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Cambridge needs to tackle growth v's charm problem

Cambridge needs to tackle growth v's charm problem

The Waikato Expressway will spur growth in Cambridge, but keeping its personality is paramount.

The challenge of how to capitalise on Cambridge's growth over the coming decades – yet hold on to its special charm – has been the centre of debate in the town over the past week.

Benje Patterson, senior economist at Wellington's Infometrics told a recent Waipa District Stakeholders breakfast the district's economic growth rate was well above the national average, and that all indicators for the district were good. Sustained growth over the past decade had seen Waipa's GDP grow by 2.6 per cent a year , compared with 1.4 per cent for Waikato. That economic growth had attracted people to the region.

Patterson listed agriculture (particularly dairy), housing and construction, recreation and tourism among Waipa's key economic drivers.

 "You have outperformed most of New Zealand over the past decade -  it is going to be important to keep the momentum going."

Housing would be a challenge, as Waipa's population of people aged 55 and over was 36 per cent, compared with 33 per cent nationally.

Tourism accounted for 3.6 per cent of Waipa's economy in terms of GDP, growing by almost 4 per cent in the past year. More than 90 per cent of that was domestic tourism, with 10 per cent internationally – unlike national figures.

Strategic consultant Dr Nick Marsh, director of NEXT in Cambridge, told those at the meeting it was important for small communities to craft the direction they wanted to take into the future if they wanted a stake in their lifestyle choices. It was called being Future-Fit, he said.

Cambridge needed to tackle a growing divide between rich and poor, and fix its water problems, he said, and there was a need to fully appreciate the value of active retirees who put unpaid time and energy into their community.

"No-one is paying them in dollar terms – you don't get that in the city." 

"This is a great place to be in terms of investment," he added, "but we need to manage our growth wisely and take the magic into the future. But we do need to ask at what size we might risk losing that magic." 

In terms of tourism, he said there was a strong case for existing sporting hubs to expand, and for the development of boutique tours.   

Mayor Jim Mylchreest addressed both the stakeholder's breakfast and Monday's annual Cambridge Chamber of Commerce mayoral breakfast, walking attendees through the Waipa District Council's 10 Year Plan. 

Mylchreest told told both meetings that Waipa's fast growing and increasingly diverse population meant it was important to look not only at the next decade's development, but to look longer term.

He said by 2040, Waipa's population is expected to increase by about 10,000 – putting more than 56,000 people in the region, with more than a third of that number aged 65 or over.

Cambridge is expected to grow from 17,300 people to about 25,000 in the next 25 to 30 years.

Sustained growth was already adding pressure to ageing infrastructure, and planned expenditure around water supply, wastewater and stormwater was a key project in the 10 year plan, and was projected to cost about $9.4 million.

He said the council was proposing to make some changes to the way it collected rates, ensuring that rates remained affordable, particularly to those on low or fixed incomes, and that they were as fair and equitable as possible. 

Council will introduce a new rate called a Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC), a fixed charge applied to each separately inhabited part of a property – examples would be retirement villages, blocks of flats, multiple business units and the like.

The UAGC will be applied to ensure all ratepayers pay a minimum contribution for council services.


 - Waikato Times


Posted: Sun 12 Jul 2015