Waikato Mayors, Council Chief Executives, Members of Parliament (MPs), Iwi leaders and other regional powerbrokers met Monday [30 March] via teleconference as part of what will become a weekly meeting. The purpose was to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and how Waikato’s politicians and their agencies can work with Central Government entities to kick start our economic recovery after the lockdown.
Chair of the Waikato Mayoral Forum, Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson, said today’s meeting was about “getting on the same page and comparing notes in terms of how the region is responding to the COVID crisis, being connected to make sure we are aligned and ensuring we have one voice when speaking to Central Government.”
Chair Sanson explained that work was underway right now to identify “shovel-ready” projects, worth over $10M, that would be ready to go within six months and that would contribute to substantial stimulus to the local economy and create jobs.
“After looking after the well-being of our people, and fulfilling our crucial civil defence duties, our attention turns to coordinating which major projects we can ‘hit go’ on to get our economy back on track. This is what private sector is looking for too, they want to see our pipeline of projects, so they can get prepared and buy the necessary equipment,” he said.
Deputy Mayoral Forum Chair, Hauraki Mayor Toby Adams acknowledged that with the halt on tourism, and the lockdown affecting so many workers and companies, the region will undoubtedly feel pain, however he praised the government’s wage subsidy scheme: “the scheme has been fantastic and it’s been fast. It has given people confidence, which is what we need more of right now.”
Local Government Minister and Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, echoing Mayor Adam’s acknowledgement, said that Government had been agile and was looking after people by minimizing the economic impact of COVID-19. “We are providing practical support to those who need it,” she said. She said she looked forward to continuing to work closely with Waikato local government leaders and Iwi as we get through this crisis.
Michael Bassett-Foss, who heads up Te Waka, the region’s economic development agency, said they “had paused all non-critical items and were focusing on bringing different agencies together to share learning, which in this ever-changing environment was happening rapidly.” He said that facilitating a coordinated Waikato response was absolutely critical.
The Mayoral Forum discussions, which will take place every Monday afternoon during the lockdown period, provide a framework for forming a united and cohesive ‘Waikato’ approach, which will be crucial in leveraging Central Government support for initiatives on behalf of the region.
Mayoral Forum members work towards having clear priorities that all councils agree on that are also supported by Local MPs, Iwi, and other key delivery partners.
Mayoral Forum Media Contact: Jacob.Quinn@waidc.govt.nz