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Positive vibe around council table

Opinion Piece

This is my first column for a few months and a lot has gone on in that time. We have of course had an election, and it was so gratifying to have the support I was given by our electorate. Thank you so much, it is such a privilege to serve our community as a councillor.

We are now well on the way into our new era under the leadership of Mayor Rehette Stoltz, and I must say I am so impressed with her style of leadership. The new council committee structure is reflective of this with a much more inclusive format than previously. All councillors are involved with all four committee structures — Finance and Performance, Operations, Sustainable Tairawhiti and Council — which have a six-weekly cycle. The Civil Defence Emergency Management committee is also a full council meeting but is quarterly, along with the Wastewater Management committee and the Regional Transport committee. The chairpersons of these committees also form the new Audit and Risk committee which will be chaired by a highly-qualified external person yet to be named, and also run quarterly.

Mayor Stoltz, along with CEO Nedine Thatcher Swann and council officers, have run some very informative induction workshops right from the first day after the elections. They have all been very comprehensive to give the newly-elected members an insight of what a unitiary authority like GDC actually does. We have had many site visits of our main infrastructure services which council provides, and had bus tours taking in some of the major environmental and economic issues facing our region. For the long-term councillors, it has been a great refresh and a good opportunity to get to know our new colleagues.

The next three years is going to be extremely busy and I believe we have some great councillors representing our ratepayers. Rehette’s strategy of creating a strong councillor team is paying off already with what I thought were two extremely good committee meetings — Finance and Performance last Wednesday, and Operations last Thursday. There is a very positive vibe around the council table and everyone is contributing with some well-informed debating.

There are no official council meetings this week but we do have a Spatial Plan workshop on Wednesday morning followed by a tour hosted by Trust Tairawhiti to the Far East sawmill and the WET project out at Dunstan Rd.

The Spatial Plan and entourage has been travelling the region for community involvement and consultation; it will be presented at a hui at Taumata o Mihi Marae at Ruatorea this evening at 5.30pm. This plan is a 30-year visionary document of what Tairawhiti could look like in 2050, and the journey needed to get there. It is aspirational, and will be a very important tool when preparing our next 10-year plan next year; it will also determine plan changes required in our Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan. It can be viewed on the GDC website.

Our population predictions have changed somewhat to what they were. We are now projected to have 51,800 by 2028, 2500 more people than previously estimated. Our current population, based on the latest official statistics from last year, is 49,100. You only have to look at the extra influx of people and traffic to realise we are in one of our biggest growth periods in 30 years. Our piece of paradise has been discovered, and will need exceptional infrastructure and planning to manage this growth. We don’t want out-of-control growth like Tauranga.