Healthy water is emerging as a clear frontrunner for what locals say Northland Regional Council should be paying attention to into the next 10 years.
The call was overwhelmingly clear at the council's first informal community pop-up stalls, held at weekend produce markets as part of initial scene setting to put together its 2021-2031 Long Term Plan (LTP).
About 200 people had their say at the Whangārei growers market last Saturday about what they wanted NRC to be focusing on into the next decade.
The pop-up stalls were originally planned for May but were shifted to this month because of Covid-19.
NRC strategy, policy and planning manager Kyla Carlier said healthy waters for our people and the environment emerged as the clear winner among the six work theme areas for community outcomes the LTP addressed.
Punters voted by dropping handmade ping-pong ball sized recycled paper woven balls into six work theme areas of their choice.
They each had only three balls to use, giving an understanding of the challenges of best managing the region's resources within a limited budget.
Native life that is protected and flourishing was the next most popular LTP community outcome after water.
The others were resilient adaptable communities, meaningful relationships with tangata whenua, a strong and sustainable economy plus safe and effective transport networks.
Carlier said people had started wanting to have their say with the balls - woven out of recycled no-longer needed NRC documents - whilst NRC crew who arrived at 6.30am to set up were still trying to do so for the official 7am event beginning.
Demand continued with people still wanting to have their say as the stall had to start packing down for the market's 10am closing.
Further pop-up stalls are planned this month for local weekend markets at Kerikeri, Paparoa and Kaitāia along with a second Whangārei visit.
NRC chair Penny Smart said the public input would help steer the plan's early development. Council would be developing LTP proposals over coming months, ahead of formal consultation in March/April.
"Like all councils, we have to work out what the priorities are, what services we can deliver and of course, how it's all paid for.
"Planning for the next three, 10 and even 30 years is always a real balancing act, but that's especially true in these challenging times," Smart said.
The new decade-long 2021-2031 plan will replace the current 2018-2028 LTP. The decade-long plans are put together anew every three years.
Waipu relief teachers Cathy and Ian Duffield said it was great to have an opportunity to discuss potential work areas in this way.
Whangārei's Trish Matthews said water was definitely the most important area for council to work on.
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