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Published: 2001-12-13 00:00:00

Property owners in the Lower Waikato could see nearly half the cost of maintaining their flood protection schemes shared with other parties under the draft funding policy put forward by Environment Waikato as part of Project Watershed.

Project Watershed is a major consultation programme being carried out by the Regional Council to develop a new equitable funding policy for soil conservation, river management and flood protection works across the greater Waikato-Waipa catchment.

Members of the Lower Waikato Liaison Sub Committee were told last week that the proposed split between beneficiaries and contributors would see property owners levied 40 per cent of the cost of local flood protection works as direct beneficiaries. The remaining cost would be shared with others, including all regional ratepayers and utilities.

However, Environment Waikato said the cost sharing split was not a subsidy but an apportionment of contributor and beneficiary effects, as assessed by scientists and other technical experts. This is required by law.

The cost sharing recognised what Lower Waikato committee members had been saying all along – that a number of people benefit from the flood protection schemes and not just those living in the area.

Franklin representatives on the liaison-subcommittee said they believed that the flooding problems in the Lower Waikato were a direct result of the Tongariro Power Development which diverted extra water into the Waikato catchment. As such, the Crown and its power company SOEs should continue to pay for mitigation works and ongoing maintenance, they said.

However, a majority of committee members agreed to support the principles of Project Watershed and the indicative levels of rating shown in the draft funding policy as the starting point for formal consultation.

Under the proposals, Lower Waikato management zone ratepayers will pay a zone rate of $10.97 per $100,000 of capital value.

Consistent with the other six management zones, Lower Waikato ratepayers would be expected to pay, per $100,000 capital value, a contributor rate of $4.04, regional rate of $2.17 and a catchment rate of $2.63, for total Project Watershed rates of $19.81 per $100,000 capital value.

Differential rates for direct flood protection benefits would be on top of this.

The latest meeting by the Lower Waikato Liaison Sub Committee marked the end of an informal public consultation round that has been ongoing for more than 18 months.

Formal consultation will begins in March with the new funding policy to be in place for the 2002-2003 rating year.