Environment Waikato is welcoming significant progress towards having the Crown recognise its obligations to act as a "good neighbour" under regional pest management strategies. The council hopes this will ultimately mean that the Government pays a fairer share of regional pest management costs.
The Crown is not currently required to comply with regional pest rules on Crown land and this creates an inequity with other landowners and occupiers.
That has led to complaints that land treated for pests by regional councils and landowners has been re-infected by pests from adjoining Crown land.
Regional councils – including EW, which carries out extensive pest control to protect farming and biodiversity - have been lobbying hard to remove the Crown exemption from regional pest management strategy compliance.
EW’s regional pest management committee has today learned that a forum of regional council and Government agency CEOs has agreed to recommendations that should ultimately see all landowners meeting their obligations under regional pest management strategies.
"Cabinet has yet to sign off on this agreement but we are encouraged by the progress," committee chairman Simon Friar said after the meeting.
"Moves to get Government to take greater responsibility will ensure the ratepayers’ money we spend carrying out pest management to protect our environment and economy is more effective. There is still work to be done but we are hopeful the forum agreement provides a way forward for the Crown to better meet its ‘good neighbour’ responsibilities."
The agreement seeks greater engagement from the Department of Conservation and other Crown agencies in the development of regional pest management strategies so councils and Crown can improve coordination and priority setting for pest management across the landscape.
Cr Friar said another sign of progress for councils was that the Government intends to introduce a Biosecurity Amendment Bill next year which will help clarify the roles of Government and regional councils over pest incursion responses and marine pests.
"We will maintain a close watch on the development of this legislation to try to ensure that regional ratepayers and land occupiers are treated fairly and get the best arrangements possible when it comes to cost-sharing and effectiveness of pest management."