April 2016 - Chairman's Report
The opening of the Hopua te Nihotetea detention dam, known colloquially as the Kotuku dam during its construction phase, on 9 April 2016 marks a significant milestone in the council's flood protection arsenal. At a final net cost of $11,000,000 it is the largest flood protection engineering project undertaken by the Northland Regional Council. Whilst it is clearly a lot of capital, the average annual cost savings from flood damage in the Whangārei CBD is estimated at $1.4 million per year. For an infrastructure project which will last at least 100 years, the project represents an amazingly good return on investment for the ratepayers in the targeted rate area. This detention dam adds to the successful Kaeo flood protection scheme completed a couple of years ago, the almost completed Whangatane Spillway in Kaitāia and the Kerikeri Spillway which is just in the very early stages of land procurement.
Another good news announcement for Northland is the announcement by Hawaiki Cable that the final funding partners for the new fast data internet cable connecting New Zealand with Australia and the United States have been obtained. The cable will come ashore somewhere in the southern part of Northland. Northland Inc. has been working closely with the promoters of the cable since the get go and have provided amazing assistance to the promoters. The level of assistance provided has been far in excess of that provided by any of the other landing places.
The reaching of agreement between Top Energy and the Parahirahi C1 Trust to a joint consent order to be filed with the Environment Court allowing the $300,000,000 Ngāwhā geothermal extension to go ahead completes a trifecta of really good news for the Northland region.
As I write this report, work continues apace towards the creation of a Joint Roading Agency for Northland with partners the Kaipara District Council, the Whangarei District Council, the Far North District Council, the Northland Regional Council, and the New Zealand Transport Agency all working hard to make this 'shared services' initiative come to fruition. If we can reach agreement on the details for this agency it has the potential to be the most important step forward for roading in Northland in my lifetime.
Rail has been very much in the news in recent weeks with the mothballing of the railway line north of Kauri, and a large turnout for a public meeting in Whangārei organised by 'Grow Northland Rail.' Rail's role in the Northland freight scene does need to be kept in perspective however, with rail currently carrying less than 2% of Northland's export freight. So whilst the regional council does not build road or rail infrastructure, the council is taking a precautionary approach and has designated land for a corridor through to the port at Marsden Point should a rail link ever be built. The council has already purchased a small proportion of the land required.
The future of the region that we all love is looking particularly rosy going forward.