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Plan launches new projects for Environment Waikato

Environment Waikato has launched major new projects to safeguard Lake Taupo’s water quality, protect natural heritage areas and improve Coromandel river management.

The Regional Council’s Long-Term Council Community Plan also adopted a new uniform annual rating charge and urban pest management targeted rate. The final Plan was adopted today, following more than 3100 submissions, the majority of which supported the new projects.

Chairman Neil Clarke said the largest part of additional rates collected this year would pay for new environmental projects that many ratepayers had asked for. In contrast, the General Rate revenue would increase by 3.7 percent – trimmed from 6.4 percent in the draft Long-Term Council Community Plan. The major new programmes launched today include:

  • A Natural Heritage Partnership Programme to protect special places and ecological areas. This proposal was very strongly supported in last year's Annual Plan and again this year. It will be funded through a rate of $5.62 per property.
  • A 15-year partnership with Central Government and Taupo District to halt the decline of Lake Taupo’s water quality. This project was developed over three years of discussion with residents and Government. It will be funded by a $9 rate per property this year, with significant contributions from Central Government and Taupo residents.
  • The Peninsula Project that combines river and catchment works to protect Coromandel residents from frequent flooding, stabilise streams and protect estuaries and harbours. This targeted rate will be paid only by Coromandel ratepayers.

The Regional Council also adopted two new mechanisms to pay for work that is already being done. The Council believes these new rates are fairer and more transparent for the public.

A new $5.20 per property Pest and Weed Control rate will replace funding that used to come from the General Rate. The new rate will be paid on properties under two hectares – mostly in urban areas -- to help control high threat plant and animal pests, like mothplant and Argentine ant.

It also pays for providing advice to landowners with plant and animal pest problems and will fund monitoring and enforcement of plant pest problems in urban and lifestyle areas.

After considerable discussion, Councillors agreed on a Uniform Annual General Charge of $35.77 per property. This reduces the General Rate to $31.75 per$100,000 of capital value. The uniform charge funds some services that benefit all ratepayers, which were previously funded from the General Rate.

Mr Clarke said each of the new projects had strong public support, although many people felt that the costs should be apportioned in other ways. Some submitters had also expressed concerns about rate increases or how rates were set. The Council had taken a balanced approach in choosing among competing funding methods.
“We have tried to devise fairer rating system to raise the funds needed for the work we do. Wherever possible, revenue is collected from those directly using a resource or benefiting from the work funded. More than half our total revenue is ‘targeted’ in this way.

“The cost of the work we must undertake to meet our legal responsibilities and community expectations is not small. For instance, navigation safety responsibilities were given to us by Government in 1999, and now cost almost $1 million a year. We are also regularly asked by the community to do more to ensure we have a healthy environment in our Region."

Mr Clarke said the Council tried to control costs in a variety of ways.

“We work more effectively and efficiently, but doing more with less can only go so far. We try to target our rates to those who benefit from or create the need for the work we do, and we control expenditure.”

"We believe this Long-Term Council Community Plan is a good plan that will allow us to successfully tackle some major environmental issues in the Region."

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