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Published: 2004-09-30 00:00:00

Environment Waikato ended its financial year with a surplus and work underway on several major projects.

The Council’s financial performance was well on target, and it ended the year with a $1.276 million net surplus. However the surplus was less than budgeted because of debt carried from Project Watershed and $1.6 million of timber royalties which will now not be paid until 2007.
The Investment Fund also performed better as international markets improved, and ended the year returning $5.6 million – well above the budgeted return of $4.76 million. The Fund now stands at just over $70 million, $2 million ahead of budget.

Chairman Neil Clarke said the good result reflected the Council’s steady investment policy since the fund began in 1993, and meant the average rate of return was above the 7.5 percent target, despite poor returns last year.

The Council completed its draft strategy for protecting Lake Taupo during the year. The health of the lake, considered a national treasure, is declining and the community had given a clear message that it wanted the lake’s water quality protected. The Council says the cost is high - $143 million over the next 15 years with less than half already committed as current spending.

“This is not a project that can wait and the methods include regulation and community change, but the benefits of protecting the lake are long-term and inter-generational.”

On the Coromandel, the Council provided technical support and hazard analysis, river and catchment management and community liaison support for Thames-Coromandel District Council as it worked with the community to find solutions for the area’s flood hazards. The Peninsula Project – which will cover the next 20 years – aims to improve the state of the Peninsula’s rivers and streams. Consultation with communities would continue throughout this project, the report says.

The Council had also been working on changes needed for water allocation policies to ensure water was shared fairly, efficiently and within environmental limits where there was high water demand.

Recommendations for change to its internal processes for allocating water would be implemented over the next year, including developing new methods for recording water use, developing allocation tools using GIS and telemetry. An issues and options paper would be distributed to selected use groups.

The Council has also completed its first year of work under its Biodiversity Action Plan, which changed the way it worked with other groups in the community to improve native plant and animal biodiversity.

Some of the work included planting 42,000 native plants along newly fenced rivers and streams funded through the Clean Streams Programme. The Council currently supports more than 450 landowners and 95,000 hectares of land with community possum control schemes which significantly improve the habitat value of native forests.