Rates rise among de­bate is­sues

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

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.

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