GWRC Chair Daran Ponter's Inaugural Speech

  • Published Date 30 Oct 2019

New Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Daran Ponter outlined community expectations and Greater Wellington's diverse areas of focus for the 2019-2022 triennium during the council’s inaugural meeting.

 

Nga mihi nui kia koutou katoa.

Nga iwi mana whenua o te Upoko o te ika, Taranaki Whanui, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Rangitane ki Wairarapa, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai me Ngati Raukawa ki Te Tonga, tena koutou

Ki nga mema o te whare paremata, te kawanatanga o Aotearoa me nga koromatua, tena koutou

Ki nga mema o te paremata me nga Kaunihera pa taone nui, Tena koutou

Ki nga wh?nau o nga kaunihera, Tena koutou

Nga whanau o te Pane Matua Taiao – tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

Welcome and thank you all for being a part of this special event, the inauguration and first meeting of the Greater Wellington Regional Council for the 2019 – 2022 triennium

I would first like to welcome the newly elected councillors and welcome back the re-elected councillors.  A refreshingly youthful regional council, which brings on board much needed talent in critical areas to the Council’s work.

Thank you for having confidence in me to Chair the Regional Council as we embark on the new triennium. 

For me this has been a 21-year journey.  I first stood for the regional Council in 1998.  I was 30.  My children were not even born.  They are now 18 and 20.  Four unsuccessful attempts to get onto the Regional Council – so many big names - first past the post was not my friend.

But this taught me a lot about myself. My values of serving, caring and resilience still remain. I’m a firm believer in hard work - thanks Mum and Dad – and working together with others to achieve things.  I also learnt to take nothing for granted as I’m only here as long as you and the people of Wellington City can tolerate me!

I started life as a regional planner.  Not surprising therefore my interest in the Regional Council stems from my belief that there is a place for regionalism – that some things require a regional approach - just as some matters are better addressed at a whanau or community level, and others at a national or international level.

The Wellington Region extends from the Wairarapa to the Kapiti Coast. It is an area of 8,000 square kilometres, more than 500 kilometres of coastline and just over half a million people. 

As a Regional Council we are the environmental protection authority, the river control authority, the park ranger, the pest management board, the harbour master, the owner of the Port of Wellington, and the public transport agency.  Depending on where you are in the region our role is more apparent in some of these areas than others.

For all these things, our single greatest challenge is climate change.

Climate Change

Earlier this year the Council unanimously declared a climate emergency and committed to becoming Carbon Neutral by 2030.

The challenge in this triennium is to give substance to these commitments - addressing our practices and emissions and responding to the threats that climate change is already posing.

This means working closely with iwi, communities, business, government and local councils on joint solutions.   It will mean difficult conversations with our communities and it will mean developing a deep understanding of both our rural and urban challenges.

To assist our approach I am proposing a Climate Response Committee.

Water Quality and Water Extraction

The Wellington Region Natural Resources Plan is in its final stage of appeal.

These appeals will be decided by the Environment Court, but our immediate challenge is to finalise the local-level catchment planning which will provide greater definition to how we manage water quality and water allocation in individual catchments.  We have completed these processes for the Ruamahanga and Porirua catchments and the Hutt River/Wellington Whaitua process is well under way.

You will have noted the mounting concern around the motu about large-scale water extraction, particularly for water bottling.  Regional Councils as a whole need to challenge the government for clearer legislative direction on water extraction from our rivers and aquifers.

In the flood management area, Riverlink remains one of our main priorities – this is a huge flood protection project on the door-step of the Hutt CBD. It will serve to ensure that the residents and businesses of the Lower Hutt valley can keep their feet dry for generations to come, while being a huge catalyst for transforming the CBD area and better integrating public transport.

In the Wairarapa, the Lower Valley Scheme will be under close scrutiny as its resource consents come up for renewal.  Millions of dollars worth of productive land in private ownership is protected by this scheme however it seems that its existence has compromised the health of Wairarapa Moana which needs to be addressed.

Spatial Planning and Economic Planning

As a region we have drifted in our approach to sustainable economic development.  The Wellington Regional Strategy is out of date, and lacks a credible spatial and climate awareness.

In the coming triennium our focus needs to be on injecting a geospatial and climate reality into the sustainable development of our region.  This needs to be the place where we settle out some difficult conversations, such as:

  • Urban sprawl vs urban intensification
  • Coastal retreat vs built defences
  • Location of critical services
  • Greenfield development on productive land

Transport

As a region our approach to transport has left us all rather unsatisfied – and that’s being nice.  

Our priorities for regional transport projects will need to shift to reflect our broader spatial planning and climate realities.

Work has already started on the development of a new Public Transport Plan which will need to have a stronger emphasis on mode-shift and the mechanisms that are used to get people to move from cars to public transport and active modes.

In this triennium we will move to bolt-down the governance and management of Let’s Get Wellington Moving.  With the Wellington City Council we will get bus priority in place on many core routes across the City.  Full integrated ticketing, that nirvana that has alluded us for decades, will be close to roll out at the end of this triennium.

We have further work to do to stabilise the Wellington bus network.  And with your positive support, we will fix it. Big improvements have been made during 2019, but we have further to do in removing the need to hub wherever possible, getting services to arrive on-time, improving connections and getting more services on to the network, and, as part of that addressing the bus driver shortage.

I look forward to being able to confirm orders for additional electric buses to the Metlink fleet in the coming months.  Our first electric ferry is under construction and we are working closely with the Government on the purchase of an additional fleet of trains – which might not get you to Auckland, but will get you to Palmerston North or Masterton.

Inclusivity and Results Focused

As a Council we will look to strengthen our relationship with Iwi, by forming Te Ara Tahi as a full Committee of the Council.

We will also look to engage with youth across the region – getting rangatahi engaged in the discussions and decisions that exercise our communities and this Council.

As a Council our public engagement has been excellent in some areas and poor in others.  We need consistently good community engagement, regardless of the issue and circumstances and will embrace new ways of doing this to get the best result.

As a Council I know that there is support for a much stronger emphasis on results.  We will move to have performance targets front and centre in the work and decision-making of the Council.

Financial

I am conscious that the work programme is already huge, even before we introduce the myriad of proposals and ideas that will come from the community and councillors alike. 

Recognising this, one of the first challenges for this Council is to assess the Council’s overall priorities, potentially refocusing in some areas and identifying ways in which the Council can economise.

I am very privileged to lead this Council with such an able and talented group of Councillors

There is much to do. So, let’s get on with it.

Kia ora koutou katoa.

Updated November 12, 2020 at 12:27 AM

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