Just as beating COVID-19 requires a team of 5 million, at 1 percent of our national population, everyone in Marlborough is now needed to help lead our precious region out of the economic impacts of this pandemic. I believe Marlborough is going to be alright if we all stick together.
Keeping up our confidence is a key to maintaining our economy. Where able we need to maintain our spending, especially at local businesses. Every dollar spent locally recycles several times through our business community and those it employs.
That’s why Council has already brought together a list of ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects – including some from the private sector - to feed into the Government’s efforts to pump cash into the economy. The Marlborough total is more than a third of a billion dollars. Not all of this is being sought from Government, nor will every project be funded, but the Government will look to Council for advice on where to best place Crown recovery funding for our region. Council has the statutory responsibility to be our region’s lead during emergencies and as Deputy Mayor I have been tasked to chair that response.
For 2020-21 Council will finance over $60 million of capital expenditure, with similar amounts over each of the next three years. There are also some big projects and several smaller ones budgeted in 2019-20 going out to tender in the next few months, totalling close to $40 million. So that’s around $100m that Council alone will be pumping into the Marlborough economy in a little over a year.
That said, Marlborough businesses will be the biggest determinant of our region’s recovery. Council has brought together an action group of key industry sectors – small and medium enterprises (SMEs), wine, iwi, tourism, aquaculture, farming, forestry and transport, along with Council, business agencies and Government department representatives. This TEAM group – The Economic Action Marlborough group – has already commissioned an economic impact study, set up industry and professional advisory groups and started work on a first phase recovery plan to be ready by mid-May. The TEAM group is a collaborative approach to find the best projects and solutions to keep Marlborough people in jobs – and create new ones. We will align where able with our friends across the hill in Nelson/Tasman and pick up on the Te Tau Ihu Intergenerational strategy which Council helped fund. We have the opportunity to reshape Marlborough’s economy so we are better placed to meet future challenges.
The TEAM group sees four likely phases to the recovery. We are now in the Respond phase dealing with the immediate lockdown issues. Next, we move to Resilience where maintaining cashflow and jobs are the focus. Then we see a Return phase where capacity and scale are rebuilt – hopefully this will start late this year; and finally, Reimagination where we can integrate some learnings from our recovery in a ‘new normal’ including environmental benefits.
We are blessed in Marlborough to start our recovery with a strong, mixed economy and the benefit of a single council with good assets and a better balance sheet than most. As well as leading the economic response, Council is also at the helm of Marlborough’s COVID-19 Welfare Response and Recovery programme looking after people and communities.
This is likely to be a recovery that stretches into years with those who own work or own businesses in sectors like hospitality and accommodation bearing much of its first effects.
That’s why I was particularly thrilled to see the New ferries for the future leaflet out from Port Marlborough, Kiwi Rail, NZTA and Council, outlining the huge potential that project has for Marlborough’s future tourism, the economy and the environment. With the work we are starting now, we will be ready for the new, bigger ferries from 2024 with all the extra passengers and benefits these will bring to Picton and wider Marlborough.
In the interim, I am buoyed by the responses I am seeing and hearing about as businesses responded to the challenge of moving into Level 3. People like Tamzin Henderson and her sister Lana Wilson who run the family marine, leisure and pool supplies outlet on Grove Rd. They and other Marlborough businesses are offering to allow customers to see and choose stock by showing it to them using a FaceTime app.
I applaud Whitehaven Wine Company for using its travel budget to buy vouchers from local
restaurants and cafes to reward local workers on the frontline. I echo Whitehaven’s call for other wineries, businesses and individuals which can, to do similar things. Getting cash in the tills will be crucial in coming weeks and months as Marlborough businesses work to remain solvent and keep staff employed.
We need every one of us in Marlborough, our team of 50,000 – to look out for each other, to buy local, support our businesses, back the recovery efforts and recognise there’s few better places to come through this storm as we will.
We are all in this together – He waka eke noa.
Cr Nadine Taylor