Environment Waikato has achieved success and progress over the past year, it says in its Annual Report presented to this week’s Corporate Services Committee.
While some work was delayed and some costs were higher than expected, the year’s work was in response to legal requirements, environmental necessity and community priorities. The Council had worked with the Region’s people to find the right balance between the work that needed to be done and the capacity of the Region to fund it.
Work to control possums and other pests had had multiple benefits. The bovine Tb rate was reduced to 1.69 percent of infected herds in the Region – well below the target rate of 2.5 percent. Controlling possums also benefited the environment by reducing damage to native forests and sustaining native bird populations.
Ten thousand hectares of land was treated under the Awaroa Whangape Community Possum Control Scheme with the assistance of the residents, and 11 community control schemes were assisted. More than 3000 hectares in key ecological sites in Ngaruawahia, Huntly and Colville were treated, helping to preserve the bush in these important areas from the devastation caused by browsing possums and other animal pests.
The major consultative project to manage the Region’s rivers, Project Watershed, was completed after three years of development work with community subcommittees and legal advisors. Following submissions and deliberations, the Council had arrived at a funding policy it believed was the fairest and most sustainable Region-wide method of paying for necessary services.
The Courts upheld decisions on the Piako Rating Scheme, and while this was an important part of the democratic process, it could entail significant costs that diverted funds from other work.
The Council was proud of its efforts to work with residents to help them undertake environmental protection themselves. The Clean Streams project, which commits $10 million over 10 years to encourage farmers to reduce the effects of runoff and stock damage on waterways, was one of the most cost effective ways of protecting rivers and streams.
It said it was committed to helping the people of the Region live and work with natural resources in ways that allowed them to be used and enjoyed for generations. It was exploring how to best incorporate “sustainable development reporting” into business practices.
The Council would continue to pursue the best affordable balance between the community’s ability to pay and the need to get on with the work.