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Published: 2001-08-30 00:00:00

Reporoa landowners' goal of having stock excluded from all waterways within 10 years has received a luke-warm response.

The proposal was mooted to promote soil conservation work throughout the greater Waikato catchment. However, other landowners, concerned about the costs of soil conservation in their own local areas, have opted to take a more conservative approach.

Environment Waikato has been informally talking to local landowners about soil conservation via Project Watershed - a 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 Upper Waikato/Whakamaru 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 Upper 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 Upper Waikato zone, community feedback indicated there was a real need to protect and maintain existing scheme works. The liaison subcommittee suggested that landowners should contribute 65 percent of the cost for new works and maintenance, but that Environment Waikato flexible and allow landowner contributions to be spread out over a number of years.

Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said 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, he said.

"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 only around $47,000 be spent in capital works in the Upper Waikato/Whakamaru zone, with an annual maintenance expenditure over the next 10 years of $700,000.

Under the proposal, urban ratepayers with a property worth approximately $100,000 might see Environment Waikato rates go up by an additional $6.50 per year. Rural ratepayers with a property worth approximately $1 million might see Environment Waikato rates go up by an additional $65.00 per year. Commercial/industrial ratepayers with a property worth $500,000 might see Environment Waikato rates go up by an additional $32.50 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 its 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 at the end of August, 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 Upper Waikato/Whakamaru management zones, is available on or by calling Environment Waikato toll-free on 0800 932 667.