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by Greta Yeoman

The Mackenzie District Council has received more than $710,000 for a study into the district’s future.

The council was granted $711,546 from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund late last year, which would be used towards preparing a feasibility study to determine the best possible pathway towards a sustainable district.

Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said there had been “huge growth” in the district and the council was aware of subsequent pressure this growth was putting not only on the current infrastructure but also on the communities.

Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith

“It is and will be a major challenge to keep our infrastructure up to an acceptable standard, now and into the future.”

Council chief executive Suzette van Aswegen said she hoped the study would help council staff better understand the growth the “tourist hot spot” was experiencing.

“With all our beautiful natural assets, it is a given that tourists will keep coming, whether we like it or not.

“We therefore have to understand what is happening and carefully plan for a future in which our community can benefit from this growth.”

The council had worked in partnership with the Mackenzie Development Group (MDG), a group of local business people representing the district, to put together this application, Mr Smith said.

“They have brought a lot of valuable expertise and experience to this process.”

A Local Government New Zealand report received by the council last year highlighted the need to look at alternative funding models to provide for the future growth, Mr Smith said.

“We take this seriously; that is why we are looking at partnerships and other innovative ways to supplement our rates,” Mr Smith said.

Ms van Aswegen said the council was planning multiple public consultations sessions to hear residents’ views.

“We want to encourage our community to actively participate in this process.”

The feasibility study will contain various studies such as a tourism strategy, employment strategy and an economic analysis – and will also be used for council planning and further funding grant applications. The council plans to have the study completed later this year.