Waikato residents can continue using Hamilton libraries, after a deal between Waikato District Council and Hamilton City Council was negotiated behind closed doors.
Last year, Waikato library users were left frustrated and angry as the Waikato District Council's agreement to allow its residents to use Hamilton City Council libraries ended abruptly, with negotiations breaking down between the two councils.
However, 10 months after Waikato district book lovers were outraged at losing access to the Hamilton libraries the city council has welcomed rural readers back after an agreement was signed off at the June 27 HCC council meeting, in a public excluded session.
The new library services agreement will run for three years from this month with the district council contributing just under $200,000 annually.
The amount is lower than the $250,000 that Hamilton City Council rejected in October 2018, with HCC originally wanting $300,000 for Waikato users to use its library services.
Councillor Paula Southgate last year told the Hamilton News that the council was using the library services as a bargaining chip, in a wider conversation about boundary changes, and that Waikato library users were falling victim to the debate.
The new agreement was part of wider discussions about growth issues and collaboration between local councils.
Hamilton Mayor Andrew King last week said growth in Hamilton and the wider region is exciting and is producing economic and social benefits.
Closer collaboration between the councils is a key factor in ensuring quality, sustainable growth in coming decades.
"This libraries agreement is a tangible example of how closer relationships between councils can provide benefits for the people we serve," Mr King said.
"We recognise our people live, work and socialise in their communities of interest, regardless of territorial boundaries.
"I've been very appreciative of the way staff and elected members between our councils have been able to work through this agreement in a way which puts our Waikato District residents first," he said.
Mayor Allan Sanson said he was pleased with the decision by Hamilton, saying that it represented a fair deal.
"Our residents living near to Hamilton City will again be able to have open access to Hamilton's libraries.
"This is an example of one of the many things our two councils are working through for the benefit of our collective population," Mr Sanson said."
If a deal was not struck, it would had cost Waikato ratepayers $80 a year each to use Hamilton libraries.
The libraries agreement comes at a time when both councils are working, along with Waipa District Council, on a shared metropolitan spatial plan for the region, a plan which sets out a long-term pathway for quality, sustainable growth for generations to come.
The councils are also partners in the Hamilton to Auckland Corridor Plan, which is designed to ensure environmental, social and economic sustainability for one of the country's highest growth areas.
The new agreement covers approximately 8000 Waikato District households in the southern area of Waikato District, a total of around 23,000 people.
More than 5000 submissions were made from Waikato residents on the HCC Library contract during WDC's 10-year plan process; included were Tamahere families whose children attend Hillcrest High School and frequently use the Hillcrest library, one minute from their school.
Waikato District Library members are able to use Waipa District, Matamata-Piako District and Hauraki District libraries for free.