Building a better Waikato was the key focus of the 150 people who attended the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) conference at the Don Rowlands Event Centre at Karapiro last Friday.
Entitled "Rethinking Local Government - International trends and thoughts for the Waikato", the conference discussed pressures and trends around local government reform in Australasia, as well as experiences and lessons for Waikato in the light of reforms in Auckland.
Peter McKinlay, IPANZ convenor and director of Auckland University of Technology’s Centre for Local Government, spoke on international trends for local government, and how these might translate to the Waikato region.
Business journalist Rod Oram spoke about the need for communities to have a common purpose across economic, environmental and social spheres, and that local government needed to get better at helping communities "articulate, visualise and realise" their broad goals.
Bob Harvey, chair of the Auckland Waterfront development council controlled organisation and former mayor of Waitakere, said the might of Auckland threatened other regions in the battle for resources, and that the Waikato needed to start thinking about where it was going to be in the next 20 to 30 years.
"It’s a dog eat dog world so get yourself a bigger dog," he told the audience.
Waikato University professor of demography Natalie Jackson sounded a warning about the effects of looming demographic shifts on the Waikato region. Most growth would be in the Hamilton city and Waikato and Waipa districts, while other areas would have declining, ageing populations, she said.
Stephen Selwood, chief executive, New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development, put forward a diagram showing a possible option for local government in Waikato, with one large council for region-wide strategic issues, community councils to give a local voice to local issues, and council controlled organisations for the delivery of key services.
Mike Pohio, chief executive Tainui Group Holdings Ltd, outlined what the private sector wants from local government.
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