Regional council reports year of challenge and success
Greater Wellington Regional Council has endorsed its Annual Report 2018/19, which reports on a year of challenge and success.
While much of the focus was on the introduction of a new future-focussed bus network, substantial progress has been made in leading a regional approach to climate change, stronger protection of our environment and natural resources, bolstering flood protection, fighting pests and in building more resilient infrastructure.
Greater Wellington also continued to take a leading role on climate change, redoubling its efforts to work in partnership with others, including the Government, to confront its stark realities.
“We sharpened our focus on climate change through a solid plan of activity. Research is the key to understanding an uncertain future. We’ve worked with councils from throughout the region on identifying natural hazards, preparing communities for adaptation where it is clearly the only option, and modelling the effects of storm surges,” says Greater Wellington Chair Cr Laidlaw.
”Regional co-operation backed by firm policy action by the Government is essential in meeting the challenge of climate change. Preparing communities and introducing policies such a managed retreat from the coast will require a collective effort. Climate change doesn’t respect boundaries.”
There was excellent progress in environment management. Greater Wellington released the latest stage of its Proposed Natural Resources Plan, which provides a very comprehensive blueprint for the positive management of the region’s natural resources.
“We also introduced our Regional Pest Management Plan 2019-39 which will keep biodiversity thriving and help us manage or remove unwanted pest plants and animals from our region. Here again it can only be done by the council working alongside community groups.
“Coupled with the establishment of the Wellington Regional Biodiversity Framework Project, which connects efforts to protect and enhance biodiversity, we’re confident that we have the right tools for excellent environment management,” says Cr Laidlaw.
Investment in our regional parks and forests has seen a steady increase in visitor numbers and with the help of dedicated volunteers, Greater Wellington planted 50,000 trees over the year.
Clean water was also a focus of the year, both nationally and in our region.
Our community-led whaitua (catchment committee) work continued, with the introduction of Whaitua te Whanganui-a-Tara, the third of our committees that work with a range of stakeholder organisations, mana whenua and communities to identify what is needed to support better stewardship of water. This year we also completed two whaitua committees in the catchments of Ruamāhanga and Te Awarua-o-Porirua Whaitua (Porirua Harbour).
“The launch of the region’s new bus network, a complex and ambitious challenge, didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped,” says Cr Chris Laidlaw.
“For a variety of reasons we were unable to meet many of our performance targets. But to the council’s credit we quickly acknowledged the issues confronting the network – some of which were outside our control - and worked face to face with the community and stakeholders to resolve problems and adjust services to meet needs.
Despite the issues that confronted its roll out, the new network increased the number of services during the day and at the weekend, offered a better geographical spread of services and cheaper fares for many customers. Annual passenger boardings on buses were 24.7 million passengers in June 2019, a growth of over 4 per cent year-on-year across the region. In Wellington city patronage growth was 5.2 per cent year-on-year.
“Overhauling an increasingly out-of-date network was never going to proceed without issues. Difficult though the experience was, we believe we have rebalanced the network to align with regional growth and demand. Time will show that we are on the right course for Wellington.”
On the broader transport front, a major milestone was the Government’s announcement of a funding package for the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme which received unanimous support from both Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington. This programme will help move more people using fewer vehicles, while supporting the city and region’s growth, and make it safer and easier to get around.
This year also saw the development and finalisation of the Wellington Regional Investment Plan, a long-range blueprint that details the investment required over the next 30 years to ensure future success and improve the quality of life for the Wellington region. This was developed in partnership with the eight territorial authorities across the region. A number of projects have already begun with government backing. We also started work on a regional Māori Economic Development Strategy and action plan, focused on improving Māori wellbeing.
“When you add all this up it has been a year of very solid performance, much of which has been obscured by the problems associated with the bus services in Wellington city’’ said Cr Laidlaw.