Waikato sets out on wellbeing path


Finance Minister Grant Robertson committed Treasury involvement in the Waikato Wellbeing Project.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged Waikato was ahead of the game and promised Treasury involvement in the region’s Wellbeing Project when he spoke at its launch in August.

The project aims to make Waikato the first New Zealand region to develop 17 wellbeing goals based on those set by the United Nations.

It is led by the Waikato Plan leadership committee, Wel Energy Trust and Waikato Regional Council.

Leadership committee co-chair Bev Gatenby told the audience at the launch the process would be collaborative and would look at “the big issues” such as poverty, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation.

“And, minister, I guess what we want to say to you is that the Waikato Wellbeing Project, the project we are launching today, does align with your commitment for environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing.”

Robertson said this year’s first wellbeing budget was largely top-down because of the tight timeframe to set it up, and the Waikato initiative gave an opportunity to involve more people.

“The commitment that I’m going to make to you today is that I’m going to get my Treasury people to come and work with you on the development of this strategy because I want the ground-up to meet the top-down.”

He also said he would return himself for the same reason.

“For me that’s why the Waikato wellbeing project is so important because it is that grassroots driving of: what is wellbeing, how do we measure it, what are the indicators and what are the projects we need to invest in?

“One of the things I looked very closely at as we were establishing our wellbeing framework was the Waikato progress indicators because they were ahead of us in what we were doing. So I’m pleased that they are part of the basis of what you are doing here.

“All of the things I read about this project make me believe that you are on the right path.” 

He said he had jumped at the opportunity to attend the launch. “This is very much the project, I almost feel, of my political life, which is the establishment of a wellbeing framework for how we do what we do in our country.”

Robertson was challenged about engagement between Wellington and Waikato, with a call for designated officials as contact people, and also heard a plea for support for the South Waikato Economic Action Plan (Sweap).

“We need you heavy hitters to say to your bureaucrats, go together with Waikato Plan and Te Waka and make Sweap happen,” Te Waka chair Dallas Fisher said. “Because at the moment we’re struggling.”

Robertson responded that central government needed to do better at providing a joined-up way of dealing with Waikato.

He said the State Sector Act and the Public Finance Act are changing to require government agencies to work together. “I’m changing the Public Finance Act to use the word ‘wellbeing’. Agencies and budgets will have to adhere to a wellbeing analysis.

“I hear your frustration and I commit that this is exactly what we are working on.”

The launch marks a three-month goal-setting process which involves collaboration between iwi, government, business and community.

The end result will be measurable wellbeing goals for the region to achieve by 2030.

Project co-chair Raewyn Jones, from Wel Energy Trust, said the initiative was intended to achieve “a more environmentally sustainable, prosperous and inclusive Waikato”.

She said some workshops had already been held, and there was data from the progress indicators, Waikato Plan and the Vital Signs project. Next steps included subject matter experts working with the data as well as conversations with communities across the region.

The United Nations sustainable development goals are a blueprint that help governments, businesses and organisations achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address challenges affecting communities worldwide, including poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice.

The collaborative goal-setting phase of the Waikato Wellbeing project builds to an October summit where the region’s SDG targets will be confirmed and officially launched. 

“We will turn the targets into action,” Jones said. “That will take time and energy and it will require us to measure and report against the targets.”

The Waikato Wellbeing Project is supported by Waikato Tainui, Trust Waikato, Hamilton City Council, DV Bryant Trust, The University of Waikato and Momentum Waikato.


About Author