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Environment Bay of Plenty sets 10 year path ahead

Environment Bay of Plenty sets path for next 10 years

Environment Bay of Plenty has formally signalled its intention to take a more active role in the region’s development with the release of a major plan that sets its path for the next decade.

The Draft Long Term Council Community Plan outlines what the regional council wants to do – and how much it will cost to do it – over the next 10 years. It incorporates the Annual Plan so also includes a breakdown of the rates for the 2004-5 financial year, which starts in July.

The draft Plan reflects the council’s primary focus of protecting the environment. However, it also highlights a range of activities that will give it more input into regional issues, such as transport, regional parks and economic development.

Chairman John Cronin says Environment Bay of Plenty’s financial strength, mostly from a 55% share in Port of Tauranga Ltd, gives it “a special responsibility” to support the environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing of the regional community. “There are many things we can do to provide a sound base for development,” he says. “For example, we are currently looking at how we can help fund essential infrastructure, like new roads.”

The draft Plan covers the regional council’s programme in detail for the next three years and in outline for the seven years after that. Some of the activities Environment Bay of Plenty is already engaged in require significantly increased funding over the next few years. While a major focus is the Rotorua lakes, other projects include improvements to regional passenger transport and regional parks.

Some key points are:

Rotorua Lakes Water Quality Environment Bay of Plenty has taken a lead role in improving water quality in key Rotorua lakes. Working with Rotorua District Council and Te Arawa Maori Trust Board, it is implementing the Rotorua Lakes Protection and Restoration Action Programme. The programme involves putting together and carrying out Action Plans for at least five lakes. It also includes costly - but urgent - short-term engineering solutions for Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti. In the draft plan, an extra $1.8 million is allocated for technical investigation and coordination of lakes work in the coming financial year.

Regional passenger transport For the last three years, Environment Bay of Plenty has funded a major share of the region’s bus transport system, mostly in Tauranga. Last year, the council set up a mainly rural service in the eastern Bay of Plenty. In July, it will take over the hands-on management of the Rotorua bus service, with plans to upgrade it. The increase in gross expenditure this year for passenger transport is $1,250,000 and, after allowing for a corresponding increase in funding from Transfund New Zealand, the net increase amounts to $330,000.

Environmental Enhancement Fund Over the last four years, the Environmental Enhancement Fund has allocated about $4 million to nearly 200 community and district council projects, ranging from predator control work and wetland enhancement to the restoration of heritage buildings. Until now, the fund has contained separate sections for community and local authority applications. Under the draft Plan, district and city councils are no longer eligible for funding. However they will benefit, for example, from the council’s increased activity in other areas, such as passenger transport. The community fund will stand at about $450,000 this year.

Regional Parks Regional parks are a new area for Environment Bay of Plenty. The council contributed last year to the purchase of a sub-regional park, Papamoa Hills Cultural Heritage Park. It also recently approved a policy that allows it to secure other land for potential regional parks. The council will consider opportunities for such parks as they arise.

Sewerage reticulation Environment Bay of Plenty plans to help district councils fund small-scale sewerage reticulation systems in communities where septic tanks are affecting water quality. Over the next few years, the Council expects to make several contributions.

How will Environment Bay of Plenty pay for it?

This year Environment Bay of Plenty will need a little over $37 million to carry out its work. It has increased its expenditure 16% from last year. Its investment income will again cover a significant portion (46%) of the annual operating costs, greatly reducing the amount that must be covered through rates. General rates, which this year include a new Uniform Annual General Charge, make up 24% or $8.8 million of the total budget. The average property (valued at $158,000) will pay general rates of $92 including GST in the 2004-5 financial year.

Uniform Annual General Charge For the first time, there will be a uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) for each property. Its introduction follows recent legislation that allows councils to apply a UAGC if they wish. The charge is considered a more equitable way to fund activities and services shared equally by ratepayers regardless of the value of their property. This year the UAGC will be $11.50, bringing in a total of $1.2 million, which will go towards regional governance activities.

Environment Bay of Plenty will start a general rating review later this year to establish the fairest way of levying general rates over the whole region.

Your comments The Draft Long Term Council Community Plan is open for submissions from Wednesday 31 March until May 5. An easy-to-read summary of the Plan, called “Future Focus”, will be delivered to the region’s households later this week (April 2,3 and 4). Copies of the full Plan, either on CD-Rom or in print format, are available free from Environment Bay of Plenty on 0800 ENV BOP (368 267). It is also posted on www.envbop.govt.nz.

“We really want people to tell us what they think of our Plan,” Mr Cronin says. “We look forward to their comments and suggestions so we can build the future together.”

CAPTION: Environment Bay of Plenty has released a draft plan that will set its path for the next 10 years. It will affect the future of the region – and the people who live in it, like 20-month-old Natalie Hall and grandmother Colleen Casey.

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