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Published: 2011-05-27 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is backing a new Upper North Island Strategic Alliance which will see seven councils working together to make the most of sustainable development and economic growth opportunities.

Councillors yesterday supported the concept of an alliance with Auckland Council, Northland and Bay of Plenty regional councils being expanded to include Hamilton and Tauranga city councils and Whangarei District Council, as long as the collaboration continued to focus on the strategic regional issues.

Chairman Peter Buckley said Waikato Regional Council initiated the inter-regional strategic alliance following the establishment of the new Auckland Council. The Auckland Council replaced Auckland’s seven territorial authorities and its regional council.

Cr Buckley acknowledged councillors’ concern that urban interests could crowd out key inter-regional issues.

“I’ve just seen a new draft of the agreement today and can say that I support including the city and district councils – the issues have not changed and we can only strengthen our position by having them on board,” he said.

Issues include transport, ports, road and rail freight, waste, water, population settlement patterns, commercial and industrial land development, communications and energy security, climate change, greenhouse gas emission reduction.

“We need to work with our regional, city and district partners on the big picture strategic issues, particularly in the growth triangle of Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato,” he said.

“Collaboration at governance and management levels will ensure we are best placed to maximise economic growth opportunities and ensure sustainable development, not only for the Upper North Island but New Zealand as a whole.”

Cr Buckley said the regions would be focusing on specific development opportunities like fish farming in the Hauraki Gulf, improved ‘liveability’ in the four regions, access to aggregate resources for roading and building, and cross-boundary resource management issues.

Cr Buckley said the inclusion of the cities in the alliance was a positive step which would help to strengthen the inter-regional agreement.

The draft agreement is expected to be adopted by each council by the end of July, with a formal signing ceremony in August.