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Busy year makes progress on range of fronts

Public notification of a major plan for improving rivers health, a nationally ground-breaking freshwater strategy, helping Hauraki communities respond to record flooding, and solid progress on coordinated regional development and planning.

Those are some of the key highlights of Waikato Regional Council’s latest very busy financial year.

The 2016/17 annual report, adopted at today’s council meeting in Hamilton, outlined how these and other activities under a $120 million budget were carried out and the year ended with a cash surplus of $311,000, confirming the council set and managed the budget prudently.

“These results are extremely pleasing given the sheer scale and complexity of the council’s business on behalf of the region and the ongoing need to respond to new direction from central government,” said chair Alan Livingston.

“We have delivered a wide range of direct services, such as flood management and farm advice, as well environmental protection support, crucial policy design and regional development work. We have also taken a significant leadership role in the future management of fresh water, improving regional coordination and boosting the Waikato economy.

“We have helped strengthen planning co-operation within the region and with neighbouring regions, particularly Auckland. Ongoing development of that sort of collaboration with central government, councils, iwi, the Waikato River Authority, business and other stakeholders is essential to making further gains.”

A summary of the annual report highlighted:

  • Notification of Proposed Plan Change 1 for the Waikato and Waipa rivers after it was developed by a multi-sector Collaborative Stakeholder Group
  • Creation of the freshwater strategy looking at new tools and systems to better protect and manage water resources over the next 50 years
  • Involvement in creating the Waikato Story to promote the region better, work on the Waikato Means Business regional economic development and finalising the new long term Waikato Plan to boost regional co-operation
  • Being part of finalising a new strategy for managing the Hauraki Gulf and creating an interactive online tool for helping communities prepare for sea level rise
  • Aiding Hauraki communities to deal with record flooding, and providing staff and equipment to help out after the Edgecumbe floods and the Kaikoura earthquake.

The council received  $1.3 million more than budgeted in returns from its multi-million dollar investment fund which has been transferred to a reserve as protection against future returns. Returns from the investment fund are used to partly subsidise rates and provide funds to the regional development fund to support projects that will provide long term benefits to the region.

An updated set of seven strategic priorities adopted at the end of 2016/17 will aid with the collaboration required to make further substantial gains for the region, Mr Livingston said. The seven include partnerships, managing fresh water, improving community risk awareness and resilience, supporting community action, influencing land use choice, regional development and enhancing coasts and marine areas.

“The key to the success of our rohe is people working together. As we look to progress our 2018-2028 long term plan next year, we’ll continue to work closely with others to make sure we build further on the significantly enhanced joined up working we’ve achieved in the region in recent years.”

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