How much should the Crown be contributing towards catchment services in the Whakamaru area?
That was an unanswered question for members of the Whakamaru Liaison Sub Committee during open discussion on Environment Waikato’s Project Watershed at a combined meeting in Reporoa with the Upper Waikato committee.
Given the significant level of land holdings by Crown agencies in the Whakamaru area, committee members are of the view that the Crown cannot exempt itself from responsibility.
While the Crown may argue that there is no national interest in providing catchment services, as significant landowners in the area, these Crown agencies could be beneficiaries, alleviators and exacerbators of the proposed works.
Whakamaru committee chair Peter Kidd says his members firmly believe agencies like Mighty River Power and DOC should be paying something.
Project Watershed is a two year consultation programme to put in place a new funding policy for services on a catchment-wide basis.
It followed Government’s decision to cease funding catchment services and takes in the requirement under the Local Government Amendment Act No 3 to consider who contributes to the need for such work or benefits from it, when recovering costs. The new funding policy is expected to draw in who contribute to the need for the work, those who benefit from it and those who improve the situation.
Environment Waikato is aiming to have a draft funding policy available for informal public consultation around August, and a final draft for formal consultation early next year. It needs to have the new policy in place before the 2002-2003 rating year, because that’s when existing Government funding for catchment schemes ceases.
Whakamaru is one of seven liaison sub committees formed by Environment Waikato to advise it on Project Watershed and to communicate the project to local communities.
Project manager Nath Pritchard says Project Watershed is close to an important milestone with the pending release of the informal discussion draft.
“It is important that people who do not live on the Waikato River, or one of the catchment tributaries, understand that they could be expected to contribute towards work that is considered to be of regional significance.
“Now’s the time for them to be taking an interest, if they want their views represented.”