We have developed our draft plan with a particular focus on how we can help the region recover from the effects of COVID-19.
To do this within our work we’ve set ourselves eight strategic priorities.
1. Regulatory reform
Our most important priority in the short term is responding to the regulatory
reform that we know is coming from central government. We are likely to have to
change the way we work because of changes to the laws that set out how we look
after areas like water quality, air quality, consents and compliance. Of particular
importance over the next three years will be the new National Environmental
Standards for Freshwater and Air Quality.
We have established a comprehensive freshwater implementation team to consider what is required, and by when. This team includes staff from disparate functions, including policy, consents, compliance, data services, and science. This team has developed a detailed programme of work for the next few years, identifying where altered work will require additional resourcing, but also identifying where this new work can be managed under current budgets through a more agile approach. Late in 2020, we decided to accelerate the programme to complete it by July 2024, six months earlier than first planned.
Over the next ten years, we will be spending at least $28 million on freshwater policy, with additional related expenditure on compliance, science, and engagement as well. In the first three years, when the most work is required, we estimate we’ll spend about $16.5 million in total on this area. There is still some uncertainty, so we will need to be flexible. We will also look to transform how we work with our communities in implementing freshwater reform.
2. Regional recovery
We will focus on job creation and boosting the economy in ways that align with our core functions, such as supporting local economic agencies. We want to work towards transformational change for the region over the course of this plan.
3. Climate change
We recently declared a climate emergency. When it comes to climate change we want to work towards transformational change - but in the immediate future we will focus on practical, real actions, working with our communities and collaborating with our partners.
4. Land use and transport
We are aiming to develop a transport system that is environmentally sustainable, resilient, efficient, and which enables safe, multi-modal access (e.g. buses, bikes, and cars) for our diverse and growing communities.
To this end, we are involved with the Urban Form and Transport Initiative (UFTI) in the Western Bay (with Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, iwi and community leaders). UFTI sets out a “Connected Centres” vision out to 2090. The Transport System Plan (TSP) takes this vision and focuses on the first thirty years of transport planning, design, and implementation. In turn, the TSP links with the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) and National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), and through them to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
We have allocated reserves funding to this area, which has reduced the public transport targeted rate for Western Bay ratepayers by $18.50 per rating unit in year one, and by $46.50 in year three. This is because Regional Council recognises that Western Bay ratepayers will need to pay more for transport and land-use improvements.
In the first year of this Long Term Plan, we will work with our partners on a range of projects. These are likely to include the differential between bus fares and parking charges, refreshing the Regional Public Transport Plan, addressing single-occupancy car use, a freight mode shift strategy, an electric and hydrogen vehicle strategy, and analysis on emerging transport technologies.
First year business cases for priority projects are likely to include an investigation of Turret Road/15th Avenue/Welcome Bay, a combined bus services/infrastructure investigation, and a Hewletts Road sub-area investigation.
Over the first three years, we are likely to work with our partners on projects involving the roll-out of primary cycle route facilities, optimising bus services within existing budgets, implementing real-time information at bus stops, and minor network improvements. We will also look at implementing the UFTI medium scenario for bus services when existing funding has been optimised or if there is a specific opportunity.
Before we will commit funds after year one of the Long Term Plan, we will ensure that there is a fully-resourced and aligned plan across all of the partner organisations. We will also undertake further specific and targeted consultation with the community on potential public transport service improvements to ensure our investment is achieving the best outcomes for regional ratepayers and Western Bay communities.
5. Partnerships with Māori
We want to continue developing how we work with Māori, looking at how we provide strategic advice, support and leadership in the region. We are working on a Māori Responsiveness Framework that will provide us with the key information to progress this work.
6. Making best use of our resources
We have a range of funding sources available to us (general rates, targeted rates, Quayside dividends, investment income, and others) and we want to explore what the right mix of funding levers is. Currently our dividend from our shareholdings will offset general rates by an average of $301 per property in the first year of the Long Term Plan.
Our goal is to ensure we achieve the best possible outcomes for our communities without creating an inequitable financial model. We have conducted a comprehensive Financial Framework Review – at a level of detail greater than anything done in the past decade – to explore the implications of altering how we fund our activities, and what we fund. We are very interested in getting community views on the right mix of funding sources, and what activities you would like to see greater investment in.
7. Sub-regional/regional view
While we are a Regional Council, not all parts of our region have the same aspirations, goals and challenges. We will identify ways we can adjust our services to ensure we’re providing the right things, to the right areas, in the right way.
8. Community participation and constructive relationships
Community participation is a critical element of local government. We’re focusing on ensuring that we engage with a representative sample of the community so that we meet the needs of all our region’s communities.
We’re also looking to transform how we work with volunteers – we know how valuable the work they deliver is in terms of environmental and cultural wellbeing.
Closer to our communities – engagement, Māori, and volunteers
We’re looking at enriching democratic participation by working more closely with our communities. This includes getting your perspectives and thoughts, but also enabling you to deliver some of the work we do through community and volunteer groups. Over the next few months, Councillors will be making key policy decisions in this area that will reset how we work with our diverse communities. We have tentatively allocated $500,000 in additional funding per year for work with communities and volunteers.
We are looking to expand our engagement approach and we are developing a new policy that will be considered by Councillors early in 2021. This will explore different approaches, such as participatory budgeting, where we ask
the community how to allocate a portion of our budget, or Citizens Juries, where people are provided the time and resources to make an informed recommendation to Regional Council. Once this new policy is developed, we will have a better idea of exactly what these new approaches will look like.
The Bay of Plenty has a long-established network of environmental care groups, led by passionate local volunteers across the region. All sixty of these volunteer
groups are supported in some way by the Regional Council through the provision of equipment or direct funding. We are looking at different ways Regional Council can support the work care groups and volunteers do.
There are 39 iwi, 240+ hapū, and hundreds of marae in the Bay of Plenty, and Māori make up almost a third of the region’s population. We are looking
at significantly enhancing how we work with Māori, especially in relation to the upcoming freshwater reforms. We’re reviewing our current responsiveness and looking at ways to improve this. We are also aiming to improve our partnerships with Māori by increasing funding for Māori participation in freshwater reforms by a minimum of $500,000 per annum.