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Published: 2008-08-12 00:00:00

Amendments to the systems for collecting rates for the Piako and Waihou flood protection schemes have today been recommended by Environment Waikato’s river and catchment services committee for formal consultation.

The amendments take into account initial community feedback that people wanted any changes to be simple and fair, to have a new single catchment rate, and to minimise the shift of rates from one ratepayer to another.

In the vast majority of cases, the proposals for a new capital value-based catchment rate, to be applied universally across the two catchments, would mean little change to the total rates bill in dollar terms for individual properties. The Piako scheme currently rates on a land area basis, while the Waihou scheme rates on a land value basis. The proposed amendments would also retain other categories of rate for direct beneficiaries of the schemes, such as people living behind stopbanks.

Under the plans, out of 28,600 rateable properties in the two schemes, only 1500 would get an increase of more than $50 a year, while 2600 would get a decrease of more than $50 a year. Some 17,700 would have an increase or decrease of less than $20 either way.

Generally speaking, those affected most by increases in dollar terms with a capital value-based rate would be ratepayers with higher valued properties.

The council’s river and catchment services operations manager Guy Russell said capital value-based rates would help ensure that those with high value properties paid a greater proportion overall of the costs of the schemes to reflect the higher benefit they gained from them.

He said large sections of land near the rivers could not be farmed if it wasn’t for the council’s flood protection schemes, which have assets worth nearly $90 million. "Those assets include more than 400 kilometres of stopbanks which helped protect farming land and urban communities during the recent flooding in the Thames Valley and Hauraki Plains.

"Protecting the farms also benefits the towns, given the economic health of urban areas relies heavily on agriculture."

Mr Russell told the committee that having the targeted capital value-based rate across the two catchments would simplify the existing systems and make rate collection more efficient. Those living behind stopbanks would continue to pay their rates on the existing basis that reflects the direct benefit they gain from the works.

"There will naturally be some winners and losers under our proposals. But, overall, we think the suggested changes will make the rating system simpler, fairer and work better, without placing an undue burden on individual ratepayers."

If full council approves the draft plan, Piako and Waihou scheme ratepayers will be getting letters from early next month explaining how the proposed changes would affect them. Implementation would occur after a formal hearings process.

"We will listen closely to ratepayer feedback at the hearings before finalising our plans for inclusion in council policy next year," said Mr Russell.

"We strongly encourage members of the community to have their say if they disagree with what we’re suggesting or have other ideas for how things could work better."