Council’s End Of Year Wrap
Buller District has undoubtably been the standout economic performer on the West Coast over the last year, and even one of the top performing districts across the whole of New Zealand.
Infometric’s just released quarterly report shows strong GDP growth of 7.8% in the year to September 2021 and places it as the fifth fastest growing territorial authority in the country, compared to Westland and Grey in the bottom ten.
Buller’s employment growth of 0.5% places it roughly in the middle of the pack. A strong domestic tourism surge has benefited Buller, with a 23.7% increase in tourism expenditure ranking the district as the fourth fastest growing. This outcome partly reflects the number of tradies in the district after the flood event, and insurance funded recoveries tend to boost GDP in the short term.
Buller District Council Mayor Jamie Cleine says the year brought challenges and yet overall, we are doing well as a district.
“We know there are people still hurting and in need of support with flood recovery and we are working hard to get them the assistance they need.”
Mayor Cleine believes the end of the year is a good time to reflect on the challenges presented throughout the year, along with the successes.
“It’s been a big year for upgrading infrastructure and some services.”
Council’s infrastructure team has delivered on multiple projects across the district during the year, with water being a focus.
The first stage of the Westport water supply trunk main replacement project was completed by council’s contractor WestReef Services Ltd last month.
This key infrastructure project replaces critical aging water pipes suppling Westport and Carters Beach residents with drinking water.
The project was partly funded through Buller’s first allocation of the Three Waters reform funding which saw government contribute $4.5M toward Three Waters infrastructure upgrades across the district. $513,000 of this external funding was used for the project, which saw council contributing the remaining $528,000.
Next year, stage two of the project will extend the water supply pipeline by approximately 240m across Giles Creek and repair work will be done in the vicinity to improve the pipelines resilience.
Replacement of Punakaiki’s drinking water supply trunk main is another major infrastructure project that was recently completed.
The new resilient pipeline will supply drinking water from the Punakaiki water treatment plant to properties on Hartmount Place and to households approximately 200m south of Bullock Creek. The new pipeline is capable of carrying more drinking water for future urban development in the area.
Upgrading the Reefton water supply is also on track to be finished by Christmas and the tender to take on the Waimangaroa Conns Creek water supply project is expected to be awarded in the coming weeks.
School kids were the first to make a splash in the refurbished pool in Reefton. The pool reopened in February after receiving a council funded renovation costing $550,000.
Council has delivered a large programme of work through a package of funding in excess of $18m received through central government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
One of these projects is Westport’s new Toki Poutangata Bridge (Toki) which will unofficially open in a few weeks.
Council secured $1.8M from the PGF to construct the bridge which will allow people to easily transition from Westport’s main street, across the railway line, to a new riverbank community space in a safe way.
The historic Hector Landfill is no longer threatening to release waste into the ocean thanks to $1M of funding from central government’s Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund which enabled a new protective rock wall to be built.
The Westport Port area has received a PGF funded $4M spruce up. Boats are mooring at new floating jetties and old jetties are being tidied up or removed.
Buller District Council chief executive officer, Ms Mason, said work will continue at the port over the next month or two resulting in an impressive new facility for commercial and recreational fishing boats.
“A new ablutions block and improved security will better meet the fishing fleet’s needs. And the harbour master’s office will look sharp with a new paint job.”
As part of the project to upgrade bulk freight facilities at the port, more than 60,000 m3 has been removed from the main river channel with work continuing to remove around another 20,000 m3 more. Repairs and maintenance to electrical wiring and infrastructure have also occurred.
Community facilities renovated with funding from central government included the community centre, racecourse, and tearooms in Reefton - and the Waimangaroa Hall.
The official opening of the Tidal Creek No. 2 Bridge in July was welcomed by the Karamea community, adding a much needed infrastructure upgrade to this vital highway.
The $1.8 million project was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) as part of the Covid-19 shovel-ready response and was overseen by council.
The PGF also funded the refurbishment of the War Memorial Gates and statue at Victoria Square, Westport. The cost to refurbish both was $21,600.
Social development has also been a priority for council throughout 2021.
Funding of $10,000 per year from the Long Term Plan budget has empowered Kawatiri Youth Voice to consolidate with the support of a paid part time co-ordinator. The funding from council combined with sponsorship from other agencies, and truck loads of energy and enthusiasm from the youth steering committee, has seen the group deliver events and adventures for youth across the district, and the committee to attend a leadership conference in Wellington.
A partnership between council, Ministry of Social Development, Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ), and Buller REAP is in its second year and continues to match job seekers with jobs and provide wage subsidies and funding to support development of work skills.
With funding of $500,000 per year from MTFJ’s covid recovery programme, 120 job seekers have secured jobs across a range industries including plastering, construction, engineering, horticulture, and hospitality.
Recently, council has been successful in acquiring $225K of funding from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as part of a Jobs for Nature Project that will deliver jobs and strategic weed control across the top of the South Island.
The funding will be used to create a new fixed-term contractor role administered by council to support the planning and delivery of the restoring and protecting flora project managed by TNC.
The project will create up to eight jobs and enable large-scale organised weed management in significant natural areas and explore expanding the protection of these sites through QEII covenanting and other restoration activities. Overall, this project will invest more than $1.4M in the Buller District over the next three years.