Every Easter my mother sends us woolly socks for the South Island winter. In the past we have used them once or twice and then they somehow disappeared into the ecosystem of our house. I knew we had a lot of socks somewhere, but could never find any (especially pairs). So I would just keep buying more, and they would mysteriously go missing too.
Finally I bought a hamper just for socks, with a strict rule that only pairs can go in there. One week into the new regime it’s still full of paired socks that are easy to find. Long may this last!
Infrastructure strategies also need a good internal structure which clearly identifies the most important challenges facing a region over the next 30 years, paired with the proposed solutions (or options) for responding to them.
These strategies need to be easy to find by all council departments, as well as everyone else who has a role in commenting on, aligning with or implementing the proposed approaches. Otherwise there is a risk that a council’s infrastructure strategy will founder like an odd sock at the back of some dusty cupboard, only to be rediscovered every three years when a review is required.
From my personal experience of working on a couple of infrastructure strategies, I know that a huge amount of work goes into creating a coherent, forward thinking, strategy. It seems a real shame to waste that investment in long term thinking by forgetting about it in between reviews.
The Office of the Auditor-General said: “We continue to support the requirement for infrastructure strategies. As a means to focus on the areas where local authorities spend the most, we see infrastructure strategies as an integral part of LTPs. Strong infrastructure strategies give a credible and believable long term view of the issues and opportunities the local authority faces.”
Both the Office of the Auditor-General and the Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) place a lot of emphasis on telling a story within the strategy.
“An infrastructure strategy (and financial strategy) are more than collections of information. It is the overall synthesis of the information into an overall story that provides the value for the reader.”
As a writer who helps councils to share their information, I wholeheartedly agree with this approach. But for all the people who are expressing their best ideas on how to tackle challenges such as increasing flood risk, ageing populations and networks, affordability, earthquakes, and investment in new infrastructure, I think it would help them to know their infrastructure strategy is going to be central to consequent work by the council and their consultants – whether that is in resource management plans, economic development strategies or asset management plans.
Unfortunately, the 2015 versions of these big picture infrastructure strategies tend to be buried at the back of Long Term Plans which can run to hundreds of pages, or published in the back alleys of websites, only findable if someone knows what they’re looking for.
If we are going to spend time thinking about these big challenges in an integrated way (which we have to do under the LGA 2002), why not make more of an effort to share what we come up with in a more upfront manner by actively promoting the complete infrastructure strategies — and not just the biggest issues that carry through to the LTP consultation document?
 Office of the Auditor-General, Matters Arising from the 2015-25 Local Authority Long Term Plans, page 47
 SOLGM, Dollars and Sense 2018, page 33.
I lived in Hamilton for six years (four at university and two working as a journalist at the Hamilton Press) and I loved my time there. At first I missed the sea (after growing up near Waihi Beach), but I came to appreciate the Waikato River, the Hamilton Gardens and how easy it was to get around on a bike (no hills and much less wind than Waihi!)
The Waikato is rapidly growing in response to Auckland's population pressures and its proximity to that market place. A plan to set the region's course over the next 30 years has recently been released, and is open for submissions until 10 April.
Draft Waikato Plan
The Draft Waikato Plan is a collaboration between local government, Iwi/Maori, central government, the private and community sectors and the Waikato people.
On first glance, it looks like it should create significant efficiencies for councillors and staff in each of the participating councils, and save a lot of time for Iwi, central government agencies and other stakeholders who won't need to make submissions on similar issues in a whole lot of different plans.
Priorities and actions
The Waikato Plan includes these priorities and actions.
Priority 1: Planning for population change
1. Collaborate on a regional development strategy.
2. Identify the regional priorities for service and technical infrastructure.
3. Identify how central government services can be provided to match community need.
Priority 2: Connecting our communities through targeted investment
4. Advocate on behalf of regional transport priorities.
5. Integrate Auckland and Waikato transport networks.
6. Encourage development of a nationally significant cycling and walking experience.
7. Establish a freight and logistics action group.
Priority 3: Partnering with Iwi/Māori
8. Work collaboratively to develop and encourage enduring partnerships that enable Iwi/Māori aspirations to be achieved.
Priority 4: Addressing water allocation and quality
9. Develop the Waikato as a Waters Centre of Excellence.
Priority 5: Advancing regional and economic development
10. Assist in implementing the Waikato Economic Development Strategy (Waikato Means Business).
A Waikato Plan Leadership Group will be responsible for overseeing implementation of the 10 actions listed above. The Group will consist of representatives from:
An Independent Chair will either be appointed from the business/community members or as a separate appointment outside of any committee membership.
Waikato Regional Council will be the administration agency for the initial three-year implementation period. The implementation advice arrangements, contracts and budget administration will be run through Waikato Local Authority Shared Services Ltd, which is a council-controlled organisation.
