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Published: 2008-03-14 00:00:00

Environment Waikato councillors are proposing a total rates revenue increase of approximately $4 million or 6.8 per cent following yesterday’s adoption of the 2008/09 Draft Annual Plan.

Total rates revenue is the sum of money required from rates to fund all Environment Waikato activities for the next financial year, from air quality to water management. The impact of this increase on ratepayers differs across the region depending on the value of their property, whether the property has been recently revalued and the services their community receives.

Rates revenue will contribute $62.9 million toward the proposed $91.9 million total revenue budget. The balance of income comprises government grants, investment fund returns, interest, consent holder charges, bus fares and other direct charges.

The proposed increase is well below the 12.4 per cent rates revenue increase forecast in the 2006-16 Long-Term Council Community Plan.

The reduction from long term forecast has been arrived at by cutting the regional pest management budget by $1.4 million. Further reductions have been achieved by deferring the introduction of some bus services and reducing the Protecting Lake Taupo rate.

Environment Waikato estimates the impact of inflation across all its activities in 2008/09 will be 4.8 per cent. This takes into account inflation rates of 7 to 15 per cent in the transport sector from rising fuel and labour costs, and 5 per cent increase in construction and contract costs for river and catchment services.

In dollar terms, approximately $2.5 million of the $4 million rates increase is required to cover the impact of inflation.

Operating expenditure is up $1.6 million on last financial year.

Work that will be funded by rates in 2008/09 includes:

  • further improvements to Hamilton’s bus services, including the introduction of Sunday services and more Orbiter services (only Hamilton ratepayers fund these services)
  • control of highly-invasive plants, such as alligator weed, climbing spindleberry and old man’s beard
  • animal pest control throughout the region to protect native biodiversity, maintain agricultural productivity, improve soil health and reduce erosion
  • a project to understand the effects of land use intensification and deforestation in the Waikato River catchment above Karapiro dam.

At its meeting yesterday, the council further trimmed the 2008/09 budget by $166,000, reducing the targeted rate each property contributes toward protecting Lake Taupo from $18 a year to $16.60.

The reduction accounts for the growth in the number of properties in the region increasing contributions to the fund.

The change will not affect Environment Waikato’s 33 per cent contribution to the total $81.5 million required for the Protecting Lake Taupo project, the largest environmental project of its type.

The council has also offered the public options for reducing costs further by offering various levels of service for pest management and bus services.

In each case, the council has indicated its preferred option, but final decisions on levels of service and costs will be determined through consultation with the community.

The Draft Annual Plan will be open for public consultation until May 1. Documents will be available on the website or call 0800 800 401 to get a full copy of the draft plan from March 31.