Looking ahead to a bright 2022
Published on 20 December 2021
As I was walk/scooter around Whangārei, I can’t help but reflect on what has been a tumultuous year (to say the least!).
Our District has been in the spotlight more times than I care to count, with COVID-19 borders and vaccination statistics, representation review decisions, cats, Oruku Landing, Hundertwasser updates and Three Waters controversy. We’ve deliberated, debated, protested and consulted more in this year than any other in my time as Mayor.
What was great about 2021?
We’ve achieved great things – our Hātea Loop and waterfront area is developing into a fine world-class destination, Whangārei District will have a Māori Ward in place for the 2022 elections, with two Māori Ward councillors.
Our Civic Centre is progressing brilliantly, when complete it will enable us to centralise Council services and make us much more accessible.
The new Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant is up and running, and we’ve taken big steps forward with our regional climate adaptation kaupapa.
Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant
Our approach to public events, council facility use and consultation processes has had to evolve on a weekly basis, in keeping with Government COVID-19 policy decisions. We’ve worked hard to develop new, safe ways of interacting with our communities - it feels like a lifetime ago when we held our first ever Long Term Plan consultation Family Fun Day at William Fraser Park, with free rides, face painting, bouncy castles, sausage sizzle, fruit and coffees for everyone.
Hopefully we’ll move into a safe enough level to offer this kind of event again soon, but in the meantime our Council has been doing the best we can, considering the safety protocols necessitated by the COVID Protection Framework.
COVID-19 Council Services
A big topic for our Council, and for many others around the country, has been the ongoing pushback to Central Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme. Our Council was the first to opt out of the reform when it was put to local government in early 2021, and now we’re one of three councils asking for clarity around public asset ownership at the High Court of New Zealand, alongside Waimakariri and Timaru District Councils.
Three Waters Reform
This is a landmark case. We’re aiming to protect the rights to retain local ownership and management of three waters assets (stormwater, wastewater and drinking water), rather than relinquishing control to the 4 national entities proposed by Central Government. Since we started on this journey, 22 councils have joined their voices to ours, and that number continues to grow.
Central Government’s response to our concerns is yet to come, however it is our hope that the mandated Three Waters Reform Programme will be reconsidered, and these integral water assets will remain at the very least locally managed and locally owned. I encourage you to read more about our action around Three Waters on our joint council website:
Communities 4 Local Democracy
As this challenging year draws to a close, I feel a strong sense of pride in the way our communities have coped in adverse conditions. For many, 2021 has been an endless series of struggles – for those in business, managing events, working at the frontline of healthcare or in the hospitality, service, trade or construction sectors, thank you for persevering.
For those already under housing, employment, financial or family pressure, COVID-19 has been yet another stress to manage. Thank you for persevering.