The Tauranga By-election brings a relatively rare chance for Tauranga to get a significant amount of political attention as parties aim to take Simon Bridges’ vacant seat. The by-election is on June 18, so during the next few weeks we can expect to see the city swamped with politicians seeking to push their policies and candidates. Hopefully, a few of them seek to understand the city first before determining what to push. If so, they can expect the business and economic needs to be focused on delivery of infrastructure.
It’s no secret that Tauranga seriously lags in infrastructure; our high rate of growth has not been matched by sufficient investment in enabling infrastructure. While our local authorities play a part in this, I believe the burden largely falls with central government. If we take roading as an example, the Government pays for half of local roads and all of state highways and essentially controls the process for any improvements.
The lack of infrastructure investment manifests itself in a couple of ways that we see every day. Lack of affordable housing is a direct result of inability to free up land; Tauriko West is a depressing example of how a lack of relatively basic roading investment on a state highway holds up thousands of houses being built. Housing is the number one issue for our economy as it directly affects our ability to attract and retain a workforce, this is acutely felt by many local businesses and impacts most of our community. We need to swing hard on increasing supply, removing roadblocks to land availability and encouraging intensification.
The other painful reminder of lack of infrastructure investment is traffic congestion. We need strong investment in all aspects of our transport system; including cycleways, public transport and roads. We need government to get its act together on two things; firstly, to agree investment for key parts of our transport network – Hewletts /Totara, Turret Rd and SH29 are critical. Secondly, we need them to fast-track the process, which can often take years to even get a business case finalised – we want actual improvements delivered.
Clearly Tauranga also has challenges across our community and there are many opportunities for central government to make a difference; we can’t shy away from infrastructure being a major contributor to a better standard of living for the city however. Having the spotlight on us gives us the chance to gain some tangible commitments to the quick delivery of infrastructure for Tauranga.