Governance and management of the entire Waikato River catchment must remain within the Waikato region, says Environment Waikato chair Peter Buckley.
Cr Buckley said that while the regional council largely welcomed the Government’s decisions on Auckland’s governance, it was concerned about the proposed changes to Auckland’s southern boundaries that would impact on the council’s ability to manage the Waikato River, and also compromise the Waikato-Tainui treaty deal.
“We are pleased the Government has heard our concerns about these proposals and has given us until April 2010 to work through the issues,” he said.
Under the proposed boundary changes, the area currently in the Waikato region north of the Waikato River, including Tuakau and Mercer, would become part of Auckland; while the area currently in the Auckland region bordering the Firth of Thames from Matingarahi Point to Whakatiwai, would be included in the Waikato region.
“The proposed boundary changes shift some parts of the Waikato River catchment into the Auckland region splitting our whole-of-river flood protection and drainage assets. It would leave $21 million worth of pump stations and stopbanks stranded in another rating area,” Cr Buckley said.
“The proposal does not clarify how Environment Waikato is supposed to achieve its responsibilities for integration of land use and river management when it is divorced from its rating base.”
Cr Buckley said Environment Waikato needed to fund, through rates, the cost of managing the effects of all activities that impact on the river, including flood management, land drainage and soil conservation, environmental monitoring, ground and surface water-takes, pest control and managing the effects of land use change and development.
Cr Buckley said the ability to integrate land use and river management was an essential part of the Crown’s treaty settlement with Waikato-Tainui to clean up the Waikato River.
“The council and Waikato-Tainui are working together to form a common view on the issues that concern us both, and the possible solutions.”
He said the regional council welcomed the second boundary change recommendation that would see most of the Firth of Thames come into the Waikato region.
“This is consistent with Environment Waikato’s view that catchments must be managed in an integrated way – this change will allow our community to form a single view on the future of the Firth of Thames.”
The boundaries of the Auckland region will be decided by April 2010, in time for the local elections in October 2010.