Over the next few days you may see a bus load of unusual tourists taking in some of our local sights.
They won't be visiting our world-famous beaches, mountains and forests; instead, these particular visitors will be enjoying such highlights as Port Nikau, Pohe Island, Whangārei Airport and the Bascule carpark.
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They'll be touring the Hundertwasser construction site and visiting our Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant Project.
No, these are not your average tourists; the Board of Infrastructure New Zealand is visiting Whangārei to gain a first-hand perspective on our infrastructure projects, plans and challenges.
Infrastructure New Zealand is an independent organisation of industry professionals, providing support and advice to local authorities on matters of infrastructure, and advocating to central government.
Each year, the Infrastructure NZ Board of Trustees selects one district to visit – and this year we've made the cut. This is great news, as it shows that we're firmly on the map for Infrastructure NZ and, with the recent Government announcement of a $12 billion infrastructure investment, timing couldn't be better.
Not only will Infrastructure NZ be sharing industry insights and experience with us, they'll also be paying close attention to the infrastructure needs of our district.
Infrastructure New Zealand believes there is a need for more coordinated long-term and national infrastructure development strategies, and I couldn't agree more.
Whangārei District Council is involved in the maintenance and management of assets ranging from the magazines in your local library, through to 100-year-old pipes deep underground.
We need to plan appropriately, knowing when to repair, replace or renew each of these assets takes meticulous long-term planning with regular revision. The Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant Project is a good example.
Our existing Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant is more than 50 years old. About 15 years ago, discussions began about upgrading it. Seven years ago, we began evaluating costs of an upgrade compared to funding for a new, modern plant and, four years ago, the decision was made to proceed with a new build.
The projects that occur around our district are not spur of the moment, last-minute decisions. All council infrastructure projects are part of a detailed 30-year Infrastructure Strategy, which is built into our 10-year Long Term Plan, which is itself refreshed every three years.
The Annual Plan provides a real-time snapshot of where all of our plans, projects and strategies sit, and all of these documents are in the public domain.
Ensuring our 30-year Infrastructure Strategy is coordinated on a regional and national planning level is crucial. It is through the strong advocacy and support from organisations such as Infrastructure NZ that more region-specific planning can take place, combining resources and funding to achieve the best results for everyone.
There is no doubt the major projects planned for our district will affect our entire region, and in association with the New Zealand Upgrade Programme announcements this visit is a fantastic opportunity to put Whangārei on the national infrastructure radar.