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Published: 2004-03-25 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has new plans to protect the Region’s important ecological areas.

The Council is proposing a dedicated $5 per property rate to provide a dedicated fund for protecting natural heritage areas. The levy would raise $800,000 per year to be used for preserving natural coastal landscapes, maintaining and restoring natural habitat and protecting or enhancing other significant natural features, such as wetlands, geothermal features and caves.

Chairman Neil Clarke says the Council received public support for the concept when it was first put forward in last year’s Annual Plan. The Natural Heritage Partnership Programme had been developed to help address the intensive development pressure in some parts of the Region and assist in preserving or restoring important ecological areas.

Mr Clarke said that Environment Waikato was not looking to set up a series of Regional parks, such as those owned and administered by the Auckland Regional Council.

“We intend to work in partnership with district councils, Government, private landowners and the public to secure a permanent public interest in suitable areas. We will also help community efforts to enhance existing special places.”

Environment Waikato has already been asked to assist in two projects aligned with the development of the Natural Heritage programme, a 47 km pest-proof fencing of the Maungatautari Environmental Island and how to permanently protect Te Kouma farm, just south of Coromandel and make it accessible to the public.

The proposed levy is included in the Long-Term Council Community Plan, which is about to go out for public submissions. Submissions close on May 14.