Navigating the new political tide
The political tide has well and truly turned at a national level with the installation of the Labour-led coalition Government.
That sea change presents both opportunities and challenges for the Waikato region which we’ll need to navigate wisely.
For example, there are opportunities in the new Government’s emphasis on regional development and talk of more investment in public transport.
Challenges may include additional measures to improve water quality which would require a significant response from the wider regional community. We could see a tighter focus on reining in the drivers of climate change.
Recent collaboration over a new Waikato Plan and a regional economic development agency due next year mean we’ll be well placed to respond to opportunities in a unified way. There are also existing moves underway to look at improving Hamilton-Auckland transport connections.
On the challenges front, the regional council has already developed a ground-breaking freshwater strategy and scoped out emerging climate change issues.
Recent discussion in the Waikato Mayoral Forum highlighted how front-footing regional matters with new ministers and MPs within the first few months of office will be important.
Collectively, councils and local organisations will be looking to build on existing relationships at governance and executive levels to maximise our voice being heard.
The Waikato Plan’s joined up stance on a wide range of matters will certainly assist with that.
The forum has agreed to a ‘‘multi-layered approach’’ to connect with central government going forward.
One particular bonus for the region is the appointment of Waikato’s new minister Nanaia Mahuta to the portfolios of Maori Development, Local Government and Associate Environment, all subjects very relevant to our region.
The forum and the regional council have very good relations with her already and we look forward to working with her to advance matters of interest to the wider community and Maori in our region.
We are fortunate that Nanaia has an in-depth knowledge of our region and that she has had previous involvement with these portfolios.
Also, iwi have an important part to play in both Maori development and in the success of the wider community.
We were recently obliged to review Maori representation arrangements and I was personally pleased to see a solid majority of regional councillors supported keeping our Maori seats on the council.
These seats work well in our case. The regional council has very specific obligations to Maori under the Resource Management Act and Treaty settlements and our Maori councillors play an important role in helping us meet these.
I have strongly appreciated the work of our deputy chair Tipa Mahuta, of the Nga Hau e Wha constituency, and Kataraina Hodge, representing Nga Tai ki Uta, both as councillors for the wider community and as representatives of Maori.
Finally it’s important to acknowledge the hard work in recent years of our ex-ministers and MPs now in opposition. We will continue to work closely with all parties for the benefit of the Waikato.
· Alan Livingston is chair of the Waikato Mayoral Forum and Waikato Regional Council. The views are his own.
Waikato Regional Council chair Alan Livingston.