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Published: 2002-05-23 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has recommended changes to Project Watershed for the Huntly area following submissions made to the draft policy earlier this month.

The Committee has recommended that Environment Waikato use a standard charge in Huntly to collect the direct benefit rate to maintain protection works, after Huntly residents made submissions asking for the change.

The charge would be applied across the township equally, rather than levied on particular properties in low lying areas, as originally proposed.

“The Huntly community provided a strong and unified voice on this issue, which assisted the Hearing Committee to recommend this change,” Committee chair Andra Neeley said.

“It leaves the Huntly community treated the same as everyone else on this issue, and while people may have wanted the zone and catchment rate also made on this basis, in a scheme of this size and complexity there are certain things asked for that are dreadfully expensive and not equitable."

Project Watershed is designed to maintain flood protection, soil conservation, and river management works through the Waikato and Waipa River catchments.

Some Huntly residents were previously paying a borough stormwater rate which covered both stormwater and flood protection. Under Project Watershed, the flood protection component will in future be funded through Project Watershed rates.

Other changes recommended include more investigation on lowering the main Waikato River bed through Hamilton before a decision is made on how to fund work. Work on the river previously funded by Hamilton City will now be funded by Project Watershed.

Landowners who receive direct benefit from soil conservation work will contribute slightly more than originally proposed. Landowners wanting work in areas of catchment priority will be asked to pay 65 percent of the cost instead of the 48-56 percent originally proposed.

The Committee will also recommend an extra $90,000 be spent on soil conservation work in the middle and lower reaches of the Waikato River, to encourage farmers wanting to sustain productive soils and maintain stable river beds.

Environment Waikato will continue working to ensure the Crown continues to contribute to the cost of Waikato River flood works. An iwi advisory board is to be formed to deal with the implementation of Project Watershed, following submissions from many iwi.

If accepted, amendments to the original proposal will lower total costs for Project Watershed from $5.8 million to $5.5 million per year, compared to current spending of $4.3 million. Recommendations from the Hearings Committee will be made to the full Council in late June when the funding policy will be formally adopted.