Speech of the Delta Commissioner, Wim Kuijken, on his visit to the Rijnmond / Drechtsteden area on 1 March 2010

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ms Van de Hee, thank you for the warm welcome. This last week in particular, it has again become very clear that we live in politically hectic times. Within a short space of time, we will go to the ballot box twice. In March to elect city councils throughout the country and again in June to elect members of the Lower House of Parliament. From today, the State Secretary of Transport, Public Works and Water Management will serve as the Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. Unfortunately, the Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management was unable to be here today. The Delta Programme is a long-term project. We are working in advance of several future government cabinets to protect the Delta region. It is good that the cabinet has appointed a Delta Commissioner in order to guarantee continuity for the safety and freshwater supplies of this region.

First of all, I would like to thank Mayor Aboutaleb for his inspired words. You have chosen to become the chairman of the steering committee for the Rijnmond-Drechtsteden area. I am very happy about this choice. It underlines the necessity of keeping this region climate proof.

Rotterdam is leading the way in adapting to climate change. Your city has launched a Climate Initiative with an international face. Rotterdam is also working on an innovative water plan: the city is retaining increasing amounts of water on its public squares, on roofs and in canals.

I would like to compliment the administrators present here today on their involvement in and efforts for climate adaptation and on their willingness to serve in the steering committee.

-The attention you are giving to climate-proof water management and town and country development is entirely justified. We must also think about the region’s supply of fresh water. If sea levels rise, an increasing amount of salt water will make its way inland. Closing the region off to protect it from the sea has a wide range of consequences, including consequences for shipping and the drainage of our rivers. It presents us with a complex problem that stretches beyond the confines of the Rijnmond region.

The Delta Programme is a national programme in which, together, we are working energetically and integrally towards achieving greater water safety and a freshwater supply for the long term. This means that the national and regional governments have joined forces to look for solutions and determine the direction we must take.

The solution we choose for the Rijnmond region is not an isolated decision. Any decision taken for this area is closely linked with the development of other regions. Conversely, decisions taken in other regions are connected with developments in Rijnmond. It is therefore important that we work closely together on coming to coherent decisions within the Delta Programme. This is why the Delta Decisions have been developed: structured and (pre)condition decisions that are political by nature and give direction to the developments in several sub-programmes of the Delta Programme. The inventory I have taken up to now has produced four priority Delta Decisions:

    Basic decision on safety standards in 2011
    A strategy for freshwater supply in 2014
    Protection of the Rijnmond region in 2014 (preferably sooner)
    Water-level management in the IJsselmeer for the long term in 2015.

A decision on the direction of development in the Rijnmond region should therefore be taken at the national level, in conjunction with the other large tasks.

I invite you to join forces in the coming period with other relevant sub-programmes, such as Freshwater, South-western Delta, IJsselmeer and Rivers, in order to give substance to the Delta Decision for the protection of the Rijnmond region. Although we have the time to prepare ourselves for the work ahead, it is important to gain clarity in the short term on the direction the decision will take. This direction will provide clarity to governments, builders and investors. We cannot keep them on hold for too long, because we need to resolve a number of important spatial planning challenges. In the years to come, many new houses will be needed in the Randstad conurbation of the western Netherlands. This is not only a challenge involving numbers. The challenge also involves high-quality construction. This challenge is being taken up by Dordrecht at Stadswerven (city wharfs) and by Rotterdam at Stadshavens (city harbours). By the end of 2011, it should be clear which solutions and direction have the greatest chance of success.

Dear friends,

I am convinced that, together, we can unite energy and precision. I also know that we will take the right decisions at the right time. It is a good thing that we are making this work visit with each other today. Because it is vitally important for us to know how to approach one another over the years to come.

You can count on my support. It is one of the most important sub-programmes within the Delta Programme. In the coming period, the plan of approach for the Rijnmond-Drechtsteden area and the preparation of a Delta Decision for the area will play an important role in your discussions. I am looking forward to the meetings with you on this subject for the Delta Programme. Let us lay the foundation together for a safe future with sufficient supplies of fresh water.