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February Council Meeting Update

On the fourth Thursday of every month all 14 Councillors get together to debate and decide some stuff that's due to be finalised. Here is an attempt to share with you some outcomes of our February 2021 meeting.

First things first, we confirmed a lot of minutes of committee meetings from the previous 4-6 weeks. It might not sound like thrilling stuff, but critical to ensure we have accurate and transparent records for future reference and the good of democracy.

It's also a chance for the chairperson or someone who was at the committee to describe what 'Section A' decisions were made by the committee under their delegated authority.

A more interesting part though is to cover off any 'Section B' resolutions. These are items that the Committee didn't have the delegated authority to make on their own, and therefore they're now in front of the full Council to debate and vote on.

For example, as a member of the Environmental Performance Committee I put forward an idea in our early December meeting that city and district council consent compliance should be a regular agenda item to enable us to keep a closer eye on this topic. I loathe that some councils aren't fully compliant with regional rules; being a local government entity themselves means it sets a really poor example. While they need to be treated the same as any other consent holder, our level of interaction with them, our similarities as entities, should mean that this is an achievable goal to insist on. Plus, no one wants a situation where one council needs to prosecute another - not only does the environment lose out first, the community loses out too. It got approved by full Council and now there will be plenty of opportunity to learn and drive change on this one.

Every month we review a Health & Safety report - it's a basic of good governance, and we learn things. For example, based on this we know vehicle-accidents are one of the biggest risks for our organisation to manage. A deep dive into all possible preventative and recovery controls we offer is about to be done to make sure the organisation supports all its staff to stay as safe as possible while driving vehicles. It's a journey to continually improve, as in any organisation.

The three water reforms (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) coming down from central government will affect Hamilton City Council more than us, but we also have some changes to how regional council will work in with these. Therefore, our policy team has written a submission to central government, which we reviewed and discussed (mainly issues of pragmatism) so it may be sent.

The Proposed Regional Pest Management Plan and Biosecurity Strategic Plan were approved for public consultation. These have already benefited from a lot of input from other organisations, but there can now be a formal submissions process before completing them. I'll advertise the timeframes and how to do so when the time comes. The Council also decided that it would be Cr Stu Kneebone and Cr Pamela Storey who join the independent chairperson to be the hearings panel for those submissions.

The Regional Plan Change 1, which brings in new rules with the intention to protect and restore the health of the Waipa and Waikato River catchments, is now going through the final stages of the RMA plan process at the Environment Court. A small group of Councillors was recently formed so staff could run their thinking by them (if deemed helpful) as they prepare the responses to the appeals. You can see the list of (thankfully not too many) appeals here. In this meeting we simply finalised the scope and purpose (also known as Terms of Reference) of this group.

You may know that WRC has responsibilities when it comes to marine oil spill clean up, and therefore there are staff trained in this skill in the organisation and some are based at other Council's also. In this instance, the Councillors were asked to confirm the appointment of a new 'On-Scene Commander' and an alternate as to bolster the number of people that could be called upon to do this work in an emergency.

When it comes to projected sea level rise, WRC is right there to help the district councils in our region have the hard conversations with their communities. On the west coast are concerns for Port Waikato, and on the east coast the Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) is progressing with Shoreline Management Plans. The task for this meeting was to suggest a Councillor to participate in the governance groups of each, and at the end of a good discussion Cr Pamela Storey was put forth for Port Waikato and Cr Denis Tegg for TCDC.

We also had a short public excluded section which didn’t take long as the one new report was withdrawn, and the rest was simply more approval of minutes.

That concludes my first attempt at summarising a monthly full Council meeting.

Before signing off, I reflect that we did have an Emergency Council meeting on the 11th February and it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge it considering it has had media attention. I have chosen not to link to those because it is a distraction from the work that needs doing. My stance is that I will continue to try my best to support the Council to be its best.

For anyone feeling down about local government after seeing media stories about Tauranga, Invercargill and Wellington City I urge you to have a look at Part 4 of the Productivity Commissions Insights into Local Government report which provides some well-considered solutions as a way forward. Happy reading - there's a lot of reading involved in good decision making by the way.

Raising your interest in what local government does and how it is relevant to you is my goal, so if you found this item useful please let me know and I'll build on my efforts. Also, if you have any questions please feel free to message me and I'll try my best to answer. All views stated are my own.


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