City keen to latch on to Auckland growth

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 11:57 26/02/2014

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Capitalising on Auckland's "unprecedented" growth will be a defining issue for city leaders charting Hamilton's economic prosperity - but it may come at a cost.

That was one of the main themes to come out of yesterday's inaugural meeting of Hamilton City Council's new business and investment subcommittee.

One of its primary tasks will be to oversee the city's economic development agenda.

City events and economic development general manager Sean Murray said the agenda set out the council's role in promoting the city's economic growth.

The council was a facilitator of economic development rather than the "be all and end all", Mr Murray said, adding the council's agenda broke the paradigm of local authorities being about writing cheques and offering subsidies.

Looking ahead, Mr Murray said it was important the city responded to the growth in Auckland.

"Because the stuff happening in Auckland is huge and unparalleled in New Zealand in terms of growth and expansion. The money that's being dropped in the city is phenomenal," he said.

"The issue for us is how do we get onto the coat-tails of that . . . the growth will keep happening in Auckland and it will create some spillage and we've got to be ready for that."

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said Auckland's growth was an "absolute winner" for Hamilton, with commercial costs for businesses about 20 to 25 per cent cheaper in Hamilton.

"So we've got a proposition to sell that is really attractive," she said.

On a cautious note, city planning and environmental services general manager Brian Croad said Hamilton's ability to take advantage of growth opportunities would largely depend on having adequate infrastructure.

"Where all this smashes on the rocks, if we're not careful, is to make sure we've got enough money invested in infrastructure to allow growth and development to happen," Mr Croad said.

He said a "bow wave" of development and investment was on the horizon but wasn't sure the council's long-term funding for infrastructure was ready.

In reply, Ms Hardaker said it was important the council explain to people why it was important to fund infrastructure.

Meanwhile, subcommittee members approved the outline of the central city transformation plan.

The plan seeks to identify opportunities and projects needed to transform the central city into a strong commercial centre.

Ms Hardaker said a lot of money had been spent redeveloping Garden Place, for example, but questioned if the space was being properly utilised.

"I don't know what it actually is supposed to be. It's the centre of the CBD and it does have an aspiration that's why an awful lot of money was spent on it but it's not being realised."

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aaron.leaman@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato

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