Waikato District Council has met its financial targets for the past year, and is focused on managing rapid growth in ways that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, says newly re-elected Mayor Allan Sanson.
The Council has just published its Annual Report and Summary online after adopting the Annual Report on 3 October, shortly before the local body elections.
Mayor Sanson says, “We’ve set rates and debt levels that balance affordability with the need to provide for our growing community.”
Average rates are “comfortably” within Government affordability measures at $2,596 per rateable property, and average debt per rateable property is $2,012.
“This is 65 per cent below our current debt servicing limit and leaves a generous capacity for funding services and facilities needed to meet future growth,” he says.
A rising number of building consents for new dwellings show Waikato is currently the third-fastest growing district in the country after Selwyn (in Canterbury) and Queenstown, and Mayor Sanson says the Council is seeking new ways to maintain and build the infrastructure the district needs to support an expected population of more than 26 per cent over the next 15 years (from about 69,900 this year to 88,200 in 2031).
He says the Council’s new roading ‘Alliance’ with Downer NZ is improving efficiencies and customer responsiveness to meet the district’s roading and footpath maintenance needs, ahead of the development of the new Waikato Expressway that – when completed - will mean nearly 100 kilometres of ex-State Highway will be added to the local roading network.
A draft agreement to form a water and waste-water Council-controlled organisation (CCO) with Hamilton City and Waipa District Councils is expected to provide financial savings and other benefits, but needs all three councils to confirm their commitment to it post-election.
Mayor Sanson says the Council is focussed on managing the district’s growth sustainably.
“We’ve attracted new local businesses and employment to support economically sustainable growth. We’ve introduced new refuse and recycling systems to minimise landfill waste, and we’ve identified significant natural areas and habitats to protect our environment.”“We’re working hard to ensure we build our communities as our townships grow,” says Mayor Sanson.
“We’ve undertaken initiatives to bring people together, from Youth Awards to ‘placemaking’ projects that will help revitalise the public spaces in our towns. We also committed more than $1.2m in grants to nearly 200 community groups throughout the district to enable our communities to come together to meet some of their own needs.”