Major new plan for Waikato’s future signed off

27 February 2017

A major new plan outlining a blueprint for a more prosperous future in the Waikato has today been signed off for public consultation in a strong display of regional unity

The Waikato Plan is designed to be a catalyst for a step change in regional social and economic performance, enabling councils, business, community funders and others to speak with one voice on key issues in discussions with the likes of central Government. It was approved by a joint committee involving local government and stakeholder representatives.

Some of the key actions outlined in the plan include collaboration on a regional development strategy, identifying regional priorities for community infrastructure, integration of the Waikato and Auckland transport networks and ongoing implementation of the Waikato Means Business economic development strategy.

The plan is the first time that councils of the Waikato and their partners have joined together to collaboratively address the large scale social, economic and other challenges - and opportunities - that the region faces. It reflects a series of agreements between agencies on the top priorities for action.

The plan’s development - kicked off in 2013 by the Waikato Mayoral Forum - lays the foundation for a detailed and coordinated process to improve regional well-being on a variety of fronts, said the committee’s independent chair Margaret Devlin.

“This plan joins the dots, enabling us to move forward in an integrated way to achieve our goals. One key use for the plan is as a tool in sub-national or national negotiations to secure additional resourcing and funding for the Waikato’s needs and development priorities. Now we want to hear what the community thinks about our proposals before moving on to full implementation.”

The mayoral forum’s chair Alan Livingston, of Waikato Regional Council, said the forum – made up of mayors and himself - had identified a need to collaborate tightly on lifting performance. It was therefore satisfying to see a robust plan formulated under the committee’s guidance.

“We have really lifted our game on collaboration in our region in recent years and this plan is one of the fruits of that. We know that speaking with one voice gives us far greater influence with central Government and others so it’s important to get this right and crack on with implementation.”

Ms Devlin stressed the plan’s actions would have the most impact if carried out as an integrated package. “There is no one silver bullet in the plan that will deliver the results we seek, rather it will be the combined weight of implementing a series of detailed actions on various fronts. This particularly includes making the Waikato an easier place to do business and helping central Government and investors understand our priorities.”

Central Government has already offered to help facilitate the implementation of the Waikato Plan, as part of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s regional growth programme. The team overseeing the Waikato Means Business economic development strategy is also involved with this. “Discussions are occurring with the ministry regarding potential for contributions towards funding of a range of projects aimed to increase the economic success of the region,” Ms Devlin said.

Five high-level priorities have been identified as the most important issues and opportunities facing the region:

  • planning for population change (growth and decline)
  • connecting communities through targeted investment
  • partnering with iwi Māori
  • addressing issues around the allocation and quality of fresh water
  • advancing regional economic development.

The top ten actions to support these priorities are:

  1. Collaborate on a regional development strategy
  2. Identify the regional priorities for service and technical infrastructure
  3. Identify how central government services can be provided to match community needs
  4. Advocate on behalf of regional transport priorities 
  5. Integrate Waikato and Auckland transport networks
  6. Encourage development of a nationally significant cycling and walking experience
  7. Establish a freight and logistics action group
  8. Work collaboratively to develop and encourage enduring partnerships that enable iwi/Māori aspirations to be achieved
  9. Develop the Waikato as a “Waters Centre of Excellence”
  10. Implementing the current Waikato Means Business economic development strategy.

Projects included in the plan and already making progress include:

  • Supporting moves to establish a medical school in the Waikato
  • Investigation of a package of works to create a nationally-significant cycling and walking experience. (Organisations developing and supporting cycle trails in the Waikato and central North Island have this year been holding discussions with Government officials and others on the way forward.)
  • Establishment of a freshwater institute by the University of Waikato and NIWA

The plan’s public submissions period will be from 10 March to 10 April. The submission form, the draft Waikato Plan summary and the draft full Waikato Plan will be available at www.waikatoplan.co.nz/ from 10 March. Once submissions close, public hearings are due later in April and early May, with implementation of the final plan due to begin in August.

The latest draft of the Plan presented to today’s meeting is available at
https://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Agenda-Package-Waikato-Plan-Joint-Committee-27-February-2017-optimised.pdf

 

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.