Significant investment in emergency management capability across Otago has been confirmed with the adoption of the Otago Regional Council’s annual plan today.
ORC Chairman Stephen Woodhead said that the proposal to allocate additional resources to making Otago more resilient received strong support from the community during the consultation undertaken earlier this year.
“The Alpine Fault is just one of the natural hazards that exist in our region,” he said during the Council’s debate on the annual plan adoption. “Our community needs to be better prepared for all kinds of disruptive events. We are building on the establishment of Emergency Management Otago last year to support this important work.”
Instead of district and city councils each employing their own emergency management officers, the staff are now employed by ORC but continue to be based in the districts. ORC will collect a uniform targeted rate of $25.89 to meet this cost and fund Emergency Management Otago’s increased activity in 2017-18.
The Council also voted to confirm funding for a new subsidised public bus service in the Wakatipu that will provide cheap and convenient transport options for residents and visitors.
ORC’s contribution boosts funding already confirmed by Queenstown Lakes District Council and the NZ Transport Agency. It enables more frequent services linking communities across the Wakatipu, with extended hours and a trial of $2 fares.
Cr Woodhead said that ORC had brought forward its scheduled review of passenger transport in the Wakatipu in response to the district’s rapid growth, to ensure there was “a fit for purpose subsidised public transport system”.
The Council had also responded to community requests for a permanent and full-time staff presence in the Queenstown area, and would be looking for premises to reopen an office there, supplementing staff already based permanently in Alexandra, Cromwell and Wanaka.
Cr Woodhead said the Council was delighted to have received 825 submissions, which were considered by the hearings panel. He said that the plan adopted today reflected the community’s preferences expressed through the consultation process, and the “turning tide” of acceptance that the Council had to be more active in water management.
Rural water quality limits come 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, To support them and monitor progress, a programme of environmental risk assessments on rural properties over the next three years will start in 2017-18.
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.
Cr Woodhead said minimum flows ensure that economic use of water continues while enough water remains in the region’s rivers. The flow-setting process would give irrigators certainty on how much water is available for their use.
“The wider community can also be assured that recreational, cultural and ecological values will be protected as a result of this process,” Cr Woodhead said.
“This annual plan is showing that we are adapting to the community’s needs. We are not here to please everybody but overall we have moved a significant distance. Where there are needs, we are anticipating, we are reacting and we are resourcing up.”
The Annual Plan also includes 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 to prevent the pest animal becoming established in Otago.
The cost of the additional activity is being offset by a $1.5 million special dividend this year from Port Otago in addition to the $7.5 million they were already providing.
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