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EMA clear on top priorities for local government

The EMA today is recommending a regionalised approach by upper North Island councils to solving local government issues highlighted in its discussion paper ahead of the October 12 local body elections.

Making the Golden Triangle Work looks at the five key issues facing the region: infrastructure, transport, housing, water, and the one that is needed to address all the rest, funding.

EMA chief executive Brett O’Riley says that unfortunately little progress has been made on these issues across its member business region from Taupo north since the 2016 local body elections.

"These issues are not new, they have just become much more pressing. Successive local and central governments have underspent on infrastructure in our fast growing cities and under-pressure regions," he says.

"The answer to funding all of this can’t be rates, but neither can it be simply holding a hand out to central government, although it certainly has a part to play."

The EMA believes that in order for its membership region to function as the true ‘golden triangle’ that drives New Zealand’s economic and population growth, a coordinated approach by local government is needed.

"Taking the planning, development and co-ordination of growth along the Auckland-Hamilton Expressway as an example, this could replicated along corridors from Whangarei to the south and Hamilton east across to Tauranga and onward to Whatatane," Mr O’Riley says.

Similarly, with transport the EMA suggests a delivery agency is formed for the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), and priority given to building the third and fourth rail mains for Auckland as well as a fast transport link to the airport by the America’s Cup and APEC in 2021.

Councils also need to consider their own answers to water services, which are currently highly fractured with inconsistent standards, before central government impose a regime that will be out of council control says Mr O’Riley.

There are also some significant new opportunities in Northland around Northport, and with a potential extension to or relocation of Whangarei Airport.

As for housing, he says this is particularly pressing in Tauranga, where councils must free up further land for development as there are fewer than 1000 sections left in one of the country’s fastest growing cities.

"The major sticking point with all these issues is funding. The Government can unlock new funding tools, but councils also need to help themselves and remove ideologically-driven opposition to Public Private Partnerships, Mixed Ownership Models and asset recycling."

"They also have an important role to play in other pinch points in infrastructure development, for example consenting in relation to quarrying and storage of materials."

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