Strong partnerships help achieve more for Waikato region

Press Release – Waikato Regional Council

30 September 2019

Waikato Regional Council has signed off on a successful year in which a focus on strong partnerships has helped to deliver more for the region’s communities.

The achievements were recorded in the council’s 2018/19 Annual Report adopted by council on Thursday (26 September), which highlights the work it has done with others to build a Waikato region that has a healthy environment, strong economy and vibrant communities.

Council chair Alan Livingston said the report reflected a year where the council had continued to build on existing relationships to maximise the opportunities for the Waikato region.

“Every year, hundreds of volunteers and landowners spend thousands of hours working to protect our environment, and we have supported them where we can,” he said.

In the last year, more than $1.5 million in funding went to helping landowners tackle erosion and water quality issues, and improve biodiversity, on about 400 individual properties.

The council also financially supported various environmental initiatives – Maungatautari Ecological Island, Karioi Project and Coromandel Coastal Walkways – and helped fund voluntary emergency services Surf Life Saving, Coastguard, Philips Search and Rescue Trust, Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust and LandSAR.

“During this year our strategic partnerships have also strengthened for the betterment of the Waikato,” Cr Livingston said.

He pointed to the region’s mayors agreeing to work together on climate change actions, including developing a roadmap of activities as part of New Zealand’s transition to net carbon zero by 2050.

“As an organisation, the council has committed to reducing its emissions by 2 per cent every year. In the 2018/19 year we successfully achieved a 15 per cent reduction, although this was largely due to less rainfall which meant our flood pumps didn’t operate for as many hours.”

The Waikato Mayoral Forum also agreed that a new regional economic development entity should be formed, focused on business development, innovation, industry development and investment attraction services. In July 2018, Te Waka: Anga whakamua Waikato was established to support economic development in the region by promoting one set of agreed priorities.

The reporting year has seen the signing of an agreement by iwi, local and central government agencies to develop a Hamilton-Auckland Corridor Plan, which will ensure joined-up planning between Auckland and the Waikato.

A key project of this, which the regional council is leading, is the start-up Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service.

“We have also been working very closely with the Government in the last 12 months, particularly on the topic of fresh water which is one of our priorities.”

That’s why the Heathy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Plan Change 1, which has progressed well in the last year, will be implemented over 80 years unless new technology enables us to move quicker, he said.

Other highlights in 2018/19 include:
• A large project has started in the past year called Healthy Environments | He Taiao Mauriora. It’s the combined review of the Regional Coastal Plan and Waikato Regional Plan.

• Paeroa has a new mechanical floodgate across State Highway 26, which has vastly improved the council’s level of service to the town.

• A new flood protection scheme with fish-friendly pumps is being built near Ngātea.

• A strategy is being developed to guide the management of flood pump related impediments to native fish as they migrate downstream, and to help with decision making around future investment in flood protection.

• The council’s flood assets have been mapped on the Waikato Regional Hazards Portal, developed this past year to improve public access to natural hazard information relating to the region.
Financially, the council performed well and has achieved an operating surplus of $11,000 compared to the forecast deficit of $1.643 million signalled in the annual plan. The council’s investment fund returned $6.596 million for the year, against a budgeted return of $5.143 million.

The full annual report and summary will be available online from October at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/annual-report.
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