Getting something done (and there's a lot to do) often comes down to building good relationships. One thing I'm grateful for as MP is the willingness of the people in key roles in Whangārei to talk about our differences and our shared goals and find a way forward.
For example, I talk often with relevant local authorities about state housing, and to those involved in the next steps for the Refinery.
Recently, I also held a hui on rising concerns over crime in Whangārei, and I was grateful to have our mayor, several councillors and our district police commander and his team answer the call and – more importantly – answer the community's questions.
The answers – that, while we're getting more fearful of crime, in fact, despite some very nasty incidents, overall crime isn't rising - led to quite different conclusions to those I had expected.
Our group focused on the need for all of us to strengthen our community by reaching out and rebuilding trust in one another: In other words, to building relationships, swapping information, and planning together.
Of course, being human, we don't always agree, but, as I see it, that's all the more reason to keep meeting: the less we agree, the more we need to talk.
One current discussion is over the Government's Three Waters plan to reform water management and investment in water infrastructure.
Information released last week shows we need $120 billion to $185b over the next 30 years to keep New Zealand's water infrastructure going, including some new infrastructure, but mostly maintenance and replacing aging pipes.
At present, 67 councils individually deliver water services, making trade-offs between spending on infrastructure or on the whole range of local priorities, all driven by a three-year election cycle.
Without reform, councils either have to find the money up front to make the needed long-term improvements to water, meaning our water bills will shoot up alarmingly, or leave infrastructure to become the next generation's problem as other priorities compete.
The Government proposes replacing council-run water with four large, publicly owned bodies responsible for water service delivery and longer-term planning and investment.
Where councils are limited on how much they can borrow, these larger water service entities would have more ability to make longer-term investments.
The Government has asked all councils to consider opting in to the new system. Whangarei District Council became the first to opt out, largely because we already have one of the better water systems. But those systems still have to be maintained over the long term.
The Government's projections are that even we are not immune from the challenges ahead.
Water rates are about $1800 annually, but in 30 years, government projections are that if we go it alone, Whangārei ratepayers will be footing annual water bills of about $4060.
Conversely, if we opt in, water rates should be only about $800.
Our council opted out a day before the Government released these figures. That doesn't mean council can't reconsider its decision, and I hope it will keep talking, both internally and to ratepayers and to central government.
Three Waters isn't the end of the Government's reform plans. We have set ourselves some ambitious targets for addressing long-neglected problems. Some, like our plans for once-in-a-generation health reforms, were warmly welcomed by our own district health board, but there are other big conversations to be had.
No doubt there'll be differing opinions, so I say: let's talk. As the old saying goes, we are stronger together.
• Emily Henderson is the electorate MP for Whangārei. She can be contacted at Emily.HendersonMP@parliament.govt.nz