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Waikato Herald - 2021-10-15

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Decision-makers keen to deliver better outcomes for communities

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Waikato Regional Council will carefully consider the Government’s interim report released publicly last week on the local democracy and governance system. The council agreed to a number of principles last month to guide engagement with the Future for Local Government Review. The review’s interim report identifies the challenges facing local government over the next 30 years as climate change, environmental degradation, economic performance, poverty and inequity, housing, health, mental wellbeing, natural hazards, demographic change, pandemics and technology advances. Sustainability and relationships were a key focus and local government also needed to strengthen iwi and Ma¯ori partnerships under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Representation and low engagement were also areas of concern, along with information and communications technology. Waikato Regional Council chairman Russ Rimmington said: “There is a better way, no doubt, and our council welcomes this opportunity to take a close look at how we can deliver better outcomes for our communities. We’ll be taking our time to digest the findings in the Government’s direction-setting report so we can firm up our response to it. “But the principles agreed by the councillors certainly help us to articulate what successful local governance could look like for the Waikato region in the future. “Our council has long advocated for a system that better enables collaboration and community-led solutions — current and future challenges like climate change, housing, mental wellbeing, and biodiversity restoration can only be addressed by many different groups working together through new and collaborative approaches.” Rimmington said councils and elected members made a key contribution to community wellbeing and governance by connecting with communities, as well as providing knowledge, information and capability. “We also believe that effective partnerships between iwi/ma¯ori, and central and local government need to be supported and appropriately resourced now and for the future. “That requires roles and responsibilities in local government to be clarified so the community knows who is accountable for what. As a council, we believe decision making must be at the closest level possible to the community impacted where the focus is on equity of opportunity and wellbeing. “Importantly, how it’s delivered must recognise and provide for the diversity of our region through local placemaking,” Rimmington said. “The structures and processes need to be agile, resilient and adaptable to changing natural, economic or social systems.” Councillors agreed that local and central government needed to work in a partnership based on clarity and respect, with the best entity to deliver the best service to the community. They also agreed that nimble and meaningful engagement models were required to ensure the local voice is heard, and that electoral processes are well resourced to achieve a significant increase in interest, engagement and diversity. Councillors also felt nationally significant infrastructure, such as flood protection assets, should be funded in a partnership between local and central government. Over the next year, the review panel, chaired by former Waimakariri chief executive Jim Palmer, will undertake a broad engagement process, with formal consultation and submissions taking place from about October next year before the final report is due in April 2023.

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