Local and central government connect with communities to discuss linkages between north Waikato and Auckland.

Community leaders have a come together to plan walking trails and infrastructure that will link booming communities in South Auckland and North Waikato. 

Populations in the communities of Pukekohe, Pokeno and Tūākau are growing dramatically. 

The New Zealand Walking Access Commission and the Waikato Regional Council brought together representatives from six community groups and Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Tamaoho with local and central government planners to develop a shared vision to link these communities. 

Jacqui Church, Waikato District Councillor for the Awaroa Tuakau Ward, was one of the driving forces for the workshop. 

She was inspired by the work local trail groups were doing and had an epiphany that they could all work together to bridge some of the political borders between Auckland and the Waikato. 

"We all have different ideas and agenda's about everyone wants to do, so it was about getting all those policymakers in the same room and seeing what sort of low hanging fruit we can work on in the short term while we also plan for something a bit more in the future."

While no plans have been set in stone, she says the future looks promising for regional development.

"Even to get all these policymakers in the same room bodes well... I think one thing we can all agree on is that moving forward any changes are going to be community-led."

She says the local trail groups now know they have more local and national support for the work they are doing. 

But a bigger goal is ensuring the Waikato-Auckland border has some lines in the sand before it is overwhelmed by an avalanche of growth. 

Walking Access Commission Regional Field Advisor Felicity Brough says the workshop wants provision for a network of cycling and walking paths and protected green spaces that connect communities before the new houses are built. 

"Children should be able to walk and cycle to their school along good tracks, and they should be able to see their parents doing the same as they commute between townships." 

Waikato District Council Deputy Mayor Dynes Fulton said the workshop discusses the possibility of extended the walking and cycling trails in the Hunua ranges, bringing tourism benefits to the region.

"Absolutely it has huge potential... but what I think is more important than the economic benefits is the improvement in the quality of life for those people in the region."


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