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Published: 2009-04-08 00:00:00

Whangamata ratepayers are being asked for their views on a proposed new local rate to pay for removal of mangroves from their local harbour and coastal area.

A proposal to introduce a targeted annual charge of up to $20 per Whangamata property from 1 July 2009 is contained in Environment Waikato’s draft 2009-19 Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP). The draft LTCCP is out for consultation till 20 April.

Over the last three years EW has worked with the Whangamata community to develop a plan for the harbour and its catchment. The plan is intended to ensure that management of the catchment and harbour is integrated and that it supports a healthy and productive environment. The plan contains a wide range of outcomes, including enhanced public access, improved water quality and increased habitat and biodiversity.

One component of the harbour and catchment plan involves more active vegetation management in the coastal marine area and, specifically, the management of mangroves in areas where they are having undesirable effects and can be removed without significant detriment to the harbour environment.

Under the proposal in the draft LTCCP, a charge of up to $15 per property would be introduced for five years to recover a projected $309,000 works cost. From 1 July 2010, an additional $5 per property would be charged to help maintain the area where mangroves are removed. In the sixth year of the programme, and thereafter, the total per property charge would reduce to $5 for use on maintenance.

"Community feedback in 2007 indicated a willingness among ratepayers to pay up to $20 per a year towards mangrove removal," said David Speirs, EW’s Whangamata harbour and catchment plan project manager.

"We are proposing the new rate at a level to cover the anticipated $309,000 cost.

"If costs end up being less for any reason then the rate would be adjusted downwards," said Mr Speirs.

He said a flyer and submission form have been distributed to Whangamata ratepayers and this was the last phase of community consultation before EW make the final decision on Whangamata vegetation management.

After submissions are received as part of the council’s LTCCP process, a decision on whether EW adopts the proposals will be made in June, with residents formally advised of the outcome in August.

"We strongly encourage people to have their say now so that the council’s decision-making can best take account of the community’s views," said Mr Speirs.

EW’s Thames Coromandel councillor Simon Friar said he personally hoped all stakeholder groups in the community would agree to the removal of mangroves and that the council would be able to move as soon as possible after that to get the required resource consent.

"Whangamata residents have waited a long time for action. While I recognise the council has a process to follow, I am keen to see work get underway as soon as we practically can."