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Regional council tackles extraordinary challenges

Regional council tackles “extraordinary challenges”

Thursday 16 March 2006

Environment Bay of Plenty has revealed a draft plan showing how it wants to tackle the “extraordinary challenges” of the next decade. It includes ongoing major work to clean up the Rotorua lakes, a better bus service for Tauranga, and the use of investments to help unclog the region’s roads. It also puts more focus on the council’s wish to work with the people and groups in the community for a better environment.

Environment Bay of Plenty adopted a draft of its Ten Year Plan today (Thursday 16 March). Councillors and staff will now take the proposals to the community for feedback and discussion.

Chairman John Cronin says the regional council will face huge challenges over the next few years. These include protecting and restoring the Rotorua lakes, improving the region’s land transport system and ensuring the ongoing sustainability of the region’s river schemes. “We have tried to balance these increased commitments with our other ongoing legislative and policy commitments in a way that recognises the community’s ability to pay. This Plan sets out how we are proposing to achieve what we think are realistic targets at reasonable cost.”

It is Environment Bay of Plenty’s second shot at the new style of comprehensive future planning required by the Government. It sets out detailed budgets and work plans for the next three years, with a more general overview of the seven years after that. It also proposes a new way of rating which would result in some ratepayers paying more than others for certain activities.

Mr Cronin points out that regional council rates are still fairly low in the Bay of Plenty, compared to elsewhere in New Zealand because they are heavily subsidised by the council’s investment income, arising mostly from its shareholding in Port of Tauranga Ltd.

The Ten Year Plan is a large document of more than 400 pages. Because of this, Environment Bay of Plenty has prepared a summary of key issues and the costs involved in dealing with them. The summary will be delivered to all Bay of Plenty households in early April, and people have until early May to comment on the proposals. They can discuss their ideas with staff and councillors during a road show around the region in April. Staff are also happy to talk to community groups.

“It’s really important that people tell us what they think - whether they agree with us or don’t agree with us,” Mr Cronin says. “We are doing the work for the benefit of the people who live here, so we have to understand their needs and priorities. We need to know if we’ve got it right.”

Copies of the summary and the full draft will be available from Environment Bay of Plenty later this month, once changes are made from today’s council meeting. For a copy, please call 0800 ENV BOP (368 267) or go to www.envbop.govt.nz. Both documents contain submission forms. Submissions open on Friday 31 March and close on Monday 3 May. The Plan comes into effect on July 1.

Key Points of the Draft Plan

The Costs

The Ten Year Plan details the cost of Environment Bay of Plenty’s work programme for the next 10 years. It will cost $45.2 million to fund the operational work next year, compared to $42.6 million last year. The increase takes into account extra funding needed for Rotorua lakes restoration, passenger transport, increased contribution to rivers schemes, and land management work. Council operational work will cost $50.5 million the following year and $56.2 million the year after that.

The Role of the Regional Council
Environment Bay of Plenty wants to continue to take a regional leadership role in the Bay of Plenty. “We will combine our environmental protection and enhancement focus with a range of other roles, such as land transport, regional development and navigation safety,” Mr Cronin says.

Rotorua Lakes
Environment Bay of Plenty is continuing to carry out the Rotorua Lakes Protection and Restoration Action Programme. This involves putting together and carrying out Action Plans for all of Rotorua’s lakes. The Ten Year Plan also includes costly and urgent engineering solutions for Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti, such as the Ohau Channel Diversion.

Passenger Transport
Environment Bay of Plenty funds a major share of the region’s bus services. The plan includes a proposal to extend the services in Rotorua and Tauranga to operate on public holidays. It also proposes to progressively increase the frequency of the Tauranga service to operate every 30 minutes – something Rotorua’s bus users are already enjoying.

State Highways
The draft plan includes a proposal for Environment Bay of Plenty to contribute up to $40 million to accelerate improvements to State Highways in the region. The proposal will only go ahead if council can contribute the funding without a need to raise regional rates.

