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Published: 2012-03-13 00:00:00

Waikato local authority leaders have today formed a new group to strengthen opportunities for collaboration and drive regional initiatives.

The new governance group was established at the regular Triennial Agreement Forum of the region’s 12 local authorities, comprising the mayors of the 11 local councils and the chair of the regional council.

Its main role will be to provide a collective voice to central government, its agencies, the business community and other interested parties on issues of importance to the Waikato.

Chaired by Matamata-Piako Mayor Hugh Vercoe, with vice-chairs Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker and regional council chair Peter Buckley, the group will initially operate as a regional governance forum.

“Our role is to collectively advocate for the region and identify those strategic initiatives and projects that will drive the Waikato forward,” Mr Vercoe said.

“By working as a united forum in the first instance the group will have the flexibility to respond swiftly and appropriately to changing circumstances, at sub-regional, regional and national levels.”

The group will adopt a memorandum of understanding and consider development of regional strategies and work priorities at its first meeting on 7 May.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said: "It is time the region takes a leadership role in New Zealand. In the past the Waikato has not had a strong enough voice and that needs to change."

Waikato regional council chair Peter Buckley said the region’s economic, environmental, cultural and social success lay in having strong unified regional governance.

“This is a positive step in ensuring the Waikato has a common direction and vision to inform and guide strategic issues.”