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Agency works to keep Nelson affordable for workers

Agency works to keep Nelson affordable for workers

Plans are underway to ensure that rising Nelson property values do not result in workers vital to the strength of local industries being priced out of a home.

The median property price in Nelson has risen by 70% in the last 12 months and the Nelson Economic Development Agency has begun a project aimed at ensuring that businesses can continue to thrive and working people can continue to afford to live there.

Neil Hodgson, interim chief executive of the agency, is a speaker at the Regional Development Conference in Timaru this week. He says overseas buyers are paying big money for property in Nelson, but the area’s economy is primarily based on seafood processing, forestry, agriculture and horticulture, where wages are traditionally low.

Neil Hodgson says it is essential to a region’s economic development that it has a strong stable workforce supporting industries. Yet in Nelson, young people are leaving the region because they can’t actually afford to live there.

“The median income in the region is about $17,000 and average rent for a three bedroom home is $300 per week. You don’t have to be smart to realise that many people cannot afford to stay in Nelson.

“Unemployment in Nelson is very low at only 2%, so it is becoming more and more difficult to find a workforce in Nelson. But it is also a low income society, but expensive to live here mainly because of the property prices.” Neil Hodgson says lifting the base income across the region is a key issue to be looked at and addressed.

“We want to encourage the whole region to grow in a smart sustainable manner for a whole heap of reasons, but mainly so we can maintain our lifestyle and afford to live here but also have a nice vibrant economy as well.”

He says one good example of how this could work is Nelson’s proposed Seafood Centre of Excellence, which has received $1.5 million from New Zealand Trade and Enterprises’ Regional Partnership Programme to develop education, research and business facilities supporting the seafood industry. [more] [nelson/2]

“We would like to work with the education sector to train and enhance the skills of people working in the seafood industry, so the sector can afford to pay them more. Obviously there still needs to be some base skills for processing, but we need to be smart about the way we grow business in region.”

He says Nelson is a beautiful place to live, but the region needs to look to the future in a realistic manner to ensure a smart sustainable future – both in terms of human and environmental resources.

The agency is going to focus on research and development in Nelson across all sectors, including environmental research and environmental planning.

“This research will look at, for example, where the current growth rate of 1,000 homes a year are going to be built, plus the interaction between people living in these homes and industry. That defines for us what type of industry we want to encourage into the region,” he says.

Neil Hodgson says it is important Nelson remains a multi-dimensional society, and not just a home for high-income earners.

“Many of the ‘high income’ people are not necessarily adding anything to the economy. They’re not investing in business, they’re just buying a house and living here. All that’s doing is pushing up land prices and forcing other people out. We need to find a solution so our vital, but low income, workers can afford to live and work in Nelson,” he says.

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