The Waikato Mayoral Forum says it has established a very robust process for making efficiency improvements in the way councils operate and for gathering information to help inform discussions on local government in the region.
“We are also looking to gather information through a spatial planning process for the region that will help us look over time at whether changes to the shape of local government in the region would be worth exploring.
“Mayors and the regional council chair are working together extremely well on this and I believe the people of the Waikato can be assured we are collectively steering a good course towards the future. Meeting the needs of both rural and urban communities is an essential part of our conversation going forward.”
Mr Sanson’s comments follow an initial release of ideas from the New Zealand Property Council which suggest amalgamating a range of local Waikato councils.
“The forum is open to all ideas and will consider the Property Council’s views when we have all the details,” Mr Sanson said.
“At first glance I’m not sure what problem the Property Council’s proposals are actually designed to fix. We’d be keen to engage further with them on this but, for the time being, we’re confident our work streams and discussions are serving the region’s interests well.”
Highlights of the forum’s work include:
• A new collaborative approach on regional roading, endorsed recently by a visiting British expert, could help pave the way for multi-million dollar savings. Forum members have committed to establishing a joint Centre of Excellence in road asset management.
• A study has been looking at council co-operation on water and wastewater services which also has the potential to deliver annual multi-million dollar savings.
• The forum has agreed there is enough evidence to progress developing a Waikato spatial plan and is seeking a commitment from interested councils to progress this. Such a plan will provide for an even stronger collective voice and vision for the region.
• An economic development strategy has been finalised and the forum is now looking at implementation.
• Work is ongoing to better align council policies and bylaws to save money, avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and improve local government efficiency.
“The forum is striving to keep the Waikato ahead of the game on all fronts, especially the cost-effective provision of good quality infrastructure, local public services and regulatory functions,” said Mr Sanson.
“Also the forum will, where appropriate, act as a collective voice for all the Waikato and articulate wherever possible a common vision for the future, particularly in discussions with central Government.
“The $2.4 billion in central Government funding for the Waikato Expressway has been a great example of what we have been able to achieve by using our collective Waikato voice in the past.”
More detail on the forum’s workstreams is available at www.mpdc.govt.nz/waikatomayoralforum