Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead has praised the public of Otago for their thoughtful contributions to the council’s Long Term Plan process, which recently achieved a milestone.
The council’s finance and corporate committee has accepted recommendations made by the LTP hearings panel, which considered 160 submissions on the LTP consultation document.
These submissions covered a range of issues including revenue policy changes; the consultation process; flood and drainage schemes; water; biodiversity; and transport
Those recommendations will now go for adoption to a full council meeting on June 24, along with a resolution to strike rates for 2015-16.
Eighty submitters appeared in person before the hearings panel at sessions throughout Otago.
Mr Woodhead said the hearings panel had deliberated on the public submissions, including the personal representations made by the 80 submitters, in arriving at their recommendations.
The Long Term Plan ostensibly covers from 2015-2025 but in essence sets out the council’s work programmes for the next three years, when these programmes will be reviewed.
“Public participation in our LTP process was strong and Council has taken on board some of the feedback it received. One of the outcomes of this has been a significant softening in proposed increases in targeted rates,” Mr Woodhead said.
We have listened carefully to what the public has said about some of these proposed increases, and where possible, these have been revised,” he said.
Regardless of the revisions, the council plans to maintain its commitment to ensuring good water quality in Otago waterways.
It will continue with those work programmes by increasing monitoring and compliance activity to action new water quality provisions in the Otago Water Plan. These rules aim to bring about improved water quality where it is poor or maintain good water quality.
Mr Woodhead said council staff would continue to liaise closely with other agencies and with landholders to ensure they become aware of their responsibilities for achieving good water quality as laid out in the Water Plan.
One of the proposed new targeted rates will help fund additional water quality science and monitoring work. Reserves would pay for investments in related technology.
Mr Woodhead said a three-year transition period was now planned for the introduction of the water quality targeted rate, with 60 percent of the monitoring and science work to be funded by the targeted rate in 2015-16, 67.5 percent in 2016-17, and 75 percent in 2017-18.
The impact of this proposed change to the funding of the water quality rate for the 2015-16 year is to reduce the contribution from targeted ratepayers by $307,000 to $506,000, which reduces the median water rate from $49 to $36.41.
It also results in a readjustment of the proposed increase in the general rate from 5.18 percent to 6.5 percent, with the additional increase equating to an extra 44c a year for a home with a capital value of $250,000.
The other new targeted rate will fund ORC’s annual programme of monitoring dairy farms to ensure these landholders are compliant with the permitted activity water quality conditions.
An earlier proposal to establish three classes of targeted rates for dairy farm monitoring to ensure that landholders comply with the water quality provisions in the Water Plan, would have seen each of the 450 dairy farms in Otago receive at least one visit (and some up to two or three visits) from ORC compliance staff, each visit costing $235. The estimated expenditure for this activity was about $192,000.
Mr Woodhead said it was now proposed that all dairy farms are charged for one visit only, at a cost of $235, reducing the cost of the project by about $90,000.
"This means that rating charges for visits will be based on compliance with the water quality provisions, rather than sensitivity of the receiving environment, which some submitters had told us they thought this unfair,” he said.
Mr Woodhead said he hoped the extent of the proposed amendments to the LTP would reassure the public that councillors had seriously considered their views and were prepared to propose amendments where necessary.
“This is democracy in action, and we are grateful for the way in which the community has engaged with us during this process,” he said
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