Hamilton and Tauranga mayors are keen to work more closely on ensuring their cities have aligned infrastructure and spatial planning strategies.
In a statement released by Tauranga City Council, Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell and Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said they wanted to enhance links between their two high-growth cities to support economic growth and social outcomes.
The pair said they had identified some "priority issues" critical to the future wellbeing of each city.
Both mayors believed understanding and protecting key transport connections between Hamilton and Tauranga, specifically the Port of Tauranga, was " key" to the upper North Island and national economies.
Already the Waikato-Tauranga sub-region was a key player in New Zealand's freight and logistics system the statement said.
Huge volumes of freight passed through Waikato's road and rail networks and the future location of ports – both sea and land – was critical to the national transport system and national economy.
Hamilton already had an inland port at Crawford St and there was an inland freight hub at Horotiu in the Waikato district.
A further inland port was planned for Ruakura within the Hamilton city boundary.
Tenby and Southgate said protecting and developing the North Island main trunk line and east coast rail corridors for inter-regional freight should also be a priority.
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The pair were calling for a comprehensive review of the North Island logistics and freight system before final decisions were made around moving the Port of Auckland, potentially to Northland.
"Hamilton has put a lot of emphasis, quite rightly, on the Hamilton to Auckland corridor and there has been some excellent work done in that space," Southgate said.
"The Waikato Mayoral Forum under Mayor Allan Sanson plus the FutureProof and SmartGrowth leadership groups chaired by Bill Wasley are doing great work for our wider region. But Hamilton can't lose sight of the Hamilton-Tauranga connection," she said.
"We need to make sure any changes to New Zealand's ports fully consider the exporting and logistics roles of our two cities, given they are already so closely linked.
"It's important we work together to deliver a competitive supply chain network that allows us to plan for future challenges and leverage future opportunities."
Powell said the likelihood of a progressive scaling-down of the Port of Auckland's activities in future years would make efficient transport links between Hamilton and Tauranga critical for exports from the upper North Island.
It's an area which generates more than half of the country's GDP.
Powell said this confirmed the need for a joined-up planning approach.
We believe that now is the right time to explore potential linkages between the Waikato's FutureProof economic development strategy and the Western Bay of Plenty's SmartGrowth plan," he said.
Both mayors noted the cities already share significant and growing education and research capability activities through the University of Waikato campuses.
The mayor had also taken on board the Government's directive that regions must work collaboratively and have well-aligned planning strategies to promote both economic growth and the wellbeing of communities.
"Our cities have common interests in many respects and as the country looks to recover from the impacts of Covid-19, now is the time to demonstrate leadership and a willingness to combine our strengths for the regional and national good," Powell said.
Tauranga and the wider Western Bay of Plenty sub-region were already grappling with the infrastructure challenges created by sustained population growth, he said.
"There's absolutely no doubt that a collaborative approach with Government and our key regional partners is the most effective way of dealing with those challenges.
"It seems equally obvious that there is much to be gained in working closely with Hamilton City, to ensure that our road and rail infrastructure will support the inevitable growth of exports through the Port of Tauranga."
Powell and Southgate also noted that education was also an "export product' which attracts overseas students and generates considerable revenue for their cities.
"Any joint initiative which supports the growth of University of Waikato's course delivery will be mutually beneficial and we look forward to working with the University's leadership team to help promote its future growth," Powell said.
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