Environment Waikato adopted its Annual Plan today after receiving 123 submissions.
The Annual Plan did not contain any major new proposals and primarily continued programmes adopted in last year’s Long-Term Council Community Plan. It emphasises the Regional Council’s commitment to promoting a healthy environment that can provide for the today’s needs and future generations.
Submitters strongly supported Environment Waikato’s overall efforts to sustainably manage natural resources and protect the environment, however some objected to the level of the proposed rate increase and some targeted rates. A number also requested Environment Waikato to fund various projects, undertake new work or to prioritise some issues over others.
The adopted budget will add about $15 to $25 to an typical ratepayer’s Regional Council bill of about $160. Individual ratepayers can find out their own rates on the website www.ew.govt.nz/aboutew/rates/questions, or by calling Environment Waikato's Freephone 0800 800 401.
Several submitters urged Environment Waikato to become more involved in Regional growth planning as it had a unique Regional perspective on growth and development issues that cut across city and district council boundaries. Submitters said Regional growth patterns could have major effects on natural and physical resources.
Environment Waikato Chairman Jenni Vernon said that as the Regional economy grew, Environment Waikato’s responsibility to ensure that growth occurred sustainably became even more vital.
Growth must be environmentally and socially sustainable if it was to benefit the community in the long-term, and the Council’s formal role in Regional growth strategy and management would be explored as part of the Long-Term Council Community Plan.
Ms Vernon said the Council was very aware of the combined cost of district and Regional rates on the public. Although rates varied significantly by property value and location, 75 percent of all Environment Waikato ratepayers paid less than about $350.
Since 2001, Regional Council general rates have increased approximately $60 per person while many District Council rates increased $200-$300. The Regional Council had adopted a reasonable budget to provide the funds needed to meet its responsibilities and fulfil community expectations, she said.
“The Council has prioritised some issues and reduced or did not fund other work that is less urgent. We will continue to explore fair and equitable ways to raise the revenue needed to fund our activities through the Long-Term Council Community Plan.”
All submissions would be responded to in writing, she said.