Rates rise among debate issues
Carbon farming, commuter rail, spatial planning and civil defence will be among the issues debated at next week’s Environment Waikato council meeting to set the draft budget for the 2011/ 12 financial year.
Chief executive Bob Laing said councillors would start with a draft budget forecasting a rates increase of 1.9 per cent.
Mr Laing highlighted the potential for further rates revenue requirements of $71.81 million by the time the draft budget went to public consultation.
Councillors were being asked to consider several new projects including the proposed regional carbon strategy. A provisional sum of $50,000 was sought.
EW staff reports said farmers could improve marginal land by planting their steep and erosionprone land in trees for carbon credits or allowing it to revert to native bush.
Positioning the Waikato to maximise the advantages of being part of the ‘‘golden triangle’’ with Auckland and Bay of Plenty was also up for discussion and $100,000 was requested to start the development of a Waikato spatial plan.
The Hamilton to Auckland com- muter rail service would also be discussed. The multi-agency working group set up to look at the feasibility of the service recently called for three options to be investigated. A twice-daily train service could be running next year but only if there was community support for funding it.
While the working group did not support a staff recommendation for extra funding in the 2011/12 year, EW staff had signalled that funding might be required before July 2012.
Councillors are being asked to approve $355,000 for the region’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group. A Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management report identified areas where the Waikato needed emergency management improvements.
Significant capital requirements include a proposal for a new real time information system for bus users and building repairs.
Further work is under way to better assess the cost of repairing water damage to EW’s main Hamilton offices in Grey Street as a result of defective external cladding. An initial estimate for repairing the building is $1.4 to $1.79million (inclusive of GST) but further work is required to determine a budget figure. Staff are proposing that the $597,000 surplus from the 2009/10 financial year could be set aside to fund repairs once the cost is known.
The budget discussions are scheduled for three days from February 1 to 3.
Councillors are scheduled to adopt the draft annual plan on March 10.
EW will consult with the public on the plan from March 25 to April 26. It will hear submissions May 16 to 20 before adoption of the annual plan on June 29.