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Public feedback sought on ORC’s draft Annual Plan

20 March 2017

Public feedback sought on ORC’s draft Annual Plan

Otago residents will soon be asked to have their say on Otago Regional Council’s 2017/18 draft Annual Plan, which will be discussed by regional councillors at their finance and corporate committee on Wednesday.

The draft Annual Plan outlines proposed changes to the council’s work programme from the Long Term Plan, a 10-year plan developed in 2015.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said there had been changes to what the council needed to deliver since the LTP was developed, based both on what was happening in the environment and public feedback, requiring an increased work plan.

“One of the main drivers for this increased work activity is a change to how civil defence and emergency management is delivered and funded in Otago,” Mr Woodhead said.

“Instead of district and city councils each employing their own emergency management staff, they are now employed by ORC but continue to be based in the districts,” he said.

To meet this cost in 2017-18, the council is proposing a uniform targeted rate of $25.89 per property.

Another driver for the increased activity is the approaching deadlines in the water management space with rural water quality limits coming into force in 2020 and deemed permits (permits to take water) expiring in 2021.

“By 2020 rural landholders need to limit the amount of E.coli, nitrogen, and phosphorous going into waterways,” Cr Woodhead said.

“To help landholders and to monitor progress in achieving this goal, we plan to undertake environmental risk assessments on rural properties over the next three years.”

ORC also plans to accelerate its minimum flow-setting process to have all minimum flows needed for the replacement of deemed permits set by 2019.

“Minimum flows ensure that economic use of water continues while enough water remains in our rivers. With long standing deemed permits expiring in 2021, we need to give irrigators certainty on how much water is available for their use, while assuring the wider community that recreational, culture and ecological values will be protected,” Cr Woodhead said.

Although water management and civil defence are the main areas of focus in the draft Annual Plan, other new proposed activities signalled include:

• improvements to the Queenstown public transport service;

• re-establishment of an office in Queenstown;

• additional funding for research into lake snow;

• scoping work for the restoration of Lake Hayes, Tomahawk Lagoon, and Lake Tuakitoto; and

• the continuation of the wallaby control work funded from reserves in 2016/17.

Based on the average capital values in the districts, general rate rises proposed by the plan are between $2 and $13 across Otago, with some of the changes such as civil defence and rural water quality requiring increases in targeted rates.

ORC finance and corporate committee chairman Cr Doug Brown said the council had tried hard to balance the proposed rates rises with the community desire to see more done in the region.

“To help ease the impact on ratepayers we have sought a $1.5 million special dividend this year from Port Otago this year in addition to the $7.5 million they were already providing. This special dividend will also be provided next year and by 2019 we hope to have general rates at a level that no longer requires us to request special dividends from the port company,” Cr Brown said.

The public is encouraged to provide feedback on the plan, which will be available in early April. Public meetings will also be held in locations around Otago, as well as online via Facebook. Submissions open on April 3 and close on 12 May.

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