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Farmers' Fighting Fund backs Piako Farmers

5 March 2000

Farmers' Fighting Fund backs Piako Farmers

The Farmers' Fighting Fund's Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Malcolm Bailey, announced today that the Farmers' Fighting Fund would back the Matamata-Piako district farmers in their dispute with Environment Waikato.

Mr Bailey said, "Numerous applications for financial assistance to fight issues have been made to the Trustees. However, to date this application was the first to meet the stringent and precedent-setting criteria of the Fund."

"It is very pleasing that the Farmers Fighting Fund launched in 1998 and supported throughout New Zealand is in a position to protect farmers' rights, as in the Matamata-Piako district."

Support for the Fund has continued over the past two years and the Fund was continuing to grow by both ongoing and new pledges of support," said Mr Bailey.

A group of farmers in the Upper Catchment of the Piako River Scheme have decided to appeal against Environment Waikato's differential rating system, which includes 'contributor rating', introduced by a Special Order in August 1999.

Those in the upper catchment have the labelled the 'contributor rating' as nothing more than a 'rainfall tax'. 'Contributor rating' is where land clearance has contributed to the cost of the scheme. All property owners in the catchment are being rated on the premise that land clearance from bush and swamp has resulted in increased storm runoff, which increases the costs of Scheme maintenance.

The appeal will take the form of a judicial review on the legality of the 'contributor rating'. The appeal will have two elements: the retrospective nature of the rating land clearance to fund the scheme, and the common law right to discharge runoff onto lower land.

Environment Waikato attempted to justify a contributor component of 15% of the total rate, whilst the groups technical adviser claimed less that 1% could be justified. It is the interpretation of contributor rating that has been hotly contested throughout the process.

The Piako River Scheme provides a comprehensive river and tidal flooding protection and drainage benefits, largely to the Hauraki Plains.

During the Special Order process, the Piako Upper Catchment Group joined with other affected landowners to represent approximately 90% of the total rate take and lobby Environment Waikato. Environment Waikato did not substantially address any of the concerns raised by the group.

ENDS

Farmers' Fighting Fund Chairman: Malcolm Bailey 06-323-8147 Secretary: Tony St. Clair 025-837-712


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