May update: Mayoral Forum

The Mayoral Forum held its regular quarterly meeting by videoconference on 22 May 2020.

When New Zealand went into lockdown, the Forum started meeting weekly by videoconference, to co-ordinate initial thinking about recovery in Canterbury. This reduced to fortnightly in level 3.

Key agenda items from the quarterly meeting on 22 May are summarised below.

Regional recovery from the COVID lockdown

The Forum discussed roles and responsibilities in COVID recovery and agreed that:

  • ‘Local is best’ for welfare and psychosocial recovery. Councils, local CDEM groups, district health boards, rūnanga and community and voluntary sector agencies all contribute to that, supported by central government agencies.
  • Economic recovery is best led sub-regionally. Economic development agencies (Enterprise North Canterbury, ChristchurchNZ and Aoraki Development), chambers of commerce, council economic development staff and Ngāi Tahu are all active in this space, supported by central government agencies.
  • Regional oversight/monitoring, facilitation and advocacy are being provided by the Mayoral Forum.
  • Economic, fiscal and regulatory policy to support recovery is best developed nationally, by central government.

Jim Palmer, chair of the Chief Executives Forum, is convening a meeting of leaders in the economic and social sectors, so we can keep economic and social recovery well integrated.

Freedom camping

The Forum discussed freedom camping. The temporary closure of the border has massively disrupted the tourism and hospitality sectors across all our districts. But it is an opportunity to re-focus tourism on value rather than volume, in ways that are environmentally sustainable, that create more highly skilled jobs and higher incomes for Cantabrians, and that retain tourism’s social licence to operate.

There isn’t a single view across Canterbury about freedom camping, but there is general agreement that:

  • providing infrastructure to support responsible freedom camping has come at a cost to ratepayers and taxpayers that may not be fully offset by freedom camper spending
  • the problem continues to be primarily with non-self-contained (and pseudo-self-contained) vehicles
  • leaving it to each territorial authority to determine in its own by-laws has not been a satisfactory solution, and we need a consistent approach across councils, the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The Chair (Mayor Sam Broughton) is seeking an opportunity to discuss this with the Responsible Camping Working Group as part of the ‘re-imagining tourism’ work programme Tourism New Zealand is leading.

Water, water everywhere

Hot topics for the Mayoral Forum are the Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms (announced on 28 May 2020), and proposed reforms to Three Waters services (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater).

A delegation from the Mayoral Forum hopes to meet with ministers in Wellington to discuss these reforms from a Canterbury perspective.

Regional council chair Jenny Hughey provided a quarterly report on implementation of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

Food, fibre and innovation (FFIP)

Mayor Craig Rowley presented a report on the Forum’s FFIP work programme, which looks to encourage and support value-added production in the primary sector, and high-value manufacturing. These multi-year work programmes are contracted to ChristchurchNZ and the University of Canterbury, funded by a grant from the Regional Growth Programme (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).

Mobile blackspots on Canterbury highways

The Forum has commissioned a project to map and prioritise mobile blackspots on Canterbury highways and will then work with telcos and Crown Infrastructure Partners to plug the gaps. This is part of a long-term project to improve digital connectivity in rural Canterbury.

Education and training

Mayor Dan Gordon reported on his meeting with tertiary education providers, and with the Children’s University. As a region, Canterbury has been hit hard by the disruption of international education. Our education providers are also having to gear up quickly to provide education and (re-) training for people who have lost their jobs and are looking to re-skill.

The Forum’s next quarterly meeting will be held in August 2020.

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