The first full draft of a ground-breaking plan for the entire Waikato is aimed at creating a powerful new “voice” for the region and establishing a solid base to boost its well-being.
The initial draft – which focuses on a wide range of projects and actions - was today received by the Waikato Plan joint committee made up of council leaders and key stakeholders.
“The Waikato Plan is the first time councils, central government and other agencies in our region have worked together to create one plan that speaks with one voice about important issues. It is a milestone document,” said the joint committee’s independent chair Margaret Devlin.
The committee confirmed the general approach the draft plan is taking and provided feedback on the details of it. That will be taken into account in the final draft put out for public consultation next year.
“The plan process is guided by the idea that we are stronger together. Collaboration builds strength and understanding, while filling gaps and cutting duplication,” said Ms Devlin.
“The other key principle is that to succeed as a region, all parts of the Waikato must be as successful as they can be.”
The draft plan identifies regional priorities and details how these can be achieved by outlining who is responsible for what, and in what timeframe.
“The Waikato Plan, for the first time, joins the dots to ensure that complex issues, which don’t sit neatly with one agency, will be addressed systematically by working together,” Ms Devlin said.
Four priorities are outlined in the draft plan: planning for population change, getting investment right, partnering with iwi Maori, and addressing issues around the allocation and quality of fresh water.
“A key aim of the Waikato Plan is to help guide investment in the region to where it’s needed most,” said Ms Devlin.
A number of initiatives to support the implementation of what’s in the draft Waikato Plan are already underway.
These include looking to make council policies across the region more consistent to cut compliance costs, be more business-friendly and encourage collaboration between agencies.
Also being explored is the idea of creating a “technology hub” to increase ultrafast broadband uptake in areas where population is declining.
And there is work underway to enhance and capitalise on Hamilton’s role as the region’s main centre.
Between now and August, the Waikato Plan project team will hold a series of workshops with a range of key stakeholders to further refine each of the draft plan’s action areas.
Feedback from them and the joint committee, as well as iwi partners to the plan process, will be used to prepare a final draft of the plan for sign off by the committee in August. Public consultation on this is due in early 2017.
“The Waikato Plan development process is going very well - we are really starting to put flesh on the bone,” said Ms Devlin.
The Waikato Plan concept was initiated by the Waikato Mayoral Forum involving mayors and the regional council chair. It was then moved under the oversight of the joint committee to bolster regional ownership of the process and the outcomes sought.