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Waihou-Piako funding proposals endorsed

An Environment Waikato hearing committee is recommending that proposals for new ways of rating for the Waihou and Piako river and catchment works are included in the council’s draft Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) 2009-19.

The recommendation from the committee – made up of councillors Andra Neeley, John Fisher and Tony Armstrong - is due to go before EW’s full council on Thursday 26 February.

Under the hearing committee system, any councillors considering proposals put forward by EW staff are required to weigh up all evidence and views presented on the pros and cons of suggested new funding arrangements.

After careful and detailed consideration, the hearing committee has endorsed the present draft funding proposals and has not suggested any changes be made to the proposals.

If the committee’s recommendation is 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, said EW’s river and catchment services operations manager Guy Russell.

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, Mr Russell said.

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

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