Environment Waikato is receiving about 700 calls a day from people wanting to know more about their rates since the Council’s rate invoices began going out earlier this month.
Apart from questions about how to make payments or changing details, Hamilton ratepayers have been concerned at paying a passenger transport rate and those living outside the Taupo area want to know why they are paying a rate to protect Lake Taupo.
Finance Manager Warren Stevens said Hamilton City ratepayers had always paid a Passenger Transport rate, but many people had only noticed it when the Council began directly rating last year.
“Attracting more people onto public transport reduces car congestion, reduces economic, environmental and social pressures on roads, parking problems and pollution. It also reduces the cost of having to make new roads. Bus service improvements made last year have already increased bus use by 12 percent, and 53 percent in the past four years.
“Buses are a viable and sustainable alternative to cars, and improvements to bus services are making buses more attractive and accessible to everyone, which also benefits those who use their own cars, ” he said.
At least 6000 passengers a day used buses. If there were no public transport system and only half of those passengers used cars, another 3000 vehicles would be on the road every day.
Environment Waikato was working closely with Hamilton City Council on routes to ensure the bus service met the needs of the community, he said. This included extending the service into new growing areas which were currently without a bus service.
Mr Stevens said the passenger transport rate per $100,000 CV had decreased slightly this year, but capital property values had increased. The increased amount collected would help offset inflation and an increase in contract prices.
“We will be considering the feedback we are receiving that the transport rate should be a rate per property rather than based on capital value.
He said all Waikato ratepayers were paying $9 per property towards protecting Lake Taupo. The health of the Lake is declining from excessive nitrogen caused by intensifying rural land use and urban growth over the past 50 years.
Environment Waikato, Taupo District Council and Central Government are working with stakeholders on an $81 million project to reduce the amount of nitrogen reaching the Lake by 20 percent. He said protecting the Lake would have far-reaching implications for the Region’s economy.
“We believe that all New Zealanders benefit from having a clean lake. There are also significant benefits to the Region from Lake Taupo, and Environment Waikato has a legislative responsibility to ensure that Taupo is managed sustainably. Clearly Hamiltonians and others throughout the wider Waikato catchment have a major stake in the health of the Waikato River, which is fed by the lake.
“Rural landowners in the District will bear the significant cost of foregoing opportunities for future land development and Taupo farmers will face heavy compliance costs with the rules that will be part of this project. Urban residents will contribute through ongoing costs of sewage treatment and stormwater management,” he said.