At first glance, councils and Facebook may not seem like a happy mix. That was certainly the view of the Taxpayers' Union, which recently criticised councils for their spending on Facebook and Linkedin advertising.
So, is Facebook something to leave to family and friends, and small businesses? I don’t think so. There are lots of council topics that are very appealing to people.
Here are some great examples of council Facebook pages from around the country.
Auckland Council spends the most on social media advertising, at $187,870.
The Local Government Magazine (September 2016) reported they “developed a unique and humorous approach that delivered education and entertainment as well as official warnings and significantly increased its social media presence.”
At the time of the award the following for its Facebook page had grown from 800 to 13,400. It now has 18,858 fans! Here’s a link to this page - https://www.facebook.com/WaikatoCivilDefence/
There are lots of videos on the Southland Facebook page profiling the 2016 Southland Community Environment Awards nominees. The most prominent one has 1,700 views, and many of the others have between 2000 and 5000 views.
Here’s a link to the videos section of the Southland page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/environmentsouthland/videos
Types of posts that work well on Facebook
Some of the things that appeal to people on Facebook are:
When Max first came into our lives in January 2014 I wanted to read all about dogs. While I didn't read this book aloud to him, I loved hearing that Waikato District Council has recently launched a 'Dogs in Libraries' programme.
Children can practise reading to a dog, who isn't going to be too critical about a few missed words! I'm sure the dogs will love this experience too. Whenever I'm talking on the phone Max turns up beside me - he seems to like listening in!
Even though it's funny, there is serious intent behind this programme.
"It’s been shown to increase a child’s relaxation while reading because it’s a lot less intimidating than reading to people and it allows children to proceed at their own pace,” says Animal Control Team Leader Megan May.
It is also likely to help children who are not familiar with dogs to be more relaxed when encountering them in public places.
Friends are considering moving from Brisbane to New Zealand, and are weighing up Wellington and Christchurch as their future home. While it’s easy enough to look at job opportunities, house prices and weather reports from afar, there’s still a need to go to a place and ‘sniff the air’ to really know if it’s a place where you feel you can thrive.
Everyone has their own subjective response to a place, but a recent study by KPMG identifies seven principles cities can follow to be more appealing to people, specifically young wealth creators. KPMG describes these as ‘magnet cities’ and includes Christchurch as one of its success stories.
1. Magnet cities attract young wealth creators
This involves choosing an authentic point of attraction. Cities that successfully target particular groups of wealth creators do so because there is a logical link to the city.
One of the niches Christchurch is developing following the earthquakes is to foster expertise in construction methods, and natural hazards. This is one example of diversification of the city’s economy to become a centre for specific research, technical and professional services.
2. Magnet cities undergo constant physical renewal
KPMG notes that many young professionals favour housing in urban cores, or in neighbourhoods that are linked to the urban core by quick and easy public transport. The design and sustainability features of housing is as important as its location – many prefer to live in mixed use neighbourhoods.
Christchurch’s city centre is to be condensed to 40 hectares, with the aim of attracting new residential use as well as businesses.
3. Magnet cities have a definable city identity
Without a clear city identity it is difficult for future residents to clearly understand what a city stands for and whether they are attracted to it.
4. Magnet cities are connected to other cities
If a city is going to attract a new generation of residents, the city must be easy to get in and out of. In particular, young wealth creators who move into a city are likely to travel back and forth more frequently to other places or cities for work and to visit family and friends.
5. Magnet cities cultivate new ideas
All of the case study cities leveraged their academic institutions to bring change to their cities.
Here are some of the actions being taken by Christchurch:
6. Magnet cities are fundraisers
The city councils have played an active role in providing capital and attracting private investment, research grants and public funds. Often the city’s existing assets have been used to attract further investment to transform the city.
7. Magnet cities have strong leaders
The mayors of the cities studied by KPMG all had to cope with criticism and hostility when introducing a new vision for a city and making the necessary changes. They have been relatively inflexible about changes to the future vision for their city once it was agreed, but extremely flexible about the steps they took and who they involved to get there.
For more detail, please see KPMG's Magnet Cities document. The Christchurch Case Study is on pages 88 – 121.
Like many local authorities, Tasman District Council has prepared a Digital Enablement Plan as part of its application to the Government for extended broadband internet access and mobile coverage. One of the aims is to make it possible for people to enjoy visiting or living in the beauty of remote locations while continuing to make a living.
Better broadband and mobile access is critical to making it easier for people to move away from the big centres to rural locations, by ensuring people can continue to telecommute, or find new ways to sell services and products via the Internet.
Tasman's Digital Enablement Plan includes examples of the many ways councils can actively enhance the community’s use of digital infrastructure for social and economic benefits, including:
The Government’s guide to developing a digital enhancement plan is available here.
