We held another sold-out branch event this week, this time in Te Aroha on Wednesday 30th August.

The Silver Fern Farms event centre was a beautiful new venue with views out onto the rugby field and Te Aroha maunga looming in the background. Driving to Te Aroha you are reminded of the wealth of industry in the area and highly productive soil which the region is so rich in.

After a Karakia by the local Iwi Liaison Officer, Mayor Adrienne Wilcock addressed us. She has a farming background, as did many others in the room. Being a small council means they get to do a bit of everything – dogs and parks, but the challenges are the same as large councils; aging infrastructure. That is why events like this are so valuable in getting together to discuss and connect on shared issues and hopefully find solutions and support.

Cushla Anich, the Āpōpō Northern Branch Chair who has been re-elected in this role multiple times, worked with the hosts Matamata-Piako District Council to pull together an insightful line-up of presentations. The event was a showcase of the local teams’ planning and mahi in maintaining local infrastructure.

Āpōpō’s Product Development Manager, Mike Curry, talked everyone through the Āpōpō Guide – what we are doing, our process and what to look forward to when it launches. Questions on the Guide focused on IIMM and the place it has once the Āpōpō Guide is launched. With a show of hands, there were around 7 contributors to the IIMM in the room – it’s great having this depth of knowledge and expertise in the area. Āpōpō are still 50% owners of the IIMM, and that does not change after the Āpōpō Guide is available. The IIMM remains a subscription resource which can be purchased through the IPWEA website.

Brent Manning donned his Hawaiian shirt to share his lessons learnt in his time setting up a water entity in the Cook Islands. We all now know what you did last summer, Brent. The starting place for this project was going from just one person, Brent with a laptop, desk and chair to a fully operational water service for the country. One of the challenges was the local wages were around 1/3 of the New Zealand equivalent. Local labour was used wherever possible and locals were trained. In the first three months Brent had set up a lab and had hired five staff. Many of the locals had not written a CV or been interviewed for a job before, so the process was very new to many of them. With his military background Brent needed to be patient with the process as good things take time.

View the slides here

His other key lessons learnt were to build/leverage relationships where possible, so opportunities like this to connect with others are key. Training your team and yourself are also important, and in the Cook Islands Brent offered plenty of training for his new team including first aid and driver training.  His fourth lesson learnt was to have an identity and culture of fun and celebrate success. These truly are valuable lessons for any project, so let’s hope this approach is reflected in the ongoing water reforms which are ongoing in New Zealand.

The next presenters were Susanne Kampshof and Santha Agas from MPDC. They walked us through their Water Supply and Wastewater master plan for Morrinsville and Matamata. Resilience was an important consideration in the current strategic planning round – reinforced by the extreme weather events experienced recently.

Through the master planning process it became apparent that a new water source was needed for Morrinsville where there were lots of challenges. The main water source is currently 18km away, and traverses paddocks to get to town which presents a resilience risk. The council will be looking for a new source to secure additional drinking water for the town to meet growing demand for the anticipated high growth.

View the slides here

Arshia Tayal and Susanne Kampshof talked us through the Parks and Open Spaces Strategy to the implementation process for the Matamata-Piako District Council. They stood in for Mark Naudé the Parks Planning Team Leader who was sick – a reality of this winter season with illnesses circulating. Arshia and Susanne were clearly passionate about what they do which contributed to a lively presentation.


View the Parks and Open Spaces Slides here

They took us through the process from inconsistent strategies for things like tracks and trees, to one amalgamated Parks and Open Spaces strategy. Engagement with stakeholders and Tangata Whenua were key to the success of the strategy. There was plenty of opportunity for public consultation with a new approach taken to this – a wide range of channels were used to reach the current users, including signage at the applicable facilities. A tangata whenua working party was formed and was so successful that it has become a permanent group.

The strategy informs the asset management plan and provides a decision-making framework for projects and programmes.

They showed how playground locations were analysed as part of the strategy and how this has led to new and upgraded playgrounds in Morrinsville. In Matamata, the current focus is on improving connectivity through shared walk/bike paths and linkage parks.

The final strategy has been consolidated down to a plain English, simple ‘in a nutshell’ document which should help engage the younger generation and make the information accessible to more of the community.

The final plan has been consolidated down to a plain English, simple ‘in a nutshell’ document which should help engage the younger generation and make the information accessible to more of the community.

Assessments were made on the location of playgrounds, with neighbourhood playgrounds located within 800m, and community playgrounds up to a 20 minute walk away.

Our final presentation for the day was by Marie McIntrye, Te Miro Water Partnership. She talked us through the process so far in the Wastewater consenting journey for the area. They have involved iwi partners from the very beginning of this process. They have a way to go in the project, but so far through taking this holistic approach, they have been able to benefit from more efficient use of time. This holistic approach and setting the terms of reference has allowed them to compensate the iwi partners for their involvement in this project.

View the slides here

The meeting did not run on ‘island time’ and finished with plenty of time for the networking lunch provided by sponsors, PDP.