When times change, so should policies

WARWICK RASMUSSEN - DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:27 09/05/2012

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OPINION: There's no magic solution to turning around a regional economy, but as the mantra goes, doing the same thing will get you the same results.

In today's Manawatu Standard we take a close look at Rangitikei St and how it has transformed as a busy business gateway to Palmerston North to a somewhat rundown, and in places sad, part of town.

There are abandoned lots, promises of new business moving in, but little to no movement, apart from weeds growing out of the ground.

The "economy" is a convenient excuse for anything and while it is a factor in what's happened in Rangitikei St, it is only part of the puzzle.

Businesses and landowners need to change the way they think and approach sites. Just because Rangitikei St used to be known for car yards, that's just not viable any more. Car yards, much like video stores, are being squeezed out by online sales. Any car dealer with nous knows there's more to selling a car than having a fancy yard and showroom. An online presence is just as crucial.

Landowners need to realise they are not going to get the same rental and return on land that they did in the past, so they need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

Those are by no means easy changes to make.

Perhaps the biggest player in it all is Palmerston North City Council. After all, if anyone wants to be bold and create a new business (as opposed to doing up an existing site) there are plenty of compliance costs a developer must factor in before deciding whether to proceed.

One of the biggest bugbears for all developers – not just in Palmerston North – is development contribution levies.

Effectively they're a tax developers have to pay to do business. They're a vital part of every council's income. In boom times that rarely causes problems, but in times of downturn and recovery they are a major deterrent, especially where a council is asking for hundreds of thousands before a sod is turned.

Getting the recipe right requires a change in attitude and, where possible, policy. What would you prefer, an empty and decaying part of town with a strict levy policy, or the opportunity to create an environment where businesses are welcome and have the ability to thrive?

ONE MORE THING

Today, Palmerston North City Council released a list of earthquake-prone buildings. It is by no means a complete list – that will take years – but it does provide a snapshot of the condition of many buildings. Rather than scaremongering, the list allows everyone involved to assess the condition of their buildings and how long and how much it might cost to get up to code.

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- Manawatu Standard

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