It's no wonder New Zealand has significant infrastructure challenges, when its population is so sparse in many regions. The Thirty Year New Zealand Infrastructure Plan 2015 includes the following statistics:
2013 population as percentage of national total
Northland - 4%
Auckland - 34%
Waikato - 10%
Bay of Plenty - 6%
Gisborne - 1%
Hawkes Bay - 4%
Taranaki - 3%
Manawatu-Wanganui - 5%
Wellington - 11%
Tasman - 1%
Nelson - 1%
Marlborough - 1%
West Coast - 1%
Canterbury - 13%
Otago - 5%
Southland - 2%
Hamilton’s bold plan to transform into a more vibrant, prosperous city centre builds on what has worked around the world. Along with many other cities, the decline of Hamilton’s central city began in the 1970s. Easier access to cars, the rise of suburban centres with indoor malls and free parking has eroded many central city areas in New Zealand and globally.
Replicating the suburban shopping formula and attempting to compete with surburban malls has been regarded as a failure world wide.
Providing more parking, new physical works and supporting events provide part of the solution but are not enough on their own. Cities that have successfully revived or transformed their central cities have recognised the importance of having a clear and distinct identity.
A significant decision outlined in the Plan is to reduce the size of the business district in its current form – and instead to have three distinct ‘precincts’. This is based on the principle that a central city needs a concentration of people and commercial activity to prosper. Cities that have been successful in transformation and revitalisation have reduced the size of their central city and concentrated activities into well-defined areas with their own identity and character.
Hamilton’s central city footprint is currently significantly larger when compared with cities of a similar size. It is bigger than the new central city area planned for Christchurch.
The three precincts will be
The eleven mayors within the Canterbury region have come together to agree on a whole-of-region economic development strategy. The seven work programmes are:
1. Integrated regional transport planning and infrastructure investment, with a strong focus on multi-modal transport planning and investment.
2. Digital connectivity: extension and uptake of fast broadband in rural areas, with the aim of broadband being available to all rural households and businesses in Canterbury.
3. Freshwater management and irrigation infrastructure. The main target is to ensure all aspects of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy are implemented, including environmental restoration and water infrastructure projects.
4. Value-added production. Projects include identification of opportunities in District Plan reviews to enable sustainable value-added production, as well as sharing of information across the region about innovation and new developments in value-added production.
5. Education and training for a skilled workforce. The targets include every secondary student having a plan to transition them from school to work or further learning (and progress being monitored post-school), and earthquake rebuild workers (especially 18-25 year olds) being upskilled or retrained for their next career.
6. Newcomer and migrant settlement (skilled workers, cohesive communities). Targets to support newcomers and migrants include multi-lingual resources to provide key information, recognised local points of contact, community-led initiatives, and development of an online portal of relevant information.
7. The Regional visitor strategy involves establishment of a Canterbury Regional Tourism Alliance (involving councils, Tourism New Zealand, Christchurch Airport, passenger terminal ports, Ngai Tahu Tourism and other industry partners) to improve the range of available visitor experiences, increase the number and spend of visitors to Canterbury, and to keep visitors in Canterbury (and the South Island) longer.
The Canterbury region is New Zealand's largest region by land area - extending along most of the east coast of the South Island, from Kaikoura to Waitaki. It is also New Zealand's second largest region in terms of population. The Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy is available here: http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/General/CREDS-2015-08.pdf
The ‘Waikato Means Business’ economic development strategy is a finalist in the Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE awards, with winners to be announced at the LGNZ conference in Rotorua, from 19-21 July 2015.
The project has been recognised for its collaborative approach. Representatives from iwi, councils, industry and the University of Waikato were involved in its development, with significant industries to be involved in the implementation phase, including Wintec, Fonterra and the Gallagher Group.
The ‘Waikato Means Business’ discussion paper identifies natural resource and labour supply constraints as key challenges to be addressed to improve standards of living in the Waikato region.
The discussion paper identifies the following challenges for the region.
(i) Skill constraints
There is a need to improve the levels of education achievement and skills in the region, and to address the high proportion of youth not in employment, education or training (18% compared to 12% in NZ as a whole). Several Waikato employers have reported they have difficulty attracting, developing and retaining people.
(ii) Environmental limits
Water quality and quantity are both significant issues for the region. Soil quality is also under threat due to subdivision and intensification of land use. Recognising these constraints, growth in existing primary industries needs to come from increasing the value of processed products (manufacturing) and services.
(iii) Perceptions of the business environment and support for innovation
Businesses in the Waikato have identified areas where the regulatory environment could be improved, including improving consistency in consent processing across councils, and pooling of capability when significant developments are being assessed.
In some industries, such as agri-technology and manufacturing, there is potential for research, education and support organisations to do more to help businesses solve their technical issues and be more innovative.
Potential flagship initiatives: