Long Term Sub-regional Growth Strategy
The Whangarei District has experienced significant growth over the period 2001 to 2008. Although growth is slowing in line with global and national trends, future growth for the district is projected to continue and in some parts of the district, particularly in the Marsden Point/Ruakaka area, has the potential to be substantial. This growth presents both challenges and opportunities to our communities, businesses and governing bodies - and to us as individuals and families.
To manage the projected growth sustainably, Council has committed to formulating a long term sub-regional growth strategy. This project, entitled Sustainable Futures 30/50, will identify economic drivers of development, assess future growth potential, determine existing and potential land use patterns, and assess and plan for infrastructural requirements for the district over a 30-50 year time frame.
Environmental, social and cultural constraints on, and consequences of, anticipated development will be identified and assessed. This research and analysis will enable a long term, integrated, strategic planning programme to be developed, based upon sustainability principles, which will assist the sustainable development of the district over the next 50 years. The WDC Sub-regional Strategy will align with, and support, a Northland wide regional growth strategy being developed concurrently by the Northland Regional Council.
Why a 30 to 50 year timeframe?
The 30 to 50 year time frame was chosen deliberately to provide a framework within which to manage the future growth of our district. Firstly, the 50 year time frame provides for the development of a long term vision for the district towards which we can orientate our planning and resource management functions.
The 50 year time frame enables us to respond to, and plan for, longer term natural cycles such as climate change, biological change (forestry and fisheries), changes to hydrology, changing land use patterns, and so on. The effective management of long term cumulative environmental effects requires a similar time frame.
The 30 year time frame enables us to plan for the timely and efficient provision of infrastructure (both hard and soft). Major infrastructural developments such as new dams, waste water treatment plants, storm water infrastructure, landfills, and road building and maintenance require long term strategic planning.
Infrastructure management also needs to be coordinated with land use planning over the longer term. For example, the amended Land Transport Management Act 2003 provides for a New Zealand Transport Strategy, which adopts a 30 year time frame, and requires the formulation of Regional Land Transport Strategies which also require a 30 year planning horizon. Soft infrastructure, such as health and educational facilities, parks, major civic amenities such as libraries, theatres, etc. requires planning over a longer (30 year) time frame.
Where does this strategy fit?
The Sub-regional Growth Strategy, based upon these longer term planning horizons, will provide the overarching framework for the suite of planning documents required under those statutes outlining the functions of local government. For example, beneath the Sub-regional Growth Strategy (30/50 years) and the Land Transport Strategies (30 years) sit the Coastal Management Strategy, the Urban Growth Strategy, the Urban Form and Development Report, the 20/20 Plus Central City Development Plan, and the range of structure plans produced for the coast and urban fringe. These all adopt a 20 year planning horizon.
Below these documents sit the Long Term Council Community Plan formulated under the Local Government Act 2002 and the Whangarei District Plan formulated under the Resource Management Act 1991 both of which adopt a 10 year planning cycle.
How will the strategy be structured?
The Sub-regional Growth Strategy will be structured using a sustainable development approach. It will integrate the four sustainability criteria contained within this concept – a sustainable economy, a sustainable environment, a sustainable society and a sustainable culture. This is in recognition that if development is to be beneficial to the district over the long term it must be founded upon enduring economic growth that is cognisant of its natural, social and cultural environment.
In other words, economic growth must not be at the expense of the natural environment, it must enhance social well being, and it must recognise and respect cultural diversity; in particular the cultural traditions and aspirations of tangata whenua. This constitutes the essence of sustainable development. How we come to terms and operationalise this concept will profoundly affect our common future.
Planning for sustainability
To ensure the sustainable development of our district requires integrated and coordinated planning across all sectors of our social economy. We must plan for enduring economic outcomes that benefit the district over the long term.
Primary production, fishing and aquaculture, tourism, manufacturing, transportation, construction, the retail and service sector will all contribute to an enduring sustainable economy. Promises of “cargo cult” solutions are not the answer. Nor are “boom and bust” trajectories. Sustainable economic growth is based upon realistic and diversified long term development initiatives.
Land use planning must be coordinated with infrastructure planning - both hard and soft infrastructure.
