Taranaki Regional Council ready for future as Annual Report adopted

Welcoming back fans to Yarrow Stadium, a 28% per cent rise in bus passengers and securing $2.5m in Towards Predator-Free Taranaki funding were among the notable success stories for Taranaki Regional Council in the last financial year.

The 2022/2023 Annual Report, which was adopted at today’s Ordinary Meeting, shows the Council has invested to deliver a major increase in work programmes resulting from the introduction of a raft of regulatory changes by the Government including how freshwater is managed.

“There has been an unprecedented level of change stemming from Government reforms of the areas we look after which has meant we’ve had to ensure we have the right people in place to manage expanding and new work programmes right across the Council,” says Chair Charlotte Littlewood.

Many of the regulatory reforms have started to come into effect following the introduction of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package in 2020. To meet the requirements around protecting waterways, the Council has ramped up work on creating a new Natural Resources Plan for Taranaki.

“The Government is also replacing the Resource Management Act that contained all our rules and regulations for the last 30 years so we’re working out how we will operate in a new environment while continuing to support livelihoods, take our region forward and deliver value-for-money services for our community.”

The budget deficit of $1.35m was $400,000 behind the $0.95m deficit forecast in the 2021-2031 Long-Term Plan as the Council faced lower fees and some cost pressures.

Prudent use of the Dividend Equalisation Reserve, grown through the Council's long-standing ownership of Port Taranaki Ltd, enabled the Council to keep the budget deficit at a lower level while funding additional resourcing amid the transformation of the regulatory landscape.

Figures show the Council’s work in caring for Taranaki and working with communities continued at pace with the doubling of the Zero Possum project as part of the Towards Predator-Free Taranaki initiative after securing $2.5m of Government funding while 300,000 riparian plants were provided to landowners.

The completion of work on Yarrow Stadium’s West Stand saw fans return to the New Plymouth venue in September 2022 and the three regional gardens – Pukeiti, Hollard Gardens and Tūpare – were enjoyed by more than 123,000 visitors. Public transport continued to rebound after Covid-19 with a 27.6% increase in passengers from the previous year to nearly 700,000 bus users.

Two community conversations were held including the ‘Let’s Kōrero’ engagement on the future of freshwater and the proposed creation of Freshwater Management Units while ‘The Road Ahead’ conversation asked for views about public transport, road safety and speed and how to get people cycling and walking more.

Elections in October also saw a change at the Council with Mrs Littlewood named as Chair, following the decision by former Chair David MacLeod not to re-stand for election. Neil Walker was chosen as Deputy Chair. Bonita Bigham was elected to the Taranaki Māori Constituency in the first election since this constituency was created.

A summary of the Annual Report will be published in community newspapers in October, and the full document will be available on the Council website.