Time to talk — and decide — on long term plan

Russ Rimmington

There is so much to be excited about, right now.

Our new passenger rail service, Te Huia, is due to launch at the beginning of April and will, I believe, transform transport between Waikato and Auckland.

Providing travel for 300 passengers between Hamilton and Papakura each weekday will make roads safer, give people the travel time reliability they need, and the opportunity to either work or relax between destinations.

The first service will rollout of Frankton, stopping at Rotokauri and Huntly en route to Papakura, on Tuesday, 6 April. It’s going to be awesome!

Public transport is something I have a huge passion for. It’s shared by my councillors, who have made providing better regional connections a focus for us. Te Huia is only the start of big things, as opportunities are investigated to expand the service.

In fact, increasing rail services and improving connectivity is on the list of eight long term plan proposals we’re seeking public feedback on in April.

And that’s something else I’m excited about – our long term plan consultation. It opens on Thursday, 1 April and closes at 4pm on Friday, 30 April. There’s some really meaty issues we’re looking to our communities to submit on, and one in particular promises to be a gamechanger in this region.

We’re proposing to set up a sustainable homes scheme – a programme already kicking goals elsewhere in New Zealand. It would involve the council borrowing money to lend to ratepayers wanting to retrofit their houses with things like solar panelling, water tanks and efficient home heating.

Being on tank water myself in rural Waikato, I appreciate what a precious resource water is – and how water storage solutions can ease the pressure on our waterways, in particular during drought. So I’ll be keen to hear what our communities think of the sustainable homes scheme proposal. It’s a massive shift from anything we’ve done before, and with New Zealand facing a housing crisis, it makes sense to retrofit homes so they’re healthy and efficient places in which to live.

What else are we asking for feedback on during April?

A plan which sets out how we’ll tackle pest plants and animals is up for review. So, at the same time we’re talking to you about our long term plan, we’ll be coming to you for feedback on changes we’re proposing to the regional pest management plan.

Over the past 12 months staff have been talking to our coastal communities, as well as considering iwi environmental management plans as part of a review of our regional coastal plan. During April we’ll be testing the waters to make sure we’re on the right track with the review of the plan, which sets the rules for how we sustainably manage activities in the coastal marine area.

So as you can see, there’s a lot we’re seeking feedback on, and your voice matters. At their heart these plans are about making our region even better – for the generations here now and those to come. Find out more at waikatoregion.govt.nz/yourvoicematters.

•        Russ Rimmington is chair of Waikato Regional Council. The views are his own.

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