With the stakes raised higher than ever under a Covid-19 climate and forecast of uncertainty with climate change, Christchurch City Council is reaching out to the public early as it looks to formulate its plan for the next decade. Louis Day reports.
The city council's Long Term Plan 2021-2031 will set the strategic direction of the council for the next 10 years, outlining the levels of service that will be provided throughout the city and infrastructure that will be prioritised.
It will also lay out how these objectives are paid for, either through rates or other means such as borrowing or juggling finances.
As chief executive Dawn Baxendale explains, traditionally local authorities would look to engage the public in the formal consultation period, which is not due to commence until March.
But this time around, the city council is looking to start a conversation early on in order to both engage and inform the public in the Long Term Plan process which will comprise of some significant decisions that will have a lasting impact on the city.
"What we are trying to do here is step back, and go ok if we are honest the level of understanding if you were walking down the street and said to anybody 'how do you feel about the Long Term Plan?' They would look at you quite blankly," Baxendale said.
She said the council needs to do some work beforehand and that is why it does not want to do the pre-engagement.
"This is about engaging people and informing them, by doing that and giving them some of the fundamental issues that we are facing, both opportunities and challenges, it gives people time to think and gives them time to consider before the document comes.
"We are trying to build awareness and trying to build knowledge so that when we get our feedback from the public in its many glorious guises, it will be more informed."
As part of this pre-engagement phase being dubbed "what's the right game plan?" The city council will be releasing a raft of opinion pieces from elected members and articles regarding major issues concerning the council on its news platform Newsline over the next month.
Topics will touch on the conditions of roads and footpaths, rates and transport amongst other things.
Key issues for the council to consider in its plan were affordability, delivery of the basics, responding to climate change and ensuring the public's voice is heard in the formulation of the plan, Baxendale said.
Balancing these priorities will be a difficult task for the council after it took a substantial hit from the pandemic, suffering a $99 million revenue shortfall.
Baxendale said upon the delivery of the plan she would be able to make further "efficiencies" to the organisation, with 50 roles being dissolved under her year of leadership already.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel said while the plan has to possess a 10-year focus in terms of the council's finances, it also has to have a 30-year focus when it comes to infrastructure.
"That takes us out to 2050 which is when we are thinking that infrastructure lens automatically challenges us to consider the impacts of climate change, sea-level rise, increased storm events, all of the elements that we need to take into account to ensure that our city is a resilient city," she said.
Dalziel said she wanted people to think about the need for the city to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels when approaching it.
The city council is aiming for Christchurch to be a carbon-neutral city by 2045. In the 2016/2017 financial year, Christchurch emitted an estimated 2,485,335 gross tonnes in carbon emissions.
With transport a key contributor to this, accounting for 53 per cent of emissions, the city council has decided to collaborate with Environment Canterbury for the first time ever on its plan as the region's public transport provider in a bid to help tackle this troubling statistic.
Water quality is another area of focus that will likely be required in the plan.
The Government has been reviewing the regulation of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater for the past three years in response to the Havelock North campylobacter outbreak that made more than 5000 violently ill and was linked to three deaths.
This review is almost certain to come to a conclusion during the lifetime of the Long Term Plan.
Christchurch has been made to have chlorine in its water for the past two years after it was revealed wells across the city did not meet safety guidelines which came as a result of the Havelock North incident.
Further regulations could be put in place upon the conclusion of the review.
Dalziel said it was important to factor in some form of investment to cater for the changes to water regulation that could arise from this review.
Dalziel also said throughout the Long Term Plan process she wanted to re-start a conversation around the "funding for water delivery," which is essentially charging households for excessive water use.
"There is going to have to be a mechanism to conserve water use for things like watering gardens and things that put pressure on our water supply at peak time and often the best way to do that is to introduce an excess charging regime."
This was proposed earlier in the year but was rejected by city councillors, with some believing the policy would disproportionately impact poorer suburbs. It would have charged those who exceed their household allocation which depends on the rating value of the property.
Houses with a lower value are given a lesser water allocation in comparison to houses with a higher value given a higher allocation.