June 2016 - Chairman's Report

21 Jun 2016, 3:13 PM

Northland Transportation Alliance launched

The most significant event in this reporting period was the launching of the Northland Transportation Alliance on 30 May at Walton Plaza. Undoubtedly this is the most significant step forward for the development of road transport in Northland in my lifetime.

This is a first for any New Zealand region with all four councils and the NZ Transport Agency agreeing to form a joint management agency to manage all of the region's roads. The foundation principles of this new alliance are:

  • Each council retains its own asset ownership;
  • Each council sets its own roading budget;
  • Each council sets its own roading priorities based on asset management plans;
  • Each council sets its own level of service; and
  • There will be no cross subsidisation between districts.

The benefits that the region will derive from this new alliance are numerous:

  • Northland councils have positioned themselves 'ahead of the game' in relation to central government's expectations of better local service reforms;
  • Each council retains asset ownership and decides its own levels of service and budget for roading so there is no loss of local control;
  • There will be increased regional capacity and capability through staff specialisation;
  • There will be improved customer service through the access to a wider talent pool of expertise;
  • There will be more resilience and business continuity through deployment of resources across the region especially during emergency events;
  • There will be more and better development opportunities for staff and a more attractive employment proposition for potential recruits;
  • There will be less reliance on consultants as in-house resources develop; and
  • There will be an improved 'one voice' in representing Northland roading matters to central government.

These 'benefits' (efficiencies) will translate into 'savings' of a conservative minimum of $18 million over 10 years. The expectation is that the savings will be more like $35 million. These savings will not result in cash savings but will be translated into better roads and better maintenance of existing roads.

Strategic regional transport planning will remain the prerogative of the statutory Regional Transport Committee.

Annual plan process almost complete for 2016/2017

The council has completed its annual planning process with the 2016/17 Annual Plan on the agenda for adoption at this council meeting.

In the consultation process we received a total of 83 submissions either by mail or electronically. Of those 83 submitters only four wanted to meet with us to further elaborate on the issues that they submitted on. Three attended a face-to-face meeting in Whangārei, and one joined us by video conference from Kaitāia.

Overall the community supported our proposals in the Consultation Document which was most gratifying.

Improvements to proposed changes to Air New Zealand services in Northland

Proposed changes to Air New Zealand's services between Kerikeri and Auckland and Whangārei and Auckland alarmed local government and the business community.

Collaboration between all four Northland councils, local MPs, and the business community has resulted in a much better proposal with more focus on the needs of the local community.

Management plan development for Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (90 Mile Beach) gets underway

In the Far North the Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (90 Mile Beach) Board has begun the process of constructing a management plan for the beach. No doubt there will be some interesting challenges along the way and we wish them well as they work through the process.

Recently the Minister of Treaty Settlements, the Hon. Chris Finlayson, has provided regional councils with an assurance that in any co-governance arrangements the Crown negotiates with iwi, that the ultimate decision making role on environmental management will remain with elected councils.

No changes to regional council responsibility for granting water rights

In the same vein, the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Dr Nick Smith, has recently given the regional council an assurance that the government will not be issuing special water rights to iwi and that the responsibility for granting water rights and consents will remain with regional councils.

Local government has sought these assurances to protect the principles of local democracy.