Waikato Regional Council has finalised the 10-year plan and set the rates to deliver on that plan. The 2021/22 year will have an average rates increase of 7.7%, with lower levels for the following years (unless adjustments are made at annual plan time).
The context for this is that just over 2% of the rise is made up of work WRC must do to implement central government's Essential Freshwater package. Also, due to Covid-19, last year WRC made adjustments to achieve a net 0% increase for existing ratepayers; efficiencies were found and inflation was absorbed for a year. It was a great effort by the staff to make this happen during a year of uncertainty.
In real dollar terms (which I prefer to work in) the increase for the coming year is calculated to be less than $50 for 75% of ratepayers. However, it must be remembered that the higher Hamilton City Council rates are also increasing per household. It was just announced that Hamilton City Council landed on a 8.9% rates increase (see here).
I am really concerned at the unsustainability of all this since average incomes have not risen by such percentages. Increasing inequality is a major issue that needs sorting out at all levels. As you will likely have seen in the media there are a plethora of central government driven reforms currently underway, including for water infrastructure, health, the Resource Management Act and local government, and I am hopeful that these will be helpful in this regard.
Concurrently, the changes that need to be made to address climate change (i.e. lower our emission footprints and investing in resilient infrastructure) are a great opportunity to address who owns what in our economy, what is valued and how, and how human needs may be met in different ways. The cost of living for households can't just keep increasing - that's not achieving wellbeing. It's time to think outside of the box and I'll be sure to volunteer ideas when we get to have a say on all of these reforms.
Regional Land Transport Plan sent to Waka Kotahi
Every six years a big review is undertaken of the Regional Land Transport Plan, as directed by the Regional Transport Committee (which WRC hosts and chairs and has membership from all councils in the region as well as Waka Kotahi and NZ Police).
The current update of the plan that we have just discussed was a smaller mid-way review (i.e. 3 years into it) and, due to the timing of various Long Term Plan completions and the Hamilton-Waikato Metro Spatial Plan work, several variations will be necessary before the next big review in another 3 years time.
The fact these variations are needed is helpful in that they are an opportunity to update the plan to make it, in my view, more consistent with the latest Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (this was finalised in September 2020 and requires impacts on GHG emissions to be estimated and for emissions to reduce over time).
This issue of whether the plan is consistent with the GPS on Land Transport was raised by Hamilton City Councillor Dave MacPherson (standing in as the alternate to Angela O'Leary) at the meeting where the Regional Transport Committee accepted the plan.
Some of my colleagues and I continued to view this as a concern when the plan came up for adoption at the latest Council meeting. After some robust discussion, where an attempt was made to send the plan back to the committee to update first, the majority of councillors ended up voting to send the plan to Waka Kotahi by the due date of 30th of June 2021 (with only Cr Tegg and I voting against).
The Council has recently purchased a transport calculator/tool (kind of like this one) to help our staff make GHG emission assessments for transport project and it is unfortunate that this wasn't ready in time for this plan. However, next time it will be.
Ultimately, the National Land Transport Plan that Waka Kotahi constructs (using the information from the regional plans) also needs to be consistent with the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport, so I look forward to seeing how they do that.
Sustainable Investment Policy
Our Finance and Services Committee has been busy reviewing the Council's Investment Policy and subsequently the Council has adopted a new version that sets out the Council's intentions for ethical investment, including divestment from fossil fuels.
In my view, this is simply moving in line with a global trend to shift capital away from harmful practices and towards those taking social responsibilities seriously. It is now well recognised that stocks with higher sustainability and ESG transparency outperform those that are not. This is an example of WRC sensibly moving with the times.
Climate Change Commission final report
As the WRC Chairperson of the Climate Action CommitteeChamust mention that the report from the Climate Change Commission has landed, but I'll reserve my detailled comments for when we discuss it at the next committee meeting in early August. In the meantime I suggest reading some of the reactions from NZ scientists and the case for judicial review that Lawyers for Climate Action NZ have just lodged.
Hamilton City Council By-election
So the by-election in Hamilton East has attracted 24 candidates! That's very cool, and I urge you to really take the time to be sure about who deserves your tick of approval. If you're not sure, just get along to meet the candidates on July 9 or get in touch with one or two of them directly and sound them out. It's all part of the job... yours and theirs.
Voting packs will turn up in your mailbox at the end of July and be sure to get your form filled in and dropped off or sent back in before the due date (Wednesday 18th August). The final result should be known by 5pm that day.
Hamilton City Composting is impressive
Those food scraps that you are diligently separating from your other rubbish (thank you by the way!) and then put out for kerbside collection actually go to a pretty cool place to be processed and the end product does actually go on to be used by the City Council, community groups or businesses. What a great achievement to adapt and improve.
Do you want to be one of my sensors in the community?
I am very mindful that we are just over half-way in this triennium. The initial (big) learning phase is over (yet always continues) and I'm feeling much more settled in as a politician in local government.
After a lot of reflection recently I have much better clarity on how I'd like to create opportunities to engage with people to get great information from a variety of views at the right time.
All biological beings have bodily sensors to get information from their environment fed back to help them succeed in life. Over the next month I'll be reviewing who I engage with and when and about what to build a stronger & more diverse information source.
If you are interested in being one of my sensors, someone I can actively check in with on certain matters from time to time please let me know and I'll be in touch in due course.
The intention is to be as effective as I can throughout the rest of this incredible opportunity to represent Hamiltonians, and progress climate action in particular.
Coming up in July
Not many formal meetings, so a chance to get out into the community more! You are very welcome to come observe our decision making - agenda's are available few days before.
Strategy & Policy Committee 9.30am-1.30pm on Tuesday 20th July
Full Council Meeting 9.30am-2pm on Thursday 29th July
This monthly insight has been put together to help you:
Learn more about local government relevant to Hamilton and the Waikato
Stay up to date with climate action and other interesting topics
Engage more through prompts to have your say at the right time
Ngaa mihi nui,