Funding opportunities, freedom camping and wastewater woes: Chris Rayner gives a community board update

Deputy chair of the Raglan Community Board, Chris Rayner, was in the studio with Aaron talking over some of the issues and opportunities circulating in the community this week.

Top of the bill was the unscheduled treated wastewater that was discharged into the harbour on 4 and 5 October.  Like Councillor Thomson, Chris describes the discharges as ‘gutting’ particularly because the council only became aware of them after the community board was alerted to a private post about the problem on the Raglan Noticeboard Facebook page. 

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“That annoyed us, that there were no other processes or alarms going off to alert them,” says Chris. 

“When we get a chance to chat to Watercare, there’ll be some ‘please explain’ conversations happening, but we’ve been assured that the problem has been resolved and the glitches in the computer system fixed.”

Chris feels more positive about the land-based wastewater treatment investigations that are underway for disposing of Raglan’s treated sewage. He says there’s been no formal proposal tabled yet, as investigations and discussions with landowners are still happening.

“It's a long ongoing process, but we do have confidence that Watercare and the council are doing due diligence on this process … and we really do hope to have a credible proposal coming forward in the next stage of the consenting process.”

Chris acknowledges that there have been reservations expressed by neighbouring landowners, but is hopeful they will be resolved once further science-based discussions are held on what exactly is being proposed. 

The level of treatment of the wastewater that’s going to be dispersed on the land will be vastly improved he explains, thanks to a new micro-bioreactor treatment that bring  the water’s status to just short of potable: “What they call almost drinkable”.

That will mean the product discharged onto the land is actually far cleaner than anything discharged or distributed onto land by conventional agriculture – for example animal excrement. 

“I think once neighbours know that, it will help overcome their concerns. That in fact there will be an improvement on how the land is currently used.”

Wi Neera Walkway

Chris confirmed that plans to improve the Wi Neera Street Walkway, between the jetty at the end of Bow Street and the footbridge to Papahua, are well underway, although the community board is yet to see a design. Work is likely to start in 2024.  

CCTV in the town centre

Waikato District Council is in discussion with Hamilton City Council and the police around the possibility of installing CCTV cameras in the town centre. Hamilton has a relatively sophisticated system in place and the two councils are discussing knowledge and technology sharing. 

Freedom camping

The freedom camping areas in Raglan have changed from earlier proposals, with the possibility of having a restricted overnight parking area in Stewart Street now off the table. 

Chris says the changes in requirements for vans to have built-in toilets, rather than just a porta-potty on board, come from central government and will slowly filter down now they are encapsulated in law.

“Vans that have been approved in the last year or two have got a grace period to upgrade themselves or have their freedom camping sticker expire. But all new vans have to comply with the new law and have a built-in toilet, with a tank, not just a cassette.”

Chris says this summer will be a good test for the new regime, with a long hot summer predicted, and more overseas tourists back in the country. 

Soundsplash Festival 

Soundsplash has complied with the new dates for providing its management plans for the January 2024 festival, after the council decided to bring those dates forward.

Chris says, “Bringing those dates forward has taken the pressure off everyone, so if there’s something that could be improved, they are able to identify that earlier before everybody breaks for the Christmas–New Year period.”

With the management plans lodged early they’ll be able to be approved “long before we get into the silly season.”

Community board discretionary fund

Some recent applicants to the community board’s discretionary fund – which is distributed to local community groups, not for profits and events – missed out on getting  a decision at this board meeting because they didn’t get their applications in on time to appear on the board’s meeting agenda. 

Chris advises that the normal cut off time approximately 10 working days before the meeting. The next meeting is in six weeks and he encourages any community group or nonprofit that needs some funding to get their project off the ground to get in touch with Ross Wallis who handles grants for the board.

“There is a bit of paperwork and form filling to do, so give yourself a couple of weeks to get all the right data together.”

Te Mata meeting

The community board will be holding one of its meetings in Te Mata early in 2024. This trimester, the board’s area expanded to include Te Mata and Te Uku and a meeting has already been held in Te Uku earlier in the year. 

“The board is keen to be present in those communities and hear from them now that they are included in the Raglan Community Board area,” says Chris.

Papahua governance

October 2023 marks 100 years since the tuku whenua was confirmed for Papahua.  Next week a report will be going before council recommending a Joint Management Agree between council and hapu. The JMA would be developed by both parties and would outline governance principles for the reserve.

Long-term plan review and rates increases

The council is in the midst of its three-yearly long-term plan review. The long-term plan covers 10 years, but is reviewed and refreshed every three years.

Councillors are required to take a district-wide approach to planning, but the community board takes a local view, advocating for the interests of the communities it represents. 

Chris says, “We've identified very early on that we don't want to see rates increases above inflation. So we don't want to see double-digit rates increases, and we passed a motion at yesterday’s meeting to that effect, just to reiterate our expectations that council doesn’t develop a long-term plan on that basis.”

Rates increases are affected by compounding factors, including inflation and escalating property prices, but Chris says that many local property owners found the council’s last round of rate increases hard to swallow. Homeowners pay both general rates based on property value and targeted rates, as well as flat fees for service delivery. 

Structure plan for Raglan

The community board has been trying to get the council to develop a structure plan for Raglan for a long-time now. Structure plans inform where things are located as a community grows. 

Chris says having a structure plan would enable the community to see what’s coming, in terms of growth and development, rather than allowing the process to be developer driven. Many people in Raglan feel as if they have inadequate say over how the town has developed. Chris says the board will continue to push for a proper structure plan that would look decades ahead. 

“A structure plan would enable us to make space for innovative technological companies or light industrial manufacturing; places that we can actually create jobs and add value to Raglan, rather than just subdivision after subdivision and more residential areas. At the end of the day, we need to create some industry if we are going to support a larger population base. It’s not sustainable that everyone works remotely or goes over the hill, we’ve actually got to have some job creation as well.”

Civil Defence

Chris says there has been good work done in the civil defence area, with Raglan Naturally putting together civil defence packs for people to use in an emergency. There will also be a stakeholder civil defence meeting in November to bring the community into the planning process. Anyone interested in being involved should contact the community board or councilor.