Having considered the funding legislation and general benefit/contribution effects, it is necessary to derive a set of general principles. These principles provide the framework to guide the development of an appropriate funding and service solution. These principles are consistent with those derived from decisions made by Environment Waikato over recent years. Most of these have been discussed by liaison subcommittees.
This document considers three spheres of Council’s activity: river management, soil conservation and flood protection. Environment Waikato is responsible for overseeing and coordinating all activities in the greater catchment which affect these, because the catchment is an inter-related system. What happens in one part of the catchment will affect what happens elsewhere.
River management activities (defined and discussed elsewhere in the document) can be seen largely as a co-ordinating role across the whole river system, bridging the gap between soil conservation and flood protection. River management’s emergence as an activity in its own right reflects Environment Waikato’s recognition of the importance of an integrated approach to catchment management. Council also recognises that these activities must be better and more sustainably resourced.
It is important to also focus on the responsibility of landowners. Environment Waikato considers that landowners and resource users are responsible for ‘contributor’ effects to the greater Waikato catchment, which arise from their land or resource use; be it through natural or human-controlled processes.
In terms of soil conservation, Environment Waikato considers that its role should be that of facilitator and overseer, rather than being responsible for carrying out works. Most soil conservation works can be undertaken by landowners with Environment Waikato providing support and advice.
Environment Waikato is also bound to promote the sustainable development of resources. As part of that responsibility it acts as a facilitator to encourage the use of soil conservation works and practices. The use of incentives such as grant support can assist in encouraging soil conservation work, particularly if there are off-site benefits such as a reduction of sediment loads downstream. Where this is possible, it is appropriate that grant support be provided to landowners undertaking the works in proportion to the amount of off-site benefit. However this does not reduce the responsibility of landowners to minimise any adverse effects that their property or their actions cause.
Flooding is a natural phenomenon and the peak rate of flow down a river will determine the level of flooding of land immediately adjacent. Changes in land use have affected the peak flows of rivers by changing the runoff characteristics of a catchment. Urban land causes the greatest volume of runoff per unit area, and developed pasture has a significantly higher yield than land in native bush or plantation forestry.
Environment Waikato may act to protect land from flooding. This is usually in the form of stopbanks designed to protect for a specific level of flooding determined by the statistical probability of occurrence. Properties protected from flooding gain a real economic benefit. Under the LGAA, those who benefit from the protection must contribute to the costs in relation to the level of benefit they receive.
The wider community may also receive indirect benefits from flood protection, such as security in knowing that essential services and amenities will usually still be available during floods.
The general principles outlined in this document have been developed in association with liaison subcommittees, from Environment Waikato’s experience, and from informal consultation with communities and key stakeholders throughout the greater Waikato catchment. The principles on which the proposals outlined in this Draft Funding Policy are based are: