Stratford voters have a choice of three candidates for mayor this year. Over the next few weeks, the three candidates, Rawinia Henderson, Graham Kelly and Neil Volzke, will answer a range of questions set by the Stratford Press editorial team. Their answers will run online and in print.
To hear the candidates speak and answer more questions, come along to the Newstalk ZB and Stratford Press Meet the Candidates evening on September 18 at the Stratford War Memorial Centre at 6.30pm.
This week, we asked the three candidates the following questions:
1. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the town any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
2. Do you think the current rate increase set for 2019/20 is acceptable or should it be lower or higher? Why? If lower, how would you make that a possibility for the future? Loans or cuts to services, please explain your answer. If higher – why and what would you use the extra money for?
1. Housing development for the elderly would be a priority for me or an emergency housing development for temporary accommodation for those in need.
2. I don't think any ratepayer would think this increase was acceptable.
For obvious reasons we cannot change what has already been done but I would make a conscious effort moving forward to make sure there were no further increases in the foreseeable future.
Community discussions around what is most important to us will drive the narrative for budget cuts if needed.
1. Short term, we need another bridge on the west side of Stratford, preferably off Brecon Rd, running into Page St, thus easing congestion, and an alternative to coming through town, or bypassing the main street. Concept verandas.
2. As much as we think we could survive on a nil rate increase, the truth is we can't.
The cost of living index dictates where we should be. To rate excessively only indicates a failure in your council. To rate diligently is a sign your council cares for its community.
1. Wouldn't it be great to have some serious money to throw around? I'd be looking for a project that offered long term, permanent benefit. Ideally a project with something that enabled growth in employment opportunities and with major economic development benefits.
I still believe the greatest untapped resource we have in this region is our mountain and the tourist potential that exists within Stratford and Taranaki is enormous.
If you look for an example, then look no further than the success of the Tongariro Crossing as a visitor attraction. Imagine the impact a similar but unique venture could have right here on our back doorstep with Stratford being one of the key access points. By leveraging off the success of one attraction, others could follow and the visitor industry could flourish, bringing jobs, business opportunities and diversity.
It's fair to say $1 million alone might not make it happen, but sow the seed and let it grow.
2. The 4.69 per cent rate increase for 2019/20 reflects how much additional money council needs overall to meet its current obligations and for new planned projects.
The increase for individual properties may be above or below this percentage depending on the mix of services received and property value.
Trying to achieve a balance between the "wants and needs" of the community, new projects, maintenance requirements for existing infrastructure, ongoing compliance requirements imposed by central government and other factors is a real challenge. All these need to be weighed up against the ability of people to pay.
We also have to be very mindful that this community has a high number of single income families, pensioners, beneficiaries and small businesses.
This year's increase is well below the figure we first anticipated but we have managed to find some savings along the way to reach this level.
I think the increase is acceptable this year but we need to continue to seek savings and efficiency gains to keep costs down into the future.