Taking an open approach to planning
The Waikato region is increasingly walking the talk when it comes to working together to create prosperous communities.
Just this week Waikato Regional Council kicked off a new open door approach to the formulation of its key ten-year long term plan (LTP) covering 2018-28.
In the past, we’ve come up with a new LTP every three years after consulting on what the council thinks are the key issues and priorities.
This time round we’re going to stakeholders and the wider public first for their ideas before we get into formulating ours.
We had a great turnout of more than 50 stakeholders at last week’s event at Karapiro where we chewed over how the council can best facilitate, support and enable ways of making the region the best it can be.
My personal view expressed at the meeting is that we are one region and we increasingly need to speak with one voice.
There are opportunities for individual parts of the region to achieve in different areas.
We must all support each other to be successful with the initiatives we take.
The message coming from those attending is that they also want better connectivity and for the council to take a lead in facilitating success.
There were calls for more efficiency, less doubling up of effort, and to utilise and support the vast numbers of volunteers who’re willing to help with various initiatives.
People at the forum generally liked our priorities including supporting communities to take action, building partnerships, sustainable land use, better freshwater management, increasing community understanding of risks and resilience, supporting our coasts and marine areas, and enhancing our regional quality of life.
These are big picture goals that will require a lot of detailed effort to achieve but it feels like we’re on the right track with our thinking.
We’ll be going to the wider public for its views in June before a draft LTP is produced over coming months ahead of formal consultation and submissions.
As we go through this process, we’ll also continue to work through the Waikato Mayoral Forum and the Waikato Plan to get councils, agencies, stakeholders and the community taking a joined up approach.
I’ve been involved in local politics for a long time and can safely say I’ve never seen a more cooperative approach around the Waikato to boosting regional wellbeing.
The extensive collaborative groundwork being put in has already delivered results such as funding for the expressway. Our challenge now is to build on that momentum to ensure we keep delivering tangible results for our communities.
For the council’s part, we’re aware of the need to always balance driving things forward with affordability. Our recently agreed budget for 2017-18 is for a 2.9 per cent average rates rise for existing ratepayers, enabling us to meet some key new cost pressures whilst keeping rates increases to a reasonable level.
Overall, I favour the region aspiring to be the best we can be while always taking a down-toearth and practical approach to getting there.
Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston.