One thing I noticed during the election campaign and since I have been elected is that many people are not that au fait with what Waikato Regional Council actually does. So I thought I would give a rundown of some of the activities I have been involved with in March.
Coastal Hazard Resilience
I’m the WRC appointee to the Hauraki District Council joint governance committee which oversees the coastal hazard project relating to the Wharekawa coast. The coast including the township of Kaiaua was very badly flooded from the sea in January 2018. The committee has representatives from the District Council, local iwi, and WRC.
A coastal panel of local residents will assess the risk to various parts of the coast and make recommendations to both the District Council and the Regional Council as to what options the panel members think should be progressed. I attended a Panel Meeting in Kaiaua as an observer, where members are beginning to assess what they regard as “tolerable” and “intolerable” risk.
In Thames-Coromandel District a similar process is underway under its Shoreline Management Project. There, four different panels have been created around the coast. Detailed coastal hazard maps have been created and the panels are well into the process. I attended a panel meetings for Thames and Mercury Bay as an observer.
Te Huia Train – Hamilton – Auckland
I had the privilege of attending the opening of the new Te Huia rail link by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and took a short ride from Hamilton to Huntly and return. The refurbished carriages are of the highest quality – as good as anything I have seen in New Zealand or overseas. It’s a smooth quiet ride, with USB ports, free Wi-Fi and tables for working on your laptop. WRC have overseen the project with funding from WRC, other local authorities and from central government.
Public Transport in Thames Coromandel
For the past year I’ve been meeting with local communities and community boards to establish what support there is for expanded public bus services in our district. The Thames connector bus service has proved to be very popular. One proposal is to continue that service but use the same vehicle for a Monday – Friday service from Coromandel town to Thames. This would leave Coromandel at around 7:30 am, the bus would do the Thames circuit until 3 pm and then return to Coromandel town. Support seems to be growing also in Whangamata/Tairua for a service to Thames and possibly Waihi. Watch this space!
Engagement with Iwi
Recently I accompanied Maori constituent elected members elected to WRC – Tipa Mahuta and Kataraina Hodge to meet with local iwi at Manaia and at Kennedy Bay (Harataunga). The community at Manaia has received substantial funding from WRC to carry out river catchment and restoration works. Locals have been employed and already after just six months substantial progress has been made with fencing off cattle from entering rivers, and river erosion works.
At Harataunga we were warmly welcomed onto the Marae and had a robust korero about pest management activities in the community.
WRC staff and councillors are kept busy responding to government reform proposals. In March substantial submissions were made by the Council on the Regional Land Transport Plan and the Draft Report of the Climate Commission.
Long Term Plan
In March there was a lot of discussion at the Council relating to the consultation document relating to the Long Term Plan for the next 10 years. This plan sets out the major new projects, how they are to be funded, what is the impact on rates, and then seeks the views of the public. Public consultation on the LTP will run until 30 April. I attended a very well attended meeting of Grey Power in Whangamata and was able to bring the audience up-to-date with progress on public transport options and what to expect in WRC’s Long Term Plan. These are the main issues we would love to hear your views about…
Sustainable Homes Project
One of the key new projects in WRC’s LTP is for a sustainable home program. Ratepayers will be able to opt into the scheme and obtain a low interest loan from WRC which is then paid back through their rates. With the loan funds, ratepayers can then make their home warmer and drier with clean heat, ventilation and double glazing, upgrade a septic tank, or install water tanks or a solar power system. There is no rating impact on general ratepayers – only those ratepayers who opt in and take up a loan will bear the cost of the scheme.
Hauraki Gulf Forum
the Forum has membership from Auckland City Council, iwi throughout the Hauraki Gulf, and local authorities. I am the appointed member from WRC. In March the Forum met in Te Aroha and heard presentations from locals about the vital importance of protecting the headwaters of the Waihou and Piako rivers which flow into the Gulf. We also heard about the rahui (ban) placed by iwi on the gathering of kai moana around Waiheke Island and the gathering of scallops in the Mercury Bay Area. In both cases formal applications are being made to the Minister of Fisheries to make these restrictions lawful.