So there goes 2010, and as 2011 rolls in we see petrol going over $2.00/litre in town, which probably means $2.50 up the Coast. This year the International Energy Agency referred to Peak Oil in the past tense, saying output will never again get to the “all-time peak of 70 million barrels per day reached in 2006.” Global demand for oil is increasing exponentially and the cost of production is going up as the stuff gets harder to extract.
The good news is that while the New Zealand government has acknowledged the need to plan for life beyond cheap oil, so has a growing number of Gisborne people. Planning to adapt our lifestyles seems like a better strategy than having change forced on us.
Local residents face similar challenges if we like the lifestyle the district offers. Gisborne District Council is an entity we pay money to that ensures decent roads, safe drinking water, some agreement about who can do what where and the provision of other basic services essential to maintaining our quality of life.
There has been a lot of column space dedicated recently to complaints about rates rises for some sectors of the community and suggestions we should cut Council services or delay maintenance and replacement work.
Despite all the table thumping, the good news is that a significant proportion of ratepayers will have a reduction in their rates and the vast majority will probably have an increase of less than $2 per week.
With the Reserve Bank predicting inflation of five percent next year, we should thank staff and the former Council for ensuring the average rates rises are well below inflation. While farmers and some businesses complain about the rises, we should compare them with last year when residential property owners in the city were hardest hit and faced increases in the poorest parts of town of over 16%. So we all have to do our share and while legislation prevents rates from being used as a mechanism for wealth redistribution, if you have a multi million dollar property that is also a business, you expect to contribute a bit more than the average.
As a recent editorial pointed out, Gisborne is no longer in the highest bracket for rates in the country and while we have high levels of poverty we also have a lean Council, expensive rural roading and flood protection infrastructure to maintain in the face of decreasing central government support.
Gisborne has 360,000 hectares of grassland, 150,000 hectares of planted trees, 40,000 hectares of native bush and 9,000 hectares of horticulture.
Gisborne also has huge areas of ‘Maori land’ a lot of which is termed ‘unproductive’ (because it’s not being intensively farmed or forested) and ‘unrateable’ (because the multiple owners are either deceased or impossible to track down to recover rates from).
If a fraction of the time, passion and resources committed by councillors, staff and lobby groups to cutting Council services was redirected into developing a strategy for attracting long-term residents to the district, we could have a really effective campaign.
Part of such a strategy should focus on attracting Maori with connections to Te Tairawhiti to come home to work and build on the ancestral land everyone seems so proud of.
We also have a great opportunity to profile our community as a potential new home for the thousands of visitors here over summer. We have no traffic jams (except at New Years!), no air pollution, no crowded waves, no in-fill housing, no crass multinational strip malls… in fact, there’s not much here except a beautiful environment, laid back lifestyles and a lot of very friendly people.