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Waitomo Calls On King Country To Join Forces

30 April 2004

Waitomo Calls On King Country To Join Forces For Golden Future

Waitomo and Otorohanga districts will retain their independent councils after the results of the Amalgamation postal ballot were announced today. Returns from Waitomo district voters showed 60% in favour of amalgamation and 40% against. 87% of Otorohanga voters chose to remain independent, with 13% voting for the new council.

The ballot had been ordered by the Local Government Commission, which identified potential benefits for a unified council administration.

Leaders at Waitomo District Council, who supported the proposal, have now turned their attention towards some exciting times ahead for the district.

“We are entering a decade of dynamism here in Waitomo,” said Mayor Allan Andrews. “Te Kuiti and the entire district of Waitomo have been identified by the Government as a “go-ahead” area.

“We are drawing up a 10-year strategic plan and there is a real buzz of excitement about what our region could achieve in the next decade.”

Waitomo District Council will continue to seek closer ties with neighbouring councils to improve the economic prosperity of the King Country.

Despite the rejection of a unified authority, the Council received a huge amount of positive feedback for its determination to work with partners to boost the profile of the wider region.

Waitomo sees considerable advantage in working together regionally to develop a stronger economy, encourage tourism and improve infrastructure.

Mr Andrews added that, ironically, one of the difficulties of selling the idea of a unified council to the public was the present Waitomo District Council’s record.

“We have held the district’s rates at the same level for the last three years thanks to the continued drive to achieve efficiency within Council operations. By changing our focus we have been able to make savings for ratepayers while delivering key improvements to services. Our residents have seen extensive road improvements, enhanced civic facilities and improved water supplies.

“Through our own initiative we are starting to attract major retailers like The Warehouse to Te Kuiti. When residents see all this happening it is naturally going to be difficult to persuade them to ditch their existing council.”

David Jack, CEO of Waitomo District Council, said he had noted the support among the public for more collaborative initiatives among regional partners.

“The feedback on regional co-operation has been very positive and we are looking at how we can take these initiatives further,” he said. “As a council we will continue to improve local services and make savings where we can. But to promote the King Country effectively we need support from neighbouring councils and regulatory bodies.”

Mr Jack added that Waitomo District Council has just launched a promotional campaign See What You’re Missing to enhance the district’s profile in terms of attracting new businesses and migrants.

Mayor Allan Andrews believes Waitomo will be at the heart of a golden era of economic expansion if authorities across the King Country can synchronise strategies.

He noted that Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton had been excited about the potential of the Waitomo District during a recent visit to meet local businesses and economic development agencies.

“Mr Anderton was impressed with improvements to Te Kuiti and said he felt ‘something is happening here’. We know that for sure. We are developing an exciting 10-year-plan and a dynamic campaign to put the district in the national and international spotlight,” said Mr Andrews.

He concluded: “The future looks bright for Waitomo and for the whole of the King Country if we can work together as a region and put small-minded parochialism aside.”


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