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Published: 2009-02-26 00:00:00

Environment Waikato councillors have agreed that proposals for new ways of rating for the Waihou and Piako river and catchment works are to be included in the council’s draft Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) 2009-19.

A recommendation to that effect from a hearing committee – made up of councillors Andra Neeley, John Fisher and Tony Armstrong – went before full council today.

Speaking after today’s meeting, Cr Neeley – the chair of the river and catchment services committee – said a proposed new catchment rate over both schemes enabled greater simplification of a number of ratepayer classification classes in the two schemes.

"The proposals also recognise the overlap areas of the two river schemes and achieve much greater clarity for individual ratepayers over what elements of the schemes they are paying for."

Cr Neeley said the hearing committee had made what it considered were the decisions available to it under current legislation "to best capture the benefits and responsibilities all landowners experience when resident in a catchment scheme".

Last week it was announced that, after careful and detailed consideration, the committee had endorsed the present draft funding proposals and had not suggested any changes be made to them.

Now that the committee’s recommendation has been accepted by council, the Waihou and Piako proposals will appear in the draft LTCCP and the public will be able to comment on them before a final decision is made on implementing the plans. People who made submissions to the committee would also get a formal response later in March.

The proposals have been developed over the past three years and were put up for public consultation last year. They were aimed at making funding of the flood protection schemes simpler and fairer.

The proposals took into account feedback from community consultation that people wanted any changes to be simple and fair, to have a new single catchment rate, to fix the existing anomalies within urban areas and to minimise the shift of rates from one ratepayer to another.

One of the main suggested changes is to apply a new capital value-based catchment rate universally across both the Waihou and Piako catchments. There is no change in the total rates collected from the catchments and in the vast majority of cases, this would mean little change to the total rates bill in dollar terms for individual properties.

Under the plans, out of 28,600 rateable properties in the two schemes, approximately 2,000 would get an increase of more than $50 a year and 2,000 would get a decrease of more than $50 a year. Some 17,700 would have an increase or decrease of less than $20 either way.

Generally speaking, those affected most by increases in dollar terms through a capital value-based rate would be ratepayers with higher valued properties.

EW has previously suggested that implementation of a capital value-based catchment rate would simplify the existing systems, be consistent with other catchment rates within the Waikato region and better reflect the public good benefits provided by the catchment-wide works.

Examples of public good benefits are seen as including how the schemes support the local community and economy, and the provision of services in the area. Under the proposals, those actually living behind flood protection stopbanks, who pay the bulk of the rates, would continue to pay their rates on the existing basis that reflects the direct benefit they gain from the works.

The Waihou and Piako river schemes – with assets worth nearly $90 million – provide:

· an integrated river and catchment service throughout the catchments to support stability of land within the upper catchments

· clear, well maintained rivers and streams throughout the catchments

· flood protection in the lower flat land to ensure that large areas of land and vital infrastructure within both catchments suffer less damage through storms

· better conditions for continued farming and prosperous communities