Making it easy for Waikato to grow
Opinion: Born and raised in Opotiki I grew up loving the benefits of a tight-knit community with a beautiful environment. Small was good.
When I returned there after time away and took up the role of chief executive at Opotiki District Council, I saw first-hand the value of local authorities approaching things on a larger scale through cross-boundary collaboration. Thinking bigger had benefits.
That broader approach is also crucial in my current job at Waikato Regional Council, which has a key role managing resources such as fresh water, land, coasts, and flood protection schemes.
Working closely with local councils, iwi and stakeholders, we strive to boost our fantastic heartland region even further to ensure we get the best results for our environment, economy and communities. It’s a process we call ‘‘place shaping’’.
Waikato people are clearly passionate about our unique local environment. Our collective identity, as seen in the names of many of the places we live, are tied to key natural features, such as our precious Waikato rivers and mountains.
There’s collective pride in our agricultural and business successes. Warm, welcoming people and high quality infrastructure support the ease of doing business here.
And, at a local level, I see communities - with a strong sense of themselves and love of where they live - looking to develop.
But in some areas, such as overall economic performance and protecting our waterways, we can do better. We want the region to operate sustainably on all fronts. Our economy and communities rely on a healthy environment.
That’s where – working handin-glove with others – the regional council is playing a key role.
For example, we’ve led development of the Waikato Story, helping us all to better articulate our value proposition, both within the region and to those outside it.
We’re supporting implementation of Waikato’s economic development strategy, initiated through the Waikato Mayoral Forum, and provided support for development of the nearly finalised Waikato Plan to guide the region’s future. We’re also starting to build up a regional development fund.
The three Cs - collaboration, co-operation and co-ordination – are essential in all this. They’ve already produced very tangible region wide results such as: $2 billion for the Waikato Expressway; $215 million of Crown funding for land transport initiatives; and $81 million to protect Lake Taupo.
Soon we’ll see the detail of extensive co-operative work to further protect the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers as the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora project comes to a head.
Vaughan Payne is chief executive of Waikato Regional Council.