October 2021 Insights

Covid


In the October Waikato Regional Council meeting the Council was near unanimous in emphatically supporting the vaccination programme.


Like any organisation WRC has a lot to consider in how to make the workplace safe for everyone, and while the risk assessment advice is fairly straightforward to work through for employees there is no clear guidance for councillors yet in their 'employment relationship'. Both will go through some kind of internal consultation process though.


It's great that Hamilton has reached the 90% first dose vaccinated milestone on 2nd November. You may have heard that Hamilton City Council has requested whether the Waikato may get to move to the traffic light system early with Auckland - we will see...

 

Three Waters


The conversation on needing to fix three waters infrastructure goes back decades yet it was the Havelock North drinking water incident in 2016 that kicked off a review process which, amongst other things, discovered that 43 out of 67 councils don't have enough revenue covering the full operating, interest and depreciation costs of their drinking water, wastewater and stormwater activities and that nationwide it will cost up to $185 billion to upgrade all these systems over the next 30 years.


Local government has been participating in a joint steering group which has had some oversight of the review and reform proposal process - some insightful comments from their independent chair can be accessed here.


Recently, central government made the decision (as per this cabinet paper) to mandate the creation of four new water entities and at the urging of LGNZ has agreed to the establishment of a working group to continue to refine the aspects that local government had particular concerns with (governance, structure & accountability).


A key item that needs genuine ingenuity to resolve is how to ensure small and rural towns get fair investment and outcomes alongside large towns and cities. The current model already leaves some behind, so a new model needs to be better.


I'm inclined to believe that with the economies of scale and the strategic benefits that come with this, as well as legislation to prevent the entities making a profit, with the oversight of an economic regulator, the new model will be more affordable for the community. The possibility of privatisation really concerned me, but if it truly requires 75% of votes in favour in a public referendum I can't see that ever happening.


I remain open-minded because the three waters reform process is far from finished.

The consultation process for the economic regulation aspects is currently open for submissions until the 20th of December, so go ahead and give feedback.


There will be further national-level consultation in the next few months, and then, the water entities will also have to directly consult on strategic direction, investment priorities and fees/charges with their customers. If the details of this reform are designed correctly this may even exceed what councils do now.


There are a fair number of things that weren't handled that well so far but central government gets the ultimate say in our democratic system and the only way is onwards. Hamilton City Council's current stance is that they need some changes to still be implemented, and Waikato Regional Council's position was to call for a temporary pause but views may have evolved after the most recent developments.


For those who want to know more there are some communications about the three-waters process and proposal provided by DIA.

Key Facts and Figures on 3-waters
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Download • 714KB
Key Facts and Figures on 3-waters
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Download • 714KB
 

Global Climate Action - COP26


The biggest international news stream at the moment is COP26. If you're keen to understand the background I highly recommend watching this video describing the Paris Agreement & why COP26 is such a big deal.


While there are several things to criticise about the process (e.g. still too many fossil fuel influences and still too few youth and indigenous voices listened to) the image below gives a view of the path so far and where humanities cooperation needs to get to.

One of the best parts of the conference is The Greenzone, where community speakers present on solutions to climate change - you can watch any of these online for free.


To help the local community engage with COP26 a small group of volunteers have managed to get Waikato University to on on an online event to feature local voices on climate action each day through a 1pm livestream - go check it out!

 

National Climate Action


While New Zealand has submitted a new emission reduction pledge just before COP26 started it is not anywhere near ambitious enough.


Their National Emission Reduction Plan discussion document was released a few days earlier and as it is very light on creativity and ambition also I urge everyone to make a submission before the due date of 24 November.


Here are two opinion pieces reflecting on this which represent where some of my thinking is at quite well; one by Dame Anne Salmond and the other by John Bishop.

 

Local Climate Action


I can tell a lot of people are burned out right now and so the organising committee of the Waikato Climathon have decided to postpone the event until next year with the intention of being able to have it happen in person as was always intended.


It may seem small but it is actually very powerful to contact your Councillor or MP to say what it is you want done. I don't receive anywhere near the amount of correspondence I expected.


If you're feeling inclined to tell Thames Coromandel District Council to do more on climate action they are currently requesting submissions until 12th of November - our TCDC constituent councillor gives information about this on his blog here.

Next month I look forward to sharing with you the updates from the Climate Action Committee meeting coming up on 18 November.

 

Biodiversity


A few months ago in the Environmental Performance Committee I reiterated a desire to see us build more capacity in our environmental compliance teams. For regional councils to strengthen in this area is long overdue and there are positive trends, and I'm happy to see that a report has been prepared for the next meeting on 11 November.


A highlight of the past month was that our Environmental Initiatives Funding was decided in the Integrated Catchment Management Committee. It was great to see so many great projects getting funding but it concerns me that the fund is so oversubscribed. We will be reviewing it soon so any feedback is gratefully received.


We've also been having more workshops on the Coastal Plan review. I am very keen to ensure that the biodiversity in coastal areas receives more protection in future, and will be calling for submissions early next year to help achieve that. It is a once in 10-20 year opportunity to make sure the rules are right so that's incredibly powerful.

 

Hamilton growth


In a rare move, bipartisan legislation was recently passed to allow denser living in NZ cities, including in Hamilton. This will help provide more housing options and potential ridership using public transport.


In the meantime, the Peacockes area has finally received its resource consents to start further development and we have just made a submission to help strengthen the good changes that HCC have already proposed for this community and its environment.


I'm hopeful it might be similar to the creative new Sunfield development in Auckland.

 

Coming up in November


If any of the meetings below sound interesting to you, you can check out the agenda's available a few days beforehand and/or ask me about any of them before/after.

  • Regional Transport Committee at 9.30am on 1 November

  • Submission Subcomittee at 1.30pm on 2 November

  • Regional Pest Management Plan (Deliberations) at 9am on 4 November

  • Integrated Catchment Committee at 10am on 10 November

  • Environmental Performance Committee at 10am on 11 November

  • Regional Connections Committee at 9.30am on 12 November

  • Risk & Assurance Committee at 9am on 15 November

  • Finance & Services Committee at 10am on 17 November

  • Climate Action Committee at 9.30am on 18 November

  • Lake Taupo Protection Committee at 10.30am on 19 November

  • Waikato Plan Leadership Committee at 10am on 22 November

  • Strategy & Policy Committee at 9.30am on 23 November

  • Plan Change 1 Appeals Advisory Committee at 2pm on 23 November

  • Civil Defence Emergency Management Committee at 1pm on 29 November

  • Future Proof Implementation Committee at 9.30am on 30 November

Note there is no full council meeting at the end of this month, as we are having one to cover both months on the 9th of December.

 

This monthly insight has been put together to help you:

  • Learn more about local government relevant to Hamilton & Waikato

  • Stay up to date with climate action and other interesting topics

  • Engage more through prompts to have your say at the right time

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All feedback is very welcome.


Ngā mihi nui,

Jennifer


Such a long time in L3 lockdown = even more important to get out into nature