Discussion about local government must be open, involve all Waikato stakeholders and have a 20-30 year horizon, a Waikato Regional Council committee has heard.
At Tuesday’s policy and strategy committee, councillors heard that significant local government reform is inevitable and it is important the council and the community continues to be informed and develop a view on how successful local government in the region would look.
A staff report said that due to the region’s changing demographics and the importance of the Waikato economy to the country, local government in the Waikato will also need to change to ensure it remains relevant, effective and appropriate.
The report identified the strengths and weaknesses of the current local government structure, as well as the issues in the Waikato which will affect governance over the next 20 years. These include:
- There will be increased demand and competition for natural resources in the Waikato, including fresh water, high class soil, energy resources and perhaps coastal space and minerals.
- Waikato’s population could rise by as much as 139,000, with the majority of the growth in the Hamilton sub-region, while the numbers living in rural areas are declining.
- The region’s aging population is increasing, with the number of over 65 year olds expected to almost double in the next 20 years.
- A constrained funding environment may result, making it increasingly difficult for communities to provide and pay for services and infrastructure, such as roads, water supply and flood hazard infrastructure.
During the meeting, council chairman Peter Buckley said any change had to be “the right one for the Waikato community and it is important to talk to all stakeholders, including local councils”.
Committee chairperson Paula Southgate said the regional council has always maintained its position of open discussion. “It is important to remember that we are not proposing any specific form of reorganisation at this time, however, I can see huge potential around policy and planning, and catchment management.”
The committee voted in favour of the staff report on the changing needs of local government in the region being shared with the region’s city and district councils, as well as other key partners and stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the committee also discussed a draft submission from the council to the Select Committee on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill. A final submission will be presented to the council for adoption at its meeting on Thursday 26 July.
To read the staff reports, visit http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Community/Whats-happening/Council-meetings/Agendas-and-Minutes/Policy/
Workshop next month on local government in Waikato
To inform discussion around the future of local government, a workshop organised by the Institute of Public Administration (IPANZ) will be held in the Waikato next month.
The workshop at Karapiro on Friday 10 August will feature a range of speakers from industry, as well as local government commentators and iwi, who will present their views for consideration.