A consultation document outlining the main points proposed for ORC’s 2015-2025 Long Term Plan has been approved for release by the council’s finance and corporate committee.
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the consultation document foreshadows the council’s work programmes, sets out performance targets for each of the activities for the first three years of the plan, and comments on potential activities for the succeeding seven years.
The council plans to expand its work programmes by increasing monitoring and compliance activity to action new rules in the Otago Water Plan. These rules aim to bring about improved water quality where it is poor or maintain good water quality.
Alongside this, in the first year of the plan, a 5.2 percent increase in the general rate and the introduction of two new targeted rates are the main financial features.
One of the proposed new targeted rates will help fund additional focused water quality monitoring and new science and technology work. The other will fund ORC’s annual programme of monitoring dairy farms to ensure these landholders are compliant with our permitted activity rules.
The adoption of the consultation document paves the way for the public to make submissions from the week starting March 23. Submissions close on May 4 and hearings at which submitters will be able to speak, are planned for the week starting May 11.
The consultative process is the forerunner to the council’s adoption of the LTP on June 24, after submissions have been considered.
Mr Woodhead said the consultative process offered ratepayers and residents a chance to have their say about the direction of the work outlined in the plan, based around four key themes: water, biodiversity, land protection, and air.
The predominant focus, for at least the first three years of the plan, would be on implementing new water quality rules and water quantity provisions in the Otago Water Plan.
There is a strong user-pays component in the plan associated with implementing and enforcing the new water quality rules. This work will cost an estimated $2 million in 2015/16, and will continue on through the life of the plan.
It will include:
- ensuring landholders become compliant with the rules, by working with key stakeholders who can educate and advise landholders of recommended methods and practices.
- investing in, or contributing to the development of technologies to assist with water quality measurement, especially tools that landholders can themselves use to help them self-regulate such as real time water quality testing.
- developing plan changes to address urban water discharges.
Of the $2 million earmarked for this work, $752,000 will come from general rates, $813,000 from a new water quality targeted rate, and $413,000 from reserves.
The new targeted rate, calculated on a capital value basis on certain rural land types, is being introduced to contribute to the cost of additional focused water quality monitoring and new science work.
ORC has an annual programme of monitoring dairy farms to ensure these properties comply with the permitted activity rules in the Otago Water Plan. A new targeted rate (separate from the water quality targeted rate) is proposed to fund all of these monitoring costs.
Every dairy farm in Otago will have at least one monitoring visit by ORC in 2015-16 to ensure that their activities are causing no adverse effects on our waterways. Some dairy farms may require two or more monitoring visits during a year.
The dairy farm monitoring will cost about $192,000 in 2015-16 and be funded by three different classes of rates. The number of visits will be based on the sensitivity of the receiving environment – ie the catchment or sub-catchment the property is located in.
During 2015-16 a review will be done of what the council, community groups, and environmental agencies are doing on biodiversity, consider where there may be gaps or duplication, and a biodiversity strategy will be developed from there.
There will be special emphasis on developing a targeted response to the effects of climate change, especially in South Dunedin for which a natural hazards risk management strategy would be developed in association with the Dunedin City Council.
There is also a proposal in the LTP consultation document to collate existing information about the location and characteristics of known active geological faults in Otago and investigate potentially new faults.
Planned spending on major new initiatives to improve bus services in Dunedin – including the development of a central bus hub in the city, and the implementation of a new electronic ticketing system during 2015-16 and 2016-17 – is also outlined.
Mr Woodhead said the planned 5.2 percent general rate increase in 2015-16 might sound like a lot in percentage terms.
“However, in dollar terms the actual rate increase for the year is around $260,000, spread across approximately 115,000 households,” he said.
This requires each ratepayer to pay, on average, $2.20 more in general rates in 2015-16 than they did in 2014-15.
Mr Woodhead said the council received regular dividends from Port Otago Ltd, in which the council holds 100 percent of the shares.
“We also have investments that earn us interest and rental income. The dividends and some of our investment income are used to reduce the amount of general rates that everyone has to pay.”
“For example, for the first year of the Long Term Plan, we have around $14.4 million of costs that should be paid for from general rates, but once we take off the dividend and investment income, we will only have to charge ratepayers around $5.3 million,” he said.
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