Tracking Progress in the Waikato Region

Life certainly takes some strange twists and turns  sometimes, and in my case some of these persist.

This month’s blog was initially going to be about my latest published report – and it still is, but with a more personal context. That’s because I just checked back through my monthly blog posts and couldn’t find one specifically on this topic. Which seems a bit weird,  consider this topic generally occupies at least a few hours of my time each and every month.

Huser and Killerby (2018)  summarises the latest available results from the Waikato Progress Indicators (WPI), a community progress monitoring programme funded and maintained by Waikato Regional Council. The WPI website shows  the current situation and trends across each of 32 key economic, environmental and social aspects which together give a ‘dashboard’ picture of the wellbeing of the Waikato region and quality of life of its people and communities. This includes a report card and ‘circle diagrams’ to enable readers to rapidly visualise the current state and trends in the region.

The idea of the WPI is to support the Regional Council and its partner-stakeholders identify where the region is doing well; where it needs to improve; and to some degree, how changes in one aspect are linked with changes in others. These stakeholders include Iwi (Māori tribal leaders), Hamilton City Council, district councils, Waikato Mayoral Forum, Waikato District Health Board, the Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency and many others, including non-government organisations.

My role in the programme, apart from co-authoring an occasional update report, is to provide data management and intelligence support to the Regional Council on a part-time, casual basis. This predominantly means keeping a schedule of which of the 32 community indicators’ data (and a wide range of secondary and territorial authority-level data) gets updated when, and thus keeping the data sheets and analysis current and ready for uploading to the web.

My involvement in the WPI goes back almost 15 years. Initially, in 2004 whilst a Social Research Officer at Rotorua District Council, I contributed ideas in various regional forums relating to the identification, prioritisation and monitoring of community outcomes in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions. Subsequently, as Senior Policy Officer at Hamilton City Council, and then as Strategic Policy Manager at South Waikato District Council, I was an active member of the Choosing Futures Waikato Community Outcomes Project Team, and also the Waikato Monitoring and Reporting Community Outcomes (MARCO) project team tasked with developing community outcomes progress indicators for Waikato Region.

The Waikato regional progress monitoring programme has seen many changes over the years, including name changes. Thanks largely to the persistence of my collaborator, Dr Beat Huser, the programme continues to be maintained and enhanced. The most recent enhancement opportunity, currently under consideration, is to improve website functionality along with links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using the Tracking Progress data visualisation tool. This was developed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to help communities more easily customise and visualise their indicator data using maps, graphs and charts.

So, is the Waikato Region on track? There have certainly been some gains in the region as indicated by the WPI data, such as reduced levels of air particulates in some areas and less road crashes across the region. However, unfortunately more of the indicators have gone backwards than forwards over the past decade or so, including (in declining order of scale):

  • Poorer perceptions of community engagement
  • Less physical activity
  • More rural subdivision
  • Higher water use
  • Lower perceptions of safety
  • Lower levels of cultural respect
  • Worse perceived health
  • Lower levels of community pride
  • Poorer coastal habitats
  • Fewer Te Reo Māori speakers.

So what next for me in terms of the WPI programme? I’ll just keep watching and updating from afar, hoping that key regional an local stakeholders have the wherewithal and wisdom to address some of these adverse trends. Kia kaha Waikato.

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