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Published: 2013-03-25 00:00:00

Media release from Waikato Mayoral Forum
Waikato mayors and the regional council chair are proposing an integrated work programme over three years to help boost the regional economy and deliver multi-million dollar cost savings.

The announcement from the Waikato Mayoral Forum, which includes local mayors and the regional council chair, follows a mass briefing on the proposals to city, district and regional councillors at Karapiro today.

For the work streams proposed by the forum it has already been established that savings of millions of dollars could be achieved through greater efficiencies and joint operations by councils. Further work will help quantify those savings more precisely but it's estimated they could be in the tens of millions of dollars worth. The cost of the work streams designed to achieve these savings is estimated at just under $1.4 million to be met by a combination of councils' staff time and financial contributions.

A central feature of the proposed work is the creation of a Waikato Plan to develop a shared vision and collective voice on the high priority regional and sub-regional opportunities that can improve the quality of living in Waikato over the next 30 years.

The plan will do this by drawing together all councils' information and plans, and other publicly available information, and using this analysis to come up with a set of recommendations for moving forward across a wide range of areas to maximise opportunities.

"Waikato's mayors and the regional council chair have been working hard together to look at ways of improving our collective economic performance and making combined cost savings," said forum chair Hugh Vercoe, the mayor of Matamata-Piako.

"We've come up with a set of funding proposals for work streams that we believe will help us gather the right information to determine the way forward. The proposals help spread the costs of the work programmes across councils in what we believe is a fair manner. It will now be up to individual councils to decide on whether they agree and how they will fund their share."

The proposed work streams – covering planning and governance, economic development, water and wastewater, and roading – represented an integrated package designed to deliver solid results, said Mr Vercoe.

Besides a Waikato Plan, highlights of the work programme include:

  • Work on a regional economic development strategy with business.
  • Examination of cost savings and efficiencies for water, wastewater and roading services.

"While we can be proud of many things about our region - such as our dairying and manufacturing sectors – it's clear we could be doing a lot more. The work streams being suggested will help develop the building blocks we need to give Waikato Inc even more substance on the economic performance and efficiency fronts. It will also help the Waikato have a clearer collective voice with central Government and other key stakeholders, and position us to spread costs better and maximise savings."

Mr Vercoe stressed the forum was not discussing amalgamations of local councils. "Our work is about making the Waikato perform better. The work on a Waikato Plan may help with discussions about the future shape of local government in our region but the forum does not have any collective view about what that might be."

The cost and focus of individual work streams is as follows:

Planning and governance

Development of a Waikato Plan. Key benefits include:

  • ensuring that local authorities in the Waikato share common goals and objectives when it comes to making policy choices, investment decisions and engagement with central Government
  • helping reduce the number of plans and policy documents that individual local authorities are required to consult on (640 at present)
  • providing a sound basis for future debate about the local government arrangements that best suit Waikato
  • estimated cost of staff and consultant time, community consultation and statutory process costs over three years - $920,000
  • potential savings – up to $48 million over 10 years.
Economic development

Creation of a regional economic development strategy. Key benefits include:

  • Facilitates a collaborative and integrated approach to regional development
  • Assists engagement with industry, Government and others on boosting the Waikato's economic performance
  • Estimated staff time and financial cost over three years - $170,000
Water and wastewater

An examination of options for more efficient water and wastewater-related services. Key benefits include:

  • Identification of regional and sub-regional opportunities to collectively improve the efficiency of water and wastewater services
  • Carrying out technical work to develop a common cost management and benchmarking framework
  • Progressing joint procurement opportunities
  • Estimated staff time and financial cost over three years - $220,000
  • Potential savings - $3 million-$4 million annually via shared services, and possibly much more via joint management across council boundaries.

Development of more efficient regional roading operations. Key benefits include:

  • Improving collaboration and consistency in the road standards and policies leading to efficiencies
  • Joint procurement opportunities
  • Estimated staff time and financial cost over three years - $80,000
  • Potential savings – up to $30 million over three years.