proposals such as the WCO (water conservation order) - but that's another story.

One sector I've had decades of experience with is the visitor industry - bringing tourist dollars to town.

Hastings is missing the boat on the tourism boom in New Zealand, which is frustrating when tourism is an excellent tool for attracting business growth into a city.

And it's not just to motels and restaurants. The flow-on effect of tourism reaches every corner of the community. Visitors (domestic and International) spend on food, petrol, pharmacies, clothing stores, they provide jobs for every sector and their dollar impacts across the community.

I heard a sheep farmer say at a meeting that tourists never helped him - I mused that the $30 lamb shank I ate at a local restaurant must have come from somewhere.

Of the six top attractions in Hawke's Bay rated in the Lonely Planet guide, five are in the Hastings district so the potential is there - we must blow our trumpet louder.

Fifteen years ago, the council was "completing negotiations" with a hotel developer - another grand plan that went nowhere. When a major international event comes to New Zealand, it's frustrating to hear Tourism NZ talk about the country being full, when regional commercial accommodation operators still have vacancy signs out.

We do have plenty of quality accommodation and the new development in Havelock North, but Hastings does need a three- to four-star hotel to revitalise the city centre.

We have the best secondary schools in the country - bringing international students is another growth opportunity.

There are great ideas in the 2013 Hastings City Vibrancy plan and the concepts are exciting but why are they still just ideas?

While this plan goes through to 2033, why wait 20 years to see the city developed. And why kill good ideas such as the free parking - it was working bringing business back into the main street?

As a mayoral candidate, I'm not "bagging" existing plans - I just believe we must stop the talking and take action.

My vision for the city centre is to see it grow alongside managed development of our unique villages of Havelock North, Flaxmere and Clive. To see residential growth, inner-city apartments, a four-star hotel and tourism flourishing and creating jobs for future generations.

To see green space, fresh clean rivers, safe drinkable water and a rural sector that continues to grow as the food bowl of New Zealand.

So let's make this happen, pull the plans from the bottom drawer, dust them off and put them into action. There is too much Hui, not enough Doeey!

Stuart Perry is candidate for mayor of Hastings in the upcoming council byelection. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: