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Published: 2004-03-12 00:00:00

Ratepayers in Taupo District and the Waikato Region have been told of proposals to help pay the $81.5 million needed over the next 15 years to protect Lake Taupo from the effects of nitrogen runoff.

In a joint statement, Environment Waikato and Taupo District Council have released their proposals for funding the costs of Lake protection. The $81.5 million total cost is being jointly funded by the Government, Environment Waikato and the Taupo District Council.

Government has already announced it will fund 45 percent of the cost ($36.7 million) with taxpayer funding. Ratepayers in the Taupo district will contribute 22 percent or $17.9 million. Ratepayers in the rest of the Waikato Region will contribute 33 percent or $26.9 million. Because Taupo District is part of Environment Waikato’s Region, its 22 percent contribution will be a combination of Regional and district rates.

Under the joint proposals, Regional Council ratepayers, including those in the Taupo district, pay $9 in the 2004 – 05 year and $18 in the following and subsequent years. The rest of Taupo district’s share will come from district rates phased in over two years:

  • A targeted rate ($60 excl GST) for all Taupo township and other urban ratepayers in the catchment. Lakeshore settlements, rural accommodation, rural residential, rural commercial/industrial and forestry interests are included in this category.
  • A targeted rate ($25 excl GST) for ratepayers outside the Lake catchment.
  • A rate based on land value for rural ratepayers in the Lake catchment. 

Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said his Council had received overwhelming support from the community to take action now to protect the Lake’s water quality.

“Our aim is to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Lake by 20 percent over the next 15 years. We are equally concerned for community well-being and the changes necessary to protect the environmental, economic, cultural and spiritual values of the Lake.”

“The downgrade in water quality in the Lake is not just something detected by scientists – it has been noticed by people who use the Lake and they want something done about it quickly. We will be working closely with the District Council and the local community to make sure that process of change is well managed.”

Mr Clarke said that if action was not taken now the quality of the Lake would continue to decline until it presented a more serious problem which would be much harder to reverse.

“The Government’s national contribution makes it possible for the Regional and district communities to meet the rest of the cost.”

Taupo Mayor Clayton Stent said it was generally accepted that people who lived in the Taupo area and enjoyed the Lake would logically need to contribute financially. Government and Regional contributions meant that protection strategies could be implemented sooner. After careful consideration and debate, the Council had focused on a district funding split that recognised contributing factors but was equitable and affordable.
"I believe that the package represents a significant achievement for the district and provides the best opportunity we will get to do what’s necessary to protect the Lake. As part of the LTCCP process we will be talking to the community about the proposals and finding out what they think," Mr Stent said.

An Environment Waikato survey conducted last November showed that 93 per cent of people in the district were aware that the health of Lake Taupo was deteriorating. Over 70 percent said that restricting nitrogen outputs from rural land, upgrading sewage treatment and conducting research into low-nitrogen management systems was a good approach.

Mr Clarke said the $81.5 million would be used to establish a joint public fund to spread the burden of change more evenly across the community. Principally, the fund would be used to facilitate changes in land use around the Lake, purchasing private land on the open market and covenanting it to low-nitrogen use or retiring it from productive use, and purchasing nitrogen reduction directly where the land could not be purchased. It would also support research and advice into new, low-nitrogen farming systems around the Lake.

The spending of public money would be backstopped by a variation to the Environment Waikato’s Regional Plan, due to be proposed in the second half of this year. Rules in this Plan would ensure gains made were maintained.

“A successful solution needs a change in behaviour by land users in the catchment and we will support and encourage this through research, education and advisory services,” Mr Clarke said.

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.