Kaipara’s Issues and Opportunities
Our District stretches from the East coast to the West
Kaipara kids learning about our natural treasures at Pouto's Lake Kanono
The exquisite Kaipara Harbour
Kite flying over Tinopai
Lifting the Whole Community
Kaipara is a diverse community, spanning two oceans, two harbours and including a wide variety of cultures and economic profiles. The challenge that our Council must rise to is to lift the whole community, not just segments. That means working in an inclusive, grass roots way, creating opportunities to interact with all our communities and listening and responding carefully to what we are told.
The biggest issue that our Council faces is keeping our roads in a reasonable state. We have one of the highest percentage of unsealed roads in the country and years of underinvestment to counteract. This means we have to get better at maintaining unsealed roads; a lot better. I’m confident that this journey has started but we need to keep the pressure on and that includes better reporting on what we are achieving.
As our communities and settlements grow, they have a right to expect access to good quality services. Whether that is digital services, libraries, well-tended parks and reserves or simply having the phone answered in a reasonable timeframe, Council needs to focus on getting these basics right. Sometimes that will entail investment but sometimes it may simply be a matter of focusing on the right things.
Council has started down the road of improving our infrastructure (roads, water pipes, parks and reserves infrastructure) with a programme of asset assessment work. This needs to translate into capital works that brings our infrastructure up to scratch. Central government has indicated that it wants to work much more closely with Councils across the country, on the “three waters”. Our Council needs to ensure that this results in better facilities and services for Kaipara.
Thriving Business Community
Kaipara has a big focus on agriculture, in particular on dairy and beef farming. As our community evolves and we meet the growth caused by Auckland migration, we need to encourage a broader view of the world and look to opportunities such as tourism, digital technologies and diversification of agriculture. In recent years we have relied on Northland Inc to support us in these efforts. Perhaps the time has come for a more directive approach where we have more control?
Community Inclusive Planning
As we manage the effects of both the growth that we have experienced in recent years and the growth that continues to march towards us, we need to make sure that our approach to planning is inclusive and consultative. Our communities are changing and unless we are listening carefully to what they tell us, we could miss a golden opportunity to create great places to live, work and play.
Thankfully, Kaipara is now well and truly mid-pack with its debt and other financial ratios. That means we can afford to do some infrastructure development by spreading the cost of the work over a longer period. However, I personally don’t ever want to see Kaipara heading towards the upper end of the scale again. So as with any sensible budget, we must live carefully within our means.
The last few years has seen Kaipara’s rates increase significantly to meet the true cost of running our geographically spread out District. Councils in the past had preferred to keep rates artificially low. What this means is that more recently Council had to increase rates to cover the full costs of delivering the services needed. Now is the time for rates affordability to once again be a driver.
Northland is working together like never before. Together we have a much more powerful voice, especially when we address central government. Collaboration on projects such as IT, Digital connectivity, Northern Transportation Alliance, Climate Change, Economic Development and advocating for our region has worked well. Kaipara is stronger for working together with our regional partners.
There is little doubt now that the global climate is changing. What this means for Kaipara is increased intensity storms, more drought, increasing average temperatures both of the air, land and water and sea level rise. These changes may not have direct impacts immediately but Council needs to be leading the way with communities to understand what the impacts are likely to be and what plans need to be put in place to address those impacts.