An annual plan work programme detailing further significant steps towards greater prosperity and environmental health in the Waikato region has been formally adopted today.
Waikato Regional Council’s 2017/18 Annual Plan – which signals total operating expenses for the year ahead of $124 million - also outlines an ongoing commitment to a range of well-established work programmes which help underpin Waikato’s performance, said deputy chair Tipa Mahuta.
As previously announced, the council has been able to keep the rise in rates from current ratepayers at 2.9 per cent for 2017/18. This followed average rises of 1 per cent over the previous four years, with the higher rate for next year reflecting new cost pressures such as increased depreciation for essential flood protection assets.
“This annual plan shows that, working with others, we have a very strong focus on boosting regional performance further whilst continuing to provide services that support communities, business, farming and other sectors. We will do this while keeping tight control of costs,” said Ms Mahuta.
“We think the rates increase has struck a good balance between cost control and making sure we are taking the right actions to keep the community, economy and environment healthy.”
Some examples of the work programmes in 2017-18 aimed at laying the foundation for better regional performance include:
- A start to implementation of a comprehensive new freshwater strategy for the region (with the actual strategy due out by the end of the current financial year)
- Progress on finalising the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Plan Change 1 for the Waikato and Waipa rivers and working with iwi and others to advance the Vision and Strategy for the rivers
- The regional council leading a number of implementation actions contained in the soon-to-be finalised Waikato Plan for the region
- Work on formulating the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan for the region.
The annual plan contains a range of measures to support community safety, including an estimated extra $530,000 for depreciation funding after a recent three-yearly revaluation of council assets. This primarily relates to flood protection in the Waihou and Piako rivers zones, which saw heavy rainfall and flooding in recent months. There is also extra spending on the Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, including a new group recovery manager and establishment of a new operations centre.
On the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora front, there is to be significant investment in preparing for the plan change, including $1.68 million on information technology and $1.06 million for initial implementation costs. The spreading of the costs of initial implementation for this ongoing key plan change over 10 years is helping the council ease upward pressure on annual rate rises, and reflects the period of benefit the set up costs relate to.
The annual plan outlines about $500,000 for catchment works in the Waipa River catchment, in conjunction with the Waikato River Authority, which will help protect water quality. There will also be planning work undertaken to help protect harbour health at various sites on the region’s coasts.
The budget contains $140,000 for two full time incident response staff to replace temporary staff, allowing for the maintenance of current levels of service in responding to the likes of public complaints about environmental pollution incidents.
“All up we feel we have developed a sound package for 2017-18,” said Ms Mahuta.
“A big task for us over the coming year will be deciding on how we can sharpen things even further over the life of the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan. To this end, we are committed to working closely with partner iwi, other councils, government agencies, farming, business, environmental groups and the wider community to make the mighty Waikato the best it can be.”