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Road ahead clearing for Mayoral Forum

17 March 2014

Road ahead clearing for Mayoral Forum

The Waikato Mayoral Forum’s new collaborative approach on regional roading has been endorsed by a visiting British expert, who says it can help pave the way for multi-million dollar savings.

Matthew Lugg, who created the Midlands Highways Alliance which brings together 18 UK authorities to co-operate on roading, spoke today at a forum update at Karapiro for new and existing councilors from around the region.

“Our Midlands Highways Alliance shares a common goal – to improve performance, share best practice and make efficiency savings in the delivery of highway services by working together,” said Mr Lugg, the director of public services for Mouchel Infrastructure Services, who is here at the invitation of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

“The alliance delivers regional procurement and implementation of highways maintenance, professional services and capital works through agreements which save our members, on average, four million pounds a year. This is being done through collaboration not amalgamation and I believe the work being done in Waikato is extremely promising as well.”

The Waikato Mayoral Forum brings together the region’s mayors and the regional council chair to bolster co-operation, savings and other efficiencies. Forum chairman Allan Sanson – mayor of Waikato District – said Mr Lugg’s message on roading was positive for the region.

“Co-operation over roading is an area where councils are collectively very keen to make progress, we’ve taken some strong initial steps already – such as with the Waikato Expressway - and are pushing hard to make further progress together.”

With Waikato roading playing a huge part in the regional and national economy, and with Government policy driving councils to make savings on roads, the forum has undertaken a wide-ranging analysis of where it can make efficiency gains without compromising the network.

Forum members have recently committed to establishing a joint Centre of Excellence in road asset management – staffed by existing officials from various councils - to support best practice and investment decision-making. A project manager, Dawn Inglis from Waipa District, has been appointed and the aim is to have the centre running by July.

“Previous estimates have suggested clear potential for multi-million dollar savings over time if we co-operate better over roading,” said Mr Sanson, who has been personally involved in the forum’s roading working group. “This centre will be an important first step on the path towards achieving that goal.”

Meanwhile, the Karapiro briefing also received updates on a spatial plan project for the region, work on aligning bylaws and policies, governance issues, a new regional economic development strategy and potential co-operation on water and waste water services.

The forum’s governance and planning working party has proposed development of a single spatial plan for the region to save millions of dollars over time, create greater efficiencies and facilitate a collective Waikato voice on key issues when dealing with central Government. This would help address challenges – such as the need to do more on economic development, skills shortages, declining rural populations and an ageing community – while maximising opportunities through better aligning council planning.

Last month, the forum agreed there was enough evidence to progress developing a Waikato spatial plan and is seeking a commitment from interested councils to progress this, under the direction of a joint committee which will represent the participating councils and regional stakeholders. A draft plan is due to be developed with key sectors and be available for public engagement early next year.

On the economic development front, the forum has received the final version of an economic development strategy it commissioned and which was developed under the guidance of a governance group involving local business leaders and forum members.

The “Waikato Means Business” strategy – available online at www.mpdc.govt.nz/waikatomayoralforum – sets two 20-year “focus goals” of:
• increasing median household incomes to above the New Zealand average
• increasing annual value added per capita growth (a measure of economic efficiency) to 2.8 per cent so that Waikato is in the upper third of regions for economic performance.

Other goals and strategies include productivity growth of one per cent per annum, above average high level qualifications in the workforce, boosting the value of international exports by 1.5 per cent a year and being New Zealand’s premier engineering and primary processing hub. Recommended ways of helping achieve these are support for the Ruakura Hub development, a regional labour market strategy, providing clear reasons for people to invest here and maximising value from primary production. The forum supports the development of an implementation plan to follow on from Waikato Means Business. Details on this are being finalised and will be announced separately.

Meanwhile, council co-operation on water and wastewater services also has the potential to deliver annual multi-million dollar savings. Today’s briefing heard that a study currently underway is looking at how councils can work collaboratively to manage some or all of these services. A report on potential options is due for consideration by the forum shortly.

A more detailed paper on the forum’s workstreams provided to councilors today is available at www.mpdc.govt.nz/waikatomayoralforum

ENDS

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