Environment Waikato welcomed diverse points of view on the funding policy for Project Watershed – the three year project to establish long term funding for flood protection, soil conservation, and river management services in the greater Waikato Catchment.
Members of all five liaison subcommittees met in Hamilton today to discuss issues arising from the draft consultation document on the proposed level of service and funding policy, which is now open for submissions until April 8.
Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke thanked the committee members for their valuable contribution through what he described as “a very difficult exercise”.
The project is identifying the level of service required by the community and the fairest way to pay for those services. The liaison subcommittees have been meeting for the last two and a half years to present their community’s points of view.
He said the project so far had been like the first leg of a triathlon, and the second leg would begin with the hearings of submissions, when there was further opportunity to alter the draft proposals. The third leg may well be a High Court process, he said.
The most important issue was that many of the existing schemes had been under-funded in the past and if there were further delay, the deficits would continue to increase. Members of the subcommittees raised issues about the contributions of utilities, such as Transit and Tranzrail - which were unable to be rated - to the project, and supported Crown contributions to the costs.
Mr Clarke said the project had an important national objective and the principles would be pursued with vigour by Local Government New Zealand. Environment Waikato had met with Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs who would take concerns to Cabinet, and senior management of the power companies were aware of the project’s financial implications.
Concerns voiced by the subcommittees had been recorded and analysed, and the draft document was developed with this feedback taken into account.
Submissions on the draft consultation document are open until April 8, with submissions heard in April and May. The Council will adopt the funding policy on June 27 and rates struck in July.
“We’re not yet in a position to say we have reached a unanimous decision, but I hope we have developed a draft that will be helpful for the community to respond to.”
The draft funding policy is now available from Council offices and on the website. People can also find out their property-specific rate using their valuation number.