Planning for the region's growth, cost of living, and transport and roading networks are the three biggest issues facing Tauranga and the Western Bay, according to a new report.
The Acorn Foundation's Vital Signs 2018 research report, released today, surveyed 1939 local residents – 1047 from Tauranga and 892 from Western Bay of Plenty.
Fifty per cent of respondents said planning for the region's growth was one of the biggest issues, 40 per cent said it was the cost of living and 39 per cent opted for transport and roading networks.
Drug and alcohol abuse was identified as one of the most serious issues facing the region by 22 per cent of respondents and caring for the environment by 21 per cent.
Acorn Foundation general manager Nicky Wilkins said it was important for Acorn as a local funder to know it was responding to the needs identified by the community.
"[It's important] that we are actually funding the charities in the sectors where the community think funding needs to be made."
Wilkins, who announced this month she would be stepping down from her role, said she was proud to have been involved in bringing Vital Signs to the Western Bay.
It was the second Vital Signs study of the area - the first was released in 2015.
"I can now see that it's an incredibly valuable tool for this region."
The report also looked at community perceptions of social and cultural wellbeing, health and well-being, economic well-being and environmental well-being, as well as 14 sub-categories.
No sub-category or overall topic received an A grade (excellent) in the report, with the highest score being a B (good) for the economy and sports and recreation.
However, grade improvements were made in nine of 14 sub-categories reviewed since 2015.
The lowest grade this year was C (average) for housing and reducing inequity, which also received the lowest grade in 2015.
Tauranga's mayor, Greg Brownless, said the main issues raised were not surprising.
"When you look around, those things do hit you immediately. The traffic hits you, the transport, housing – we read about that just about every day. Especially transport, we've seen the place choke up over the last few years."
He also agreed the cost of living in Tauranga was an issue and said prices here, especially for food, were expensive in relation to incomes.
Brownless believed reducing inequity was a responsibility of the Government.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder said many of the concerns raised were echoed in the proposed 2018-2028 Long Term Plan due to be released this week, for public feedback by March 19.
The plan outlined how the council planned to tackle challenges such as supporting growth and development while maintaining healthy environments, clean water and sustainable public transport networks throughout the region in the coming decade, he said.
Tauranga-based Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said a lot of the issues highlighted in the report were on the radar and key government ministers would be travelling to the region in the next couple of months to talk to local people in those areas.
Tinetti said she had already met with the Western Bay District Council to begin that process and would be meeting with the Tauranga City Council shortly.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the main issues mentioned by Vital Signs 2018 did not come as a surprise to him either and were actually signs of success ultimately - "this is a place people want to be, it's got a dynamic economy".
But those issues did need to be addressed, he said, and this was a valuable report for looking at them.
"We need good planning and funding and I'm worried about those things because it seems that the biggest urban area [Auckland] seems to be hoovering up this new Government's attention."
The full report can be found at: www.acornfoundation.org.nz/vital-signs.html