Our quality of life relies on safe, reliable infrastructure – which in turn relies on good policy, standards, and funding. Well-maintained and well-designed roading is essential for rural industry and – together with cycleways/pathways - for village connectivity. A strong focus on road safety is also important as Waikato District funnels all traffic between Auckland and the rest of the country and the Tamahere-Woodlands Ward is criss-crossed by State Highways (1, 1B, 26) and local feeder roads. With the completion of the Waikato Expressway, the transfer of SH 1B into Council control needs to be managed well. The Government's proposed transition of the control of Three Waters (drinking water, wastewater/sewage and stormwater) from the Council to a new water entity by 1 July 2024 will also require a strong focus over the next two years. Waikato District Council has a relatively small number of ratepayers (about 33,000) and many small water and wastewater schemes (including those at Matangi and Tauwhare Pa). There's little opportunity for economies of scale without cross-boundary integration/cooperation, so the Council has long sought partnerships with neighbouring councils to ease the pressure on rates. It's a completely different matter to be swept up into a much larger entity unless there's sufficient local oversight to ensure local needs are properly prioritised. We must ensure the needs of our small communities are not lost in the transition.
Economic development to support liveable, thriving, connected communities
Waikato District is one of the fastest-growing district councils in the country. Managing this growth and maintaining ratepayer affordability to fund the infrastructure required are two of the Council’s biggest challenges. The Council needs to continue to attract and encourage new commercial activity to provide local employment, to help fund the growth pressure and to underpin the Council vision of liveable, thriving and connected communities. This must be balanced by the need to continue to protect some of the country’s most fertile soils, recognising that primary industries are still the biggest employers in the district and essential to the district’s and the country’s economic wellbeing. I support the current strategy of concentrating development around identified growth nodes in the district and would like to ensure that – in practice – the Council provides for satisfactory buffers between residential, industrial and rural zones.
Environment and risk management
The Council has a strong role to play in developing robust policies, raising community awareness, and working with other stakeholders to address environmental issues such as climate change, the quality of our freshwater resources, reducing waste and protecting biodiversity. For example, the Waikato District Council has recently developed a Climate Action Plan which I support, and I am committed to ensuring that proposals within the plan are developed and prioritised for activation through the Long Term Plan. The Council also has a role in understanding and addressing risks from natural hazards and other events – for infrastructure, for social cohesion and the environment. This is vital work that requires a strong, long-term focus.
Wellbeing and local blueprints
The Council has responsibility for the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of our communities. This includes ensuring that the communities’ voices are heard and that the communities' values are reflected in the Council’s policies, plans and actions. Local area blueprints were introduced to help give effect to the Council's vision of liveable, thriving and connected communities, and to inform the Council’s latest Long Term Plan (LTP 2021-31). A blueprint for Gordonton has just been completed and, now, the Tamahere and Matangi blueprints should be reviewed so that local needs and aspirations continue to be reflected in the next LTP 2024-34. I am committed to being a Councillor who will represent local views as well as making decisions for the good of the whole district. I will be a listening post and an active representative of Tamahere-Woodlands Ward and look forward to working with community committees across the Ward.
A good employer can act in the best interests of the community
The Waikato District Council is one of the district’s biggest employers. We are dependent on dedicated and well-trained Council staff to provide the services our community needs. The Waikato District Council must continue to attract and retain good staff and provide a safe and healthy workplace and working environment. Our communities’ interests rely on it.