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It’s Not All Grey – There’re Also Green Projects On Council’s Government Funding Wish List

Waikato Regional Council is bidding for around $120 million of government funding to fast track projects that would put more than 1000 people into a range of short and long-term work opportunities.

The Government recently called for ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects to stimulate the construction industry and economy, be of public or regional benefit and create jobs.

“The Government’s primary focus is on big ticket infrastructure projects that get the construction industry moving, so we’ve sought support for upgrading the region’s critical flood protection assets like pump stations and stopbanks,” said Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington.

“Out of our seven proposals, this is one of our top priorities because our flood schemes safeguard 3000km2 of high value food-producing land, and protect services and infrastructure such as water supply, power, telecommunications, and road and rail networks.

“These assets urgently need upgrading because 50-60 years ago they weren’t built to withstand the higher volumes of water they now have to handle nor changing climate patterns. There are also higher environmental standards, and new health and safety regulations. Community expectations for how we manage our rivers and flood schemes have also changed.”

The council has also put in a proposal for work, in the Piako catchment, which integrates ecological restoration with climate resilient flood protection infrastructure.

“Reducing flood impacts in this area would improve productivity of the land and provide opportunities for landowners to diversify their farm operations while also helping iwi achieve their aspirations to recreate wetland areas in some parts of the flood plain,” said Cr Rimmington.

Cr Rimmington is quick to point out that not all infrastructure is ‘grey’ – it’s also ‘green’.

“We’re proposing to fast track smaller scale green infrastructure initiatives which are in line with the Government’s commitment to a productive, inclusive, sustainable and climate-resilient economy.

“Importantly, these initiatives will benefit local economies and communities right across the Waikato region.”

The council has made a bid for more than $39 million to support 20 projects focused on protecting and enhancing water quality, biodiversity, soils and coastal areas. Collectively, the projects would see 1000 kilometres of streambanks fenced off, 4.3 million native plants put in the ground, 140,000 poplars planted on eroding land, the retirement of 4500 hectares of land, and the management of plant and animal pests over more than 24,000 hectares.

“This is about embracing community-led initiatives,” Cr Rimmington said. “Many of these projects already have good buy-in from iwi, community groups and individual landowners but with the pressure on to have a zero per cent rates impact, our council will struggle to fund this type of work on our own.”

The work will not only continue to improve the health of local environments but support smaller contractors and suppliers (e.g. fencers, arborists, pest control specialists, nurseries and hardware/rural supply stores) in rural areas and small towns where jobs are needed most.

Cr Rimmington said the Government’s bid package provided an opportunity for the Waikato to accelerate its sustainable future.

“These projects are ready to go, and many could be achieved in just three years – they just need the funding.”

The proposal deadline was 5pm last night (14 April).

© Scoop Media

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