Flood Control
Across the region Environment Bay of Plenty maintains and funds a number of river schemes. The July 2004 floods significantly increased the costs of restoring and operating the Rangitaiki-Tarawera and Whakatane-Waimana River Schemes. Since 1997 the river schemes have been 90% self-funding (through targeted rates), with the remaining 10% of cost coming from the regional general rate. Environment Bay of Plenty is proposing to increase the amount that the general rate contributes to the river schemes from 10% to 20%. Drainage schemes will continue to be 100% funded by those who receive direct benefit from them. It is also looking at ways to provide further protection for Edgecumbe.


What will people pay?

Some ratepayers will pay more than others for specific regional council activities under a new way of rating proposed by Environment Bay of Plenty. However, unless you live in Rotorua, you probably won’t notice much change in your rates account.

The council’s Draft Ten Year Plan includes a proposal to introduce targeted rates to help fund Rotorua Lakes, passenger transport and pest management (biosecurity) work.

At the moment all Bay of Plenty ratepayers pay for these activities through their general rates. However by introducing targeted rates, the people who get more benefit from this work, or who have contributed more to the need for the work will pay more for it.

In November last year Environment Bay of Plenty sent a Targeted Rates brochure and questionnaire to homes in the Bay of Plenty. It asked people if they did or did not favour the introduction of each specific rate. The council received 917 replies. These responses have been considered while preparing the draft plan.

Proposals for targeted rating

Rotorua Lakes
Rotorua Lakes targeted rate will be a fixed amount for urban residents and one based on land use and land area for rural residents. However for the first year, the council does not hold the information needed to charge a rural rate based on the proposed criteria. Because of this, for the 2006/2007 year, the rural rate will also be a fixed amount per property.
Level of activity’s funding through targeted rates: 56%
Who it targets: Rotorua district residents

Passenger Transport
The Passenger Transport targeted rate is a fixed amount per rating unit in Tauranga City and Rotorua urban areas.
Level of activity’s funding through targeted rates: 22%
Who it targets: Rotorua urban and Tauranga city residents

Biosecurity – pest plant and pest animal management
The Biosecurity targeted rate for pest animal and pest plant management is based on land area.
Level of activity’s funding through targeted rates: Pest plant management 55%, pest animal management 25%
Who it targets: All properties in the region over 1 ha in size

Flood Control
Targeted rates based on land area already exist for Flood and Drainage Control activities that improve the productivity of land in several of the region’s catchments.

Some Examples of Rate Payments

NOTE: All figures include GST.

Rotorua
- A Rotorua city resident on a standard section worth $100,000 would have paid about $79 (including GST) last year for Environment Bay of Plenty’s work. This year, if targeted rating goes ahead, the annual payment will rise to about $166. This includes the addition of $67.50 for lake restoration work and about $28 for the passenger transport service.

- A Mamaku dairy farmer on an 80ha property with land value of $1.4 million would have paid $539 last year, including GST. This year, that farmer will pay less – about $506. Though he will be paying two new targeted rates (biosecurity and lakes), his general rate will decrease by more than the total of these two rates.

Tauranga

- A Tauranga city resident who paid about $120 last year would pay just $5 extra this year, even with the inclusion of a $19 rate for the Bay Hopper service.

- A Tauranga landowner with a larger property (more than 1ha) worth $1.2 million would have paid $480 in regional council rates last year. This year, they would pay quite a bit less, just over $400. Their rate will include the new biosecurity rate of $135 and the transport rate of $19, both GST inclusive.

Western Bay of Plenty

- A Western Bay resident with a section smaller than a hectare who paid about $60 last year will actually pay $7 less this year.

Eastern Bay of Plenty

A Whakatane resident owning a small section valued at about $100,000 would have paid just over $70 last year. The resident will pay a similar amount this year.

ENDS

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