By Jamie Strange
Hamilton-based Labour list MP
I am passionate about the Waikato region. I have five goals that will contribute towards ensuring our region continues to grow and thrive.
1. Passenger rail
Local councils are supportive of a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.
NZTA have included funding in their National Land Transport Plan. I anticipate a further announcement after their board meeting on October 5. A key to the success of this venture will be having a café and reliable WiFi or hotspotting service available, which will enable passengers to be productive while commuting.
This initial rail service will be a first step towards a modern passenger rail network that serves the golden triangle between Hamilton, Tauranga and Auckland.
This rail service will build on the good work done by the previous Government to facilitate population and economic growth between Hamilton and Auckland. Transport leads growth: I expect half a million people will settle in this corridor over the next 30 years, as Government, developers, and tourism operators turn their attention to this geographical area.
2. Affordable housing
Forty two percent of Hamiltonians are renting. Many would like to purchase a home, but have been finding it difficult due to rising house prices and related costs.
I appreciate the work Hamilton City Council have done around Special Housing Accords (SHAs). SHAs are a short-to-medium term tool to bring more housing to the market through an accelerated resource consent process. SHAs must have a portion of housing less than $500k, making those houses eligible for KiwiBuild.
Five SHAs have passed through Hamilton City Council over the past few months, consisting of around 3000 houses, and are currently being considered by Government.
In order to encourage home ownership, this Government is proactively exploring a range of options including grants and shared-equity schemes.
3. Community policing
Our police officers do a fantastic job in our community. I highly value the important work they do, often at the hard edge of our society. This coalition Government will fund an extra 127 police officers in the Waikato region.
We will also support a community policing model. We currently have five empty police stations in our city, plus empty stations in Cambridge and Raglan. Adding police resourcing will enable our area commanders to do more in our communities, preventing crime through building strong relationships with local families and communities.
One of the goals of the Waikato Tourism Agency is around the Kiingitanga and New Zealand Wars. We are the sole region where the Māori King resides, and this creates huge tourism potential. The Kiingitanga treasures (taonga) are currently valued at $300 million. I believe this tourism potential is the largest un-tapped opportunity in our region.
The Waikato River is our greatest natural asset. The Waikato River Regeneration Plan is an excellent piece of work, which identifies the key practical projects that will bring about environmental benefits for our water quality. I appreciate the work that has been done in recent years around opening this area up, as developers turn Hamilton to face the river.
5. Special projects
World class projects elevate a region, creating uplift for everyone. As a Government MP I bring key stakeholders together around collaborative opportunities, ensuring Government Ministers are aware of regional projects, and assisting in applying for central Government support. I brought seven Ministers to our region in July/August, and have a further eight booked in between now and the end of the year.
I am actively supporting a number of local projects, such as: Tainui Inland Port, Pacific Hub, Te Awa Lakes (an exciting housing and tourism project by Perry Group), Northern Districts Cricket training facility, Waikato University Sports Hub, Waikato Regional Theatre, a $50m sheep milk dryer at Innovation Park, Rural Medical School, returning All Black test matches to Hamilton, Rototuna Hub (including a swimming pool complex), and a range of health, education, and tech projects. Such is the positivity and growth in our region, new exciting projects are emerging all the time.
I have been working closely with the newly formed Te Waka (Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency), to pitch a number of key projects to Government for funding.
I appreciate all those who are working hard to ensure our region is the best place to live in New Zealand.