Long term plan hearing ends
OPINION: Waikato regional councillors have one of our biggest balancing acts coming up, making a decision on what to include in our 2018-2028 Long Term Plan (LTP).
At the beginning of this month, over the space of a week, the community presented their feedback to councillors on what they think we should focus on in the next 10 years. We listened to 111 oral submissions, and altogether have 356 submissions to consider for our long term plan.
There was a range of support for our proposals, and now it’s our job to balance what needs to be done with what’s affordable and what our communities want.
Overall, I think many of the submissions were quite pragmatic. People realise that improved levels of service come at a cost.
This was especially so for all the flood protection works we need to do as our assets reach their end of life or are no longer able to cope with the changing environment and climate.
One focus of our LTP was how to make this affordable, with proposals to take on external borrowing and spreading the depreciation of funding over a longer time.
With pest management, we currently don’t have enough money to keep on top of the work we do let alone look at all the new demands, eg kauri dieback, myrtle rust, velvetleaf and even wallabies.
So we said we had to collect more rates for our biosecurity, and 74 per cent of the submissions we got supported our proposal to increase work in this area.
Likewise, we got great support for our proposal to increase funding of new catchment works, with 87 per cent of submissions received in support.
Increasing the funding for catchments works means we will be able to collaborate more with landowners to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering our waterways, and provide more habitat for native plants and animals.
But the work we do at regional council is not just about keeping the Waikato green and clean.
We’re also focused on creating a strong economy and ensuring Waikato communities thrive.
This is why we choose to collect rates on behalf of the territorial authorities for volunteer emergency services, and put forward proposals in our LTP to support a new regional theatre in Hamilton and a trial passenger rail service between our main city and Auckland.
However, proposals like these make our decision making a bit more difficult, because some feel they won’t benefit from the services.
So councillors will have to weigh up views like these against wider community good. The balancing acts begins at the end of this month, during what is formally known as deliberations.
All in all, it was a successful consultation.
In the digital space, our LTP ads, videos and stories helped generate more than 43,000 clicks through to our LTP landing page.
There were also a lot of online conversation that have been collated and will be taken into consideration by councillors.
Alan Livingston is chair of the Waikato Regional Council. The views are his own.
Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston.