Long term plan hear­ing ends

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN LIV­INGSTON

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.

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