I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy Nelson’s great summer. Council has been busy supporting many of the cultural and sporting events that make Nelson vibrant.

We have a big job to do in supporting the recovery of our visitor industry after years of COVID disruptions. It is great to see the return of the tour buses and cruise ships, and to again hear accents from every corner of the world in Nelson’s streets.

I made the mistake of holidaying in Coromandel and got drenched, but did get to catch up on months of Council report reading. The Nelson history books I also read were helpful in focusing my mind on the future.

The year has started with the resignation of our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. I have written, thanking her for her service and particularly her support for Nelson during events such as the 2022 storm and the 2019 fires. Her empathetic leadership following the horrific Christchurch mosque attacks and determination not to give the assailant notoriety was par excellence.

Nelson’s biggest problem this year is the rocketing cost of living, with inflation at 7.2%. Food prices are up over 10%. Interest rates have more than doubled. This is putting huge financial stress on households and businesses. 

Council cannot shield our community from this cost-of-living crisis, but we need to avoid making it worse with large rate hikes. This is going to be difficult when we, too, are facing big cost increases. Construction costs that make up a large part of the Council’s budget are up 14%. Higher interest costs on our $112 million debt are adding to our costs. We face the added problem of $40–$60 million in costs for repairs from the storm last August. Councillors and our staff are working hard to limit the rate increase.

I am also working hard on persuading the Government to reconsider its radical Three Waters reform. Nelson’s water infrastructure is in good shape, and we should not have to pay for cities like Wellington that have underinvested for decades. It is bad enough the Government is proposing to take from Council $750 million worth of water infrastructure, but the latest legislation, introduced to Parliament in December, enables the Government to also take from Council about 80% of our public reserves in areas such as the Maitai and Roding.

I invite Nelsonians to make submissions on the latest bill by February 12 and to lobby our local MPs on getting a
rethink of Three Waters.

A further priority for me this year will be bedding in my reset of how Council works. It will take time to change the poor governance culture of the last term of Council. I want to build a “Team Nelson” approach across elected members and staff to better enable us to navigate these difficult times ahead.