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Equity issue for Waipa committees to resolve

Should all Waipa property owners pay the same zone rates under Environment Waikato’s Project Watershed – or should there be a split between those who reside in the Upper and Middle reaches of the catchment?

That was the major issue debated by a combined meeting of the Upper Waipa and Middle Waipa liaison sub committees last week.

Sub-committee members were discussing Project Watershed – a major consultation programme from Environment Waikato which aims to develop a new and fairer way to pay for soil conservation, river management and flood protection work in the Waikato-Waipa catchment.

At the Te Kawa meeting, sub-committee members heard that there was a major difference between the two zone rates proposed.

The Upper Waipa committee had signed off on a proposed programme of work expected to cost each ratepayer $20.94 per $100,000 capital value in zone rates, while Middle Waipa ratepayers face only a $5.09 per $100,000 zone rate.

The meeting was told that a combined zone rate would cost Upper and Middle Waipa ratepayers $7.19 per $100,000 of capital value.

Upper Waipa chairman Rex Byles said he believed the same benefits applied across the whole Waipa catchment and it was inequitable to expect Upper Waipa property owners to pay twice as much as those lower down the catchment.

However, his Middle Waipa counterpart Leveson Gower said his committee had opted for a much lower level of work, and they did not expect to have to subsidise work in the Upper Waipa.

Mr Gower said he would be prepared to consider an amalgamated zone rate if he had assurance the works would be effective and have the downstream benefit expected.

Meeting chairman Councillor Andra Neely told the meeting that the division between the two zones was artificial and the catchment needed to be considered as a whole.

Further work is to be done by Environment Waikato on zone rate options and reported back to an additional combined liaison sub committee in January. This will be prior to the draft funding policy for Project Watershed being approved by Council in February for formal consultation.

In the meantime, the Upper Waipa Liaison Sub Committee will meet informally to reconfirm the works programme in light of the possible major disparity in costs between the two zones.

In addition to zone rates it is proposed that, for each $100,000 in capital value, all Waipa ratepayers will be levied $4.04 as a contributor rate, $2.17 as a regional rate and $2.63 as a catchment rate.

This means, under the present proposals Upper Waipa ratepayers will be levied $29.78 per $100,000 in total for Project Watershed, while Middle Waipa residents will pay $13.49.

If the Waipa zone rates are combined, then both will pay total Project Watershed rates of $16.03 per $100,000 capital value.

Direct and differential rates will also be applied depending on the level of benefit received by individual property owners.

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