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New investment to help drive economic development

New activities to help drive regional economic growth feature in Environment Waikato’s 2011/12 draft budget.

After two days of discussions, the council has finalised the draft plan proposing a 2.3 per cent rates increase to existing ratepayers.

This translates into an increase of less than $20 for approximately 80 per cent of ratepayers. The amount includes the 2.5 per cent increase in GST introduced nationally last October.

Chairman Peter Buckley said the regional council supported projects that would help boost economic growth and position the Waikato region to maximise the advantages of being part of the ‘golden triangle’ with Auckland and Bay of Plenty.

“We are proposing $200,000 for new work streams that will help grow the region’s economy and repay the region’s investment many times over,” he said.

One area of work involves a proposal to start the development of a Waikato spatial plan to help encourage business investment. A spatial plan is a map showing existing and future location and mix of residential, business, rural and industrial activities, critical infrastructure, services and investment, hazard zones, historic heritage areas and recreational and green spaces.

A sum of $50,000 has also been included in the draft budget to advance a proposal for a regional carbon strategy which aims to enable Waikato landowners take advantage of the emissions trading scheme.

EW staff reports say farmers could improve profitability of their marginal land and have a positive impact on the environment by planting their steep and erosion-prone land in trees or allowing it to revert naturally to native bush, and then selling the carbon credits.

A request for $50,000 to increase monitoring of freshwater fisheries was included in the draft budget. This work will help show the effect of business and recreational activities on the environment.

Councillors deferred a decision on a proposal to include $600,000 in the capital budget to upgrade the Real Time Information System for the Hamilton city bus network. They will continue to fund maintenance of the current system and will wait to see the comprehensive business case scheduled to be completed later this year before committing funds to any new system.

The Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail service was also discussed. The multi-agency working group set up to look at the feasibility of the service recently called for three options to be investigated, but voted not to put any additional money into the project next year. EW has supported the working party’s recommendations.

EW, Waikato District and Hamilton City councils will be consulting extensively with the public in 2012 about people’s willingness to pay once the logistical, operational and infrastructural details around a twice-daily train service are worked through.

Other items in the budget include:

  • a total of $355,000 for EW’s contribution to the region’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group to help the region be better prepared for handling emergencies.
  • an increase of $206,000 for project management of the Tui Mine Remediation Project
  • $20,000 for regional signage
  • $650,000 for the Animal Health Board levy to maintain the Waikato Tb eradication programme (this is a targeted rate on rural land only) an additional $12,000 for clean heat incentives to help improve air quality

The council is scheduled to adopt the Draft Annual Plan on 10 March.

EW will consult with the public on the plan from 25 March to 26 April. It will hear submissions 16-20 May before adoption of the Annual Plan on 29 June.

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