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Hamilton battles challenges to growth


Hamilton is expected to continue positive growth (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, November 16, 2023

Hamilton is affected by the recent economic challenges like every other city in New Zealand but is optimistic about the future.

Over the last ten years, Hamilton has experienced significant growth, and this is projected to continue with the announcement of new infrastructure for housing in Central Hamilton and a positive insight from the business community.

Employers confident

Hamilton has received the tick of approval from employers keen to grow their companies with employers increasingly confident about their ability to access the necessary services and resources to grow their businesses in Hamilton.

The business insight comes from more than 70 in-depth meetings Hamilton City Council’s economic development staff have had with city employers this year.

Councillor Ewan Wilson, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said that the Council had invested in infrastructure to support economic growth.

“During challenging times, we will see the economy slow down. But by investing in critical infrastructure, we have created a solid framework to support businesses in the city. Hamilton’s economy continues to perform well, and growth in GDP and job numbers have outstripped most other metros in recent years.”

The Council staff interviewed employers from the manufacturing and logistics sectors as well as the technology, agritech and innovation sectors. The discussions reveal businesses have become increasingly cautious about their short-term plans to hire more staff. Tech employers, in particular, said that it is increasingly challenging to find staff with the right skills and experience.

Councillor Mark Donovan, who serves as Deputy Chair of the Economic Development Committee, said the fact some city businesses are taking a cautious approach to growth, is not a bad thing.

Forecasts for inflation remain high for the next 12 to 24 months. “Sometimes in business, you need to be cautious but that can allow you to be more strategic in your thinking,” Councillor Donovan said.

“The good news is Council has invested in infrastructure to support growth, so when the market picks up, Hamilton is ready.”

Superhub for opportunities

City employers highlight the positive impact that the completed Waikato Expressway has had on Hamilton as well as the growth of the Ruakura Superhub. The Council has played a key role in the development of Ruakura, from consenting and planning to delivering key infrastructure.

Kmart’s North Island distribution centre opened at Ruakura in September, followed by Big Chill’s new facility in October. Maersk’s Ruakura cool stores are due to be completed in November.

Events for All

The latest data show Council’s H3 venues, such as Claudelands and FMG Stadium Waikato hosted 207,927 people in the three months to 30 September, a 74% increase on the same period last year.

Councillor Donovan said that promoting the use of the city’s stadiums and facilities makes good economic sense.

“We have got these amazing facilities so let us use them to our economic advantage. It is great to hear feedback from staff that Hamilton is top of mind for conference planners and event promoters.”

New infrastructure for more housing

The Council has also signalled that growing up and out of the central city is a priority, especially for enabling more affordable housing supply.

These infrastructure projects are part of a programme allocated $150.6 million from the central Government’s Infrastructure Acceleration Fund (IAF) to help unlock housing in the central city.

Hamilton City Council Infrastructure and Transport Committee got the nod to proceed with the procurement for the design of a new water reservoir and pedestrian and cycle (active modes) bridge for the central city.

The bridge will allow more transport choices and safer connections to and from east Hamilton, and the reservoir will increase our supply of drinking water and capacity for firefighting as the central city grows, said IAF Programme Delivery Manager, Natasha Hansen.

“We will also be looking for opportunities to deliver on our commitments to connect better with the Waikato awa. An active modes bridge in the central city location has been an aspiration for the city for decades and there have been many advocates for it over time.”

Deputy Mayor and Chair of Infrastructure and Transport Committee Angela O’Leary said we have this once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity to provide much-needed infrastructure facilities in the heart of our city.

“Aesthetics and accessibility will be key considerations in the design process. Balancing form and function within budget and timeframe needs to be carefully managed. Both the bridge and reservoir will be highly visible locations for our community, so what they look like will be important. We have seen lots of iterations of design concepts over the years, particularly for the bridge, but we need to start at the beginning so we can make sure we get the best outcome for our city.”

Ms Hansen said, “It is early days, and there are many questions and challenges we have yet to work through such as maximising access despite the steep terrain and current and historic land use. The bridge will have no piers in the river, and the health of the awa will be at the forefront of the bridge.

Completion of the reservoir and active modes bridge are planned for 2028.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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