Environment Waikato today formally adopted a level of service and funding policy for Project Watershed.
Project Watershed has been developed over three years in consultation with the community to address soil conservation, flood protection and river management obligations in the greater Waikato – Waipa catchment. The Project was designed to address the Council’s legal obligations, and work with the community to identify what type and level of flood protection, soil conservation and river management services people want. The Project identifies fair, equitable and sustainable Region-wide ways to pay for those services and ensures there is funding for ongoing maintenance and capital of existing and identified new works.
Councillor Neeley, Chairperson of the Operations Committee, said that the adoption of funding policy was a critical factor in ensuring the Council had the capacity to act effectively in events such as the recent floods. “Also, insurance is always at risk for Councils whose assets are not maintained to their design specifications and maintenance is the most significant item in the Project Watershed budgets,” she said.
The Council received about 530 submissions on the Project, some in support, some in opposition and many recognising the need for the work but wanting others to pay. Environment Waikato held hearings in Taupo, Mercer and Hamilton to listen to submitters. The adopted annual budget is $5.5 million. $300,000 was taken out of the annual budget as a result of submissions. A number of submitters requested that the Council delay the Project, which was not accepted. Almost 70 percent of the funds identified in the estimates are required to maintain existing soil conservation and flood protection schemes, and the new works have been identified as necessary in the areas most affected by the work. However, a number of changes were agreed in response to submitters. Changes include:
- An increased contribution (to 65 percent) from landowners who directly benefit from erosion control work on their land in priority areas, except in Lake Taupo and Waitomo. Landowner contributions there are set at 50 and 55 percent respectively to recognise the local value of soil conservation work to the Lake and the Caves.
- An extra $180,000 capital provision for new erosion control work in the middle and lower catchment areas.
- Further investigation of the need for work on the Waikato River bed through Hamilton and a commitment to review the appropriateness of the funding policy before doing any remediation work required.
- Reviewing the classification basis for collecting Tauranga-Taupo flood protection direct rates. Applying the costs of river management work in Tongariro and Tauranga-Taupo to the Taupo zone to reflect a greater area of benefit.
- A flat rate over Huntly and Otorohanga to pay for the direct benefit from local flood protection assets, rather than levying the small number of classified properties.
- A change to land rather than capital value for the contributor differential, to recognise that capital value on a small are of urban land had distorted the contribution of city ratepayers in relation to run-off effects.
- Some drainage local protection assets in the Franklin area have been removed from the budgets where drainage districts have requested this of Council.
- Inclusion of the Council’s existing policy that requires landowners to fund 75 percent of the capital expenditure for flood protection and river management works and 65 percent of soil conservation works.
- Further consultation to establish more effective iwi liaison.
The submissions supported the retention of Liaison Subcommittees to advise Council. Council agrees that Liaison Subcommittees have played an influential and helpful role in developing the Project and will consider the reappointment process at the July Council meeting.
A Special Order process to strike a Project Watershed rate is now underway and written representations can be made until the day before the rate is struck, which is on July 25.
For more information contact:
Ph (07) 856 7184