Environment Waikato says it cannot delay the introduction of Project Watershed any longer, as delays will only compound the serious problems faced in managing the Region’s major rivers.
Submissions close on Monday on the project’s funding policy, which develops a new and fairer way to pay for flood protection work, vital soil conservation and river management in the Waikato and Waipa river catchments.
The Regional Council has been asked by Waikato District Council and other groups to consider extending the time for submissions, but has decided to stick to the original closing date as it is essential to make urgent progress. The Council has been consulting with the affected communities through liaison subcommittees for more than two years, and says it is well aware of the issues the communities want to raise.
Chairman Neil Clarke said Government subsidies had ended and the schemes had been under-funded over many years, leaving a legacy of debt and inequity which now had to be faced by the communities the schemes serve.
It was also “most undesirable” to extend the time for submissions as ratepayers would find themselves with catch-up instalments on their rates bills when annual plans for Environment Waikato, city and district councils were delayed.
He said the consultation process was expected to throw up the sort of issues that were currently before the Council, and it would work through them in the hearings and deliberations on Project Watershed.
“We have a good understanding of where the points of difference lie and are committed to achieving a fair and equitable outcome for the regional community. Our advice to people seeking more time is to signal their interest by lodging a pro forma submission by Monday and ask for a hearing date, where they can expand their concerns.”
He said submitters were welcome to table further comment at the hearings which effectively provided additional time.
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