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.