Waitaki District Council – Leading with positivity

“There is a genuine willingness to approach things differently and to support positive development including how we work with our local businesses.”

Waitaki District Council’s new chief executive, Alex Parmley

Waitaki District Council’s new chief executive Alex Parmley is thrilled to be leading an aspirational council team with a big vision for the district.

Alex Parmley left behind a strong career in local government in the UK to accept the position in Ōamaru last July, having previously served as chief executive of South Somerset District Council. It had always been his intention to move here with his family, as his wife Elizabeth is a New Zealander.

“Ōamaru is a beautiful town and we are enjoying the opportunity to explore all that this amazing district has to offer. When we were looking to move back to New Zealand we wanted a great place for our family, a strong sense of community and an organisation with ambition and open to change. Waitaki ticks all those boxes.

“There is a genuine willingness to approach things differently and to support positive development including how we work with our local businesses.”

Shaping up to be a major drawcard for the district is the Waitaki Indoor Sports and Events Centre. Last year, there was excellent progress with fundraising and planning for the new centre, which is on track to become one of the best in New Zealand with indoor facilities that will attract regional competitions and events. Last October, the council confirmed the new centre would be located in Centennial Park, Ōamaru, and is working to ensure Waitaki businesses are involved in and benefit from the centre.

Those thinking about building a new home or business in the district will enjoy a speedy response from the council’s building consents team, recently rated one of the top six in the country for processing efficiency. Almost all incoming consents – 99.7 per cent – are processed within eight days on average, according to a recent MBIE performance report (for March-September 2021).

This top result is no accident, achieved through consultation with the industry, moving to digitized processing and recording, and promoting a service-focussed culture.

“The building industry is a really vital part of our local economy, providing new homes, commercial space and supporting our farming community. Ensuring a timely building regulation service is an important way we are supporting our local businesses and economy.

“We are currently working with our business community and other partners to develop a new Economic Development Strategy for the district. We see it as essential that we work closely with businesses to support their growth and the growth of the economy.

“We will also be working to ensure all our services and projects support our economic ambitions. Whether you are setting up a new firm or looking to grow, Waitaki is a great place to do business.”

Other initiatives are contributing to this sense of welcome. For example, the council is progressively extending free WiFi coverage in the district. The programme began in September 2020 with Ōmarama to Ōamaru Harbour and Palmerston. By last September, the coverage was further extended to Otematata and Hampden.

The people of Waitaki take a strong interest in their district. There was a high level of public engagement in last year’s spatial plans for Ōamaru, Weston and Kakanui, which will guide development of the district’s largest settlements. The District Plan review is continuing this year, bringing more opportunities for community feedback on the plan and various issues such as enabling housing growth, responding to climate change and managing natural hazard risks.

Creating jobs for local youth is an ongoing priority. Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher is part of the Mayors Taskforce For Jobs (MTFJ) network that helps support young people find appropriate education, training and work in their communities. The MTFJ Youth Launch programme in Waitaki helped 30 young people into jobs or apprenticeships last year, a real success for young people in the district and local employers.

Waitaki has also produced inventive solutions to help stimulate tourism and business. One example is ‘Virtual Waitaki,’ a resource for local businesses, schools and those wishing to explore the district from around the world.

Check it out at www.virtualwaitaki.co.nz

© Waterford Press Ltd 2022

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