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Report card shows how the region is tracking

A Waikato Regional Council report on the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the region shows its residents feel better connected and healthier than average for New Zealand.

The Waikato Progress Indicators – Tupuranga Waikato (WPI) report was presented at the Strategy and Policy Committee meeting on Tuesday [31 August]. It showed the Waikato region scored above the national average in community engagement, community pride, social connectedness and perceived health, as well for the number of te reo Māori speakers and building activity.

Waikato Progress Indicators – Tupuranga Waikato is an online dashboard of 32 environmental, social, cultural, and economic indicators, which are measured and updated annually against the baseline data for 2006-2007.

For 2020, the results showed improvement in 11 indicators and decline in nine, while 12 indicators showed no significant change.

Committee Chair Pamela Storey said, “This is really useful data and, in some areas, we see some positive trends. These indicators do help us to focus our attention on areas for improvement.

“While affordable housing is key for our growing communities, when we see the greatest amount of subdivision is occurring on highly productive land, we need to also be cognisant of the need to feed a growing population,” Cr Storey said.

The five largest positive changes, in order, were:

  • increased road safety – social cost of road injury crashes about $2000 per capita in 2007 v $1300 per capita in 2019 (all expressed in 2020 dollars)
  • improved air quality – 20 annual exceedances in 2007 v 13 in 2020
  • increase in building activity – real value of building consents issued about $3500 per capita in 2007 (expressed in 2020 dollars) v $4300 in 2020
  • less crime – about 800 recorded victimisations per 10,000 population in 2007 v about 600 in 2020
  • higher average incomes – medium weekly household income of $1400 in 2007 (expressed in 2020 dollars) v $1700 in 2020.

The five largest negative changes, in order, were:

  • less physical activity – 61 per cent of survey respondents were physically active on five or more of the past seven days in 2006 v 35 per cent in 2020.
  • poorer perceptions of community engagement – 62 per cent of survey respondents agreed the public has an influence over decisions by local councils in 2006 v 37 per cent in 2020.
  • more residential expansion onto versatile land – residential use of versatile land was 13,727 hectares in 2008 v 17,287 hectares in 2017 (the greatest amount of subdivision has been occurring on land classed as having higher productive capabilities)
  • higher water use – allocation of 67 per cent of primary allocable flow at the Waikato River mouth during the summer months in 2007 v 83 per cent in 2020.
  • less use of public transport – 9.1 boardings per resident in 2007/08 v 7.1 in 2019/20.

The report’s author, strategic principal advisor Dr Beat Huser, told councillors that the devil was in the detail, when it came to understanding the data.

“High level data can mask underlying issues or differences such as for perceived health. Overall, 79 per cent of people surveyed rated their health positively, but if we look at the result by ethnicity it shows a totally different picture. We have 69 per cent of Māori who rated their health positively and for Pasifika even less at 57 per cent.

“Also, some of the social community indicators which show us to be above average in New Zealand have actually worsened in our region, such as social connectedness, and while our road safety has improved it is worse than the national average.”

The Waikato Progress Indicators and the annual reports provide communities and decisionmakers with valuable information to help guide future efforts in the Waikato.

The summary report can be viewed at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/wpi.

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