Asset management planning for transport infrastructure is particularly important, as is solid waste, wastewater and stormwater disposal along with adequate and reliable water supply.
This essential infrastructure must be provided in a proactive, planned and efficient manner that precedes development rather than reacting to development pressures.
Social planning must provide for the timely and affordable provision of social infrastructure, such as health care, education, civic amenities, arts and cultural facilities, open space, entertainment and recreation. If we are to ensure a well balanced and sustainable population we must provide an appealing and well resourced social infrastructure to attract and retain all age cohorts to our district.
Recognition of culture and history
Integrated planning requires that cultural and historic heritage is recognised and provided for. The traditions and aspirations of tangata whenua are at the forefront here. The relationship of Maori to ancestral lands and access to valued taonga must be ensured and enhanced. Our unique historic heritage and manifold archaeological history needs careful and enduring protection. Our history has determined our present, just as the present will determine our future. If we do not understand and acknowledge our past we will have difficulty in ensuring a sustainable future.
Identification of natural hazards and risks
Land use planning must be cognisant of, and take into account, natural hazards and risks, such as coastal inundation, land instability, contaminated sites, hazardous substances, climate change, and so on.
With the predicted change in climate these hazards are likely to increase and we need to prepare for more extreme weather events, possible sea level rise and marked changes to climatic patterns. There will be opportunities as well as challenges and we must take advantages of these as they arise just as we must prepare for, and mitigate, the risks involved.
And most importantly, economic growth must not come at the expense of the natural environment. Economic development, to be sustainable, must be fully cognisant of, and in harmony with, the ecological systems within which it operates and upon which it depends.
Our waterways, our air, our coast and harbours, our biodiversity, our indigenous flora and fauna, our iconic landscapes, our high class volcanic soils, our productive farm land must all be recognised and protected as district, regional and national treasures.
Our economic system and social and cultural welfare depends intimately and ultimately on the ecological resilience and continued well being of our district and region’s ecology.
Balance of interests
We need to recognise that our past development was founded upon our natural and physical resources. The major wealth producing sectors of our present economy remain dependent upon these same resources. And our future prosperity will rely largely upon the same natural and physical resources. For example:
- agriculture, including livestock, cropping, horticulture, orcharding and viticulture, is based upon productive soils, plentiful water and favourable climatic conditions. Processing of primary products in the form of milk products, local wine, and packaging of horticultural and orchard products are based on these same factors.
- forestry is founded on a climate providing fast, favourable growing conditions for a range of timber producing tree species, combined with an adequate land resource. There is significant unrealised potential for further processing of forestry products which ultimately depend upon the same environmental factors.
- fishing and aquaculture are dependent upon clean and nutrient rich coastal waters, together with safe harbours providing advantageous locations for aquaculture and secure anchorage for the fishing fleet. Further processing of fish and shell fish provides additional development opportunities.
- tourism is largely based upon Northland’s unique environment and landscapes, including the long sweeping beaches, massive harbours and ancient Kauri forests on the West Coast, the many Pohutakawa lined coves, bays and islands on the East Coast, the interior hill country characterised by volcanic cones and a tapestry of old growth and regenerating forest, and the stunning vista of oceans meeting at Cape Reinga.
- mining and quarrying is founded upon our extensive mineral and aggregate resources, together with fertiliser and cement manufacturing utilising local limestone.
- marine based manufacture and service industries are located on our natural harbour and land interface and major port developments along with associated storage and processing facilities are dependent upon natural deep water berths and adjacent flat industrial land.
- construction and structural manufacturing are based upon demand for residential, farming, and commercial buildings which in turn are related to environmental attractions for lifestyle, retirement, holiday residences, primary production and processing activities, fishing and forestry, etc.
- rail, water, air and road transport are partly dependent on all of the above factors as are real estate, financial, insurance, and business services including local trade and professional functions.
- related wholesale and retail trade are dependent upon all of the above sectors of the economy.
Ultimately, utilising the natural and physical resources available, it is our people and our communities that will determine our future; communities, both Pakeha and Maori that have long historical and cultural connections to this district and who will provide the building blocks for the future.
It is you and I, our children and grandchildren who must take responsibility for managing our resources sustainably into the future for the benefit of both present and future generations.