Waikato's bid to secure government economic stimulus money is off to a roaring start with nearly 80 per cent of Waikato projects over the first hurdle.
Regional leaders were advised last night that 18 of the region's 23 shovel-ready projects had made the first cut. They have now been sent to the Minister of Economic Development Phil Twyford and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones for further assessment.
Proposals still in the mix include a plan to dramatically improve walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure in Hamilton, enhancements to the Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service, an upgrade of tourist routes in the Waikato district as well as sports field development, a new entrance for the Hamilton Zoo and Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, development of Hamilton's gully network and supporting the Ruakura, Peacocke and Rotokauri growth cells.
In Waipa, a proposal for massive upgrades to waters infrastructure and well as support for new housing areas in Cambridge remain under consideration.
In addition, four projects have been sent to the Provincial Development Unit for consideration. They are the development of a Pan Pasifika Hub in Hamilton, the Hamilton to Cambridge section of the Te Awa cycleway, and two projects to upgrade infrastructure at Hamilton Airport.
Only one project put forward from the region has not made the short-list.
Waikato District Mayor and Waikato Mayoral Forum Chair Allan Sanson said today's news was welcome given the grim economic outlook nationally.
"Let's be clear, there is still a long way to go," Sanson said.
"But the region looks to be well ahead of the national strike rate compared to other parts of the country. That's a reflection of the very good planning work around the Auckland to Hamilton corridor and it reflects that spatial planning for our region is very well-regarded in Wellington."
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said while she was not celebrating yet, she and other Hamilton City Councillors were "cautiously optimistic" and were hugely proud of the work from Council to get this far. She noted the "top-notch" relationships with neighbouring Councils and said strong partnerships would be key going forward.
"I understand less than half of projects put forward across the country have made it through to the next stage so the Waikato region and Hamilton City have done extremely well to this point. We have put forward credible projects that meet the exacting criteria the government was looking for and which, if supported, have the potential to be transformational," she said.
"Now it's a case of doing whatever we can to keep the momentum going to make sure at least some of that government stimulus money ends up in the Waikato and in Hamilton."
Waipa Mayor Jim Mylchreest agreed the joint Council approach had paid dividends and said the Waikato had put up a strong and cohesive case for government support.
"Again, let's not count our chickens because there is a way to go yet and there will be plenty of other parts of New Zealand also making a strong case for government support. But the fact that so many of our projects are firmly in the mix is testament to the fact that we understood what the government wanted, and we responded accordingly. Now it's a case of wait and see."
Decisions about what projects will be supported across the country are not expected for a number of weeks.