Bridging the gaps

Susan O’Regan

This year is a biggie for Waipa. We have an ambitious ‘To Do List’ including the Annual Plan, the review and adoption of three major strategies – Transport, Environment and Economic Well-being – plus the development of our district-wide Community Spatial Plan.

Strategies like these represent a long-term vision of what we want our district to be like in the future. They drive important conversations with residents, but it’s important those conversations are based on fact.

The Draft Transport Strategy has created a bit of noise, specifically around the population projection data being used and the planning already underway for a third bridge in Cambridge.  There’s been a lack of clarity about these two issues so let’s clear it up.

The population numbers we rely upon for all our planning are used at both a district and a sub-regional level. We all know they are not perfect (no projections ever are) but they are also used consistently by our neighbours and by multiple government departments. It is critical we are all working from the same place.

Those population numbers are always under review. When they are updated, we will be plugging the new numbers into all our strategy work, as will everyone else.  The suggestion we are working with “wrong” data is wrong and, in many ways, irresponsible.

The very same numbers we and other councils use are the ones used by Waka Kotahi, the government agency which helps fund big roading projects including (we hope!) a third bridge for Cambridge.

We know we will need a third bridge in Cambridge; council absolutely agrees and I can assure you work has already begun.

In June last year, councillors unanimously agreed to allocate around $300,000 for feasibility work to be undertaken if the draft Transport Strategy identified a need for a third river crossing. The strategy has done exactly that and work on a feasibility study is already budgeted and scheduled to begin very shortly. The suggestion we are doing nothing is false.

This feasibility study will help with a formal Business Case. Without a formal Business Case, based on agreed and consistent data that we all use, Waka Kotahi simply won’t be interested. And that would be a disaster for the whole of Waipā, not just Cambridge.

If Waka Kotahi don’t agree with our business case (and our data), all Waipā residents will pay the full cost of a third bridge. This will add around $460 per year in rates to all rates bills… for the next 30 years. That’s unaffordable and inequitable.  We need to get our ducks in a row and make sure Waka Kotahi comes to the party.

This is why the development of the Waipā Community Spatial Plan is such an important part of our strategy work programme.  It will become our blueprint, our planning roadmap for the next 30-plus years. The Spatial Plan will pull together our existing plans and strategies to help us prioritise investment decisions for our district that all of us will have to fund.  It will help us build connected, vibrant, liveable and resilient communities. It is an interesting, challenging, complex and large project.

I have decided not to re-stand for council so I will not see the Spatial Plan through. But I will follow progress on this and on other Waipā strategies with interest. This work is critically important, it’s imperative we get it right, and we need everyone to help us to do that.

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