In the Electorate with Matt Doocey
This week I got a real sense of how Waimakariri is growing when I hosted Associate Trade Minister Todd McClay and Transport Minister Simon Bridges in the electorate.
Waimakariri is now the third largest district by population on South Island, having overtaken Invercargil to fall behind Christchurch and Dunedin. With this growth has come demand on infrastructure. Therefore, it was good to attend with the Transport Minister the sod turning for the Western Belfast Bypass. When complete, the bypass will re-route about half the traffic driving through Belfast. According to the Minister, the bypass is expected to open the motorway all the way through to Tram Road.
Another impact of our growth is on the delivery of broadband services. At a briefing I arranged for Minister McClay, the message was clear that technology has progressed in leaps and bounds ahead of the infrastructure. Like the congestion on the motorway, there is too much traffic queueing for access to bandwidth. There’s been a huge uptake of technology, including more residents streaming movies into their homes, and this is being multiplied with all the new homes and subdivisions.
Both Ministers also heard from businesses that they are struggling to get skilled and semi-skilled staff as our district competes with Christchurch – even though many of those workers are living in Waimakariri. Latest figures put unemployment in Waimakariri at 2.6 percent, which is considered full employment.
There was good news around the KiwiSaver HomeStart initiative that Housing Minister Nick Smith promoted at a public meeting in Rangiora. About 900 people have been identified in Waimakariri as being eligible over the next five years for help to get them into their own homes. Homeownership in Waimakariri is at 80.3%, well above the national average of 64.8%.
The picture presented to the Ministers was of a dynamic and growing region. Congestion of both the motorway and broadband will continue to be my focus as I work through a number of meetings in the weeks ahead. I had a really positive meeting around public transport recently and will continue working with residents and stakeholders around our issues.