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River work costs on track

Urban ratepayers in the Region look likely to pay less than $20 per year as their contribution towards flood protection and river management services across the greater Waikato Catchment.

That's the scenario put forward for further consideration as part of Project Watershed - an Environment Waikato project which aims to develop a long-term catchment-wide funding policy to pay for flood control, river management and soil conservation work. Government funding no longer covers the work necessary in the Region and ratepayers are now expected to foot the bill.

Environment Waikato has been discussing possible work in the Middle Waikato management zone at community meetings and also with a liaison sub-committee set up specifically to look at what work is necessary, and how it should be paid for.

As a result of that consultation, both in the Middle Waikato and in other parts of the Region, Environment Waikato has cut back on some of the soil conservation work it had originally proposed until local communities agree it is necessary.

In the Middle Waikato, original soil conservation proposals would have cost more than $6.2 million in capital. The revised proposals are now expected to cost around $5,200,000 after the liaison sub-committee said local communities would be against spending so much.

The sub-committee also recommended that existing soil conservation assets be maintained. Any new programmes should be considered pilots and be monitored regularly to assess benefits, the committee said.

Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said overall, it was the soil conservation proposals, which had caused most debate throughout the wider catchment. As a result, Environment Waikato had cut back on the soil conservation work originally proposed and concentrated on what the liaison sub-committees had said was important for their areas.

"It's worth noting, however, that none of the soil conservation work proposed as part of Project Watershed would be compulsory. It simply would not be done without the input and support of landowners," Mr Clarke said.

Under the draft funding policy due for release next month, it is tentatively proposed that around $640,000 be spent in capital works in the Middle Waikato zone, with an annual maintenance expenditure over the next ten years of $1.080 million.

Under the proposal, urban ratepayers with a property worth approximately $100,000 might see Environment Waikato rates go up by an additional $7.30 per year. Rural ratepayers with a property worth approximately $1 million might see Environment Waikato rates go up by an additional $73.00 per year. Commercial/industrial ratepayers with a property worth $500,000 might see Environment Waikato rates go up by an additional $37.00 per year.

By law, how much each ratepayer might pay will depend on how much they benefit from the work proposed, and how much they contribute to the cause of the problem.

Ratepayers living in different parts of the Region will pay different amounts, according to what work is done in their area. Ratepayers who do not live in the wider catchment will also contribute to the cost via the general rate.

"At the end of the day, the community needs to look at the proposal and decide whether it's fair and equitable. There seems to be no doubt that the work needs to be done - the question is, who should pay?" Mr Clarke said.

The draft funding policy is due to be ratified by Environment Waikato on August 30, and will form the basis of a consultation programme with communities catchment-wide.

Following ratification, the draft policy will be available to anyone who wishes to see it, Mr Clarke said. Meanwhile, information about Project Watershed, and the Middle Waikato management zone, is available on www.ew.govt.nz/watershed or by calling Environment Waikato toll-free on 0800 932 667.

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