OPINION: The Waikato Regional Council last week announced good progress was being made on shaping a more prosperous and efficient future for Waikato. It then said "business groups and others" would be invited to apply to sit on a joint committee overseeing "a new regional spatial plan" being developed by the Waikato Mayoral Forum. At first blush, the council and forum are parroting the verbal pomposity of their bureaucrats. A spatial plan was proposed by some forum members earlier this year - but what is it? Actually, it's much the same - but on a grander scale - as the plan householders implement when placing furniture in a room. "Spatial" describes how things fit together in a certain space and the distance between them. It can be applied to the relationship between Earth and Mars or to what goes where in your lounge: the settee will sit here, the television will go there and so on.
"Spatial planning" is a comparatively recent addition to the governmental lexicon. It refers to ways of influencing the distribution of people and activities in spaces of various scales and embraces disciplines and council work with which we should be familiar - land-use planning, urban planning, regional planning, transport planning, environmental planning, economic planning, community planning . . . Councils also prepare annual plans and long-terms plans, each calling for public input. So much work is done at the planning stage, indeed, that we should be pleasantly surprised when something is done. The regional council confirmed its support for the development of a draft spatial plan for Waikato early last month. Cr Bob Simcock said then that "spatial planning is core business" and it was "essential that all decision-makers for the Waikato have a common voice and use the same base data".
Forum chair Allan Sanson similarly said last week the mayors want to work closely with a wide range of groups and individuals, including business "and other stakeholders". That's all of us. But only five non-local government representatives will sit on the joint committee, including its independent chair. A spatial report, perhaps, determines how many people can sit comfortably around the table. The rest of us will accept we can't all fit in but we must demand we have an effective say before anything is signed and sealed.
- Waikato Times