The regional council is wanting to fix the environment by setting up a fund to focus on six “hot spots” in the Bay – but there is a catch.
The authority is asking ratepayers to spend an extra $28 on a one-off rate hike to kick start the fund to clean up the region’s waterways which it says are “vitally important to our community, Tangata Whenua, businesses, industry and tourism.”
The proposal and accompanying rate increase are included in the council’s draft 2017-18 annual plan which will be put before the authority this week.
Chairman Rex Graham says right now the regional economy is booming, off the hard work and innovation of our farmers, growers, orchardists and support industries.
“But we also have big challenges in our environment and our council faces difficult choices with our limited resources,” he says.
“We have identified six hot-spot areas [see below] we want to give special focus to, without taking our eye off other issues in our region.
“[As such], we are proposing a one-off rates increase to create a $1m environmental kick-start fund to accelerate action on our hot-spots.”
He says as part of this journey, council will comprehensively review its business to return to its core competencies, find off-setting savings and efficiencies, as well as additional opportunities to leverage government, philanthropic and community funds to meet our shared goals.
“We will lay out our approach for the next ten years in 2018's Long Term Plan, but we need to get started,” he says.
“The work we need to do now requires an increase of around $20 per ratepayer, or $1.22 million.
“A further $8 per ratepayer $500,000 is required to maintain the council's core business, giving us a total average rate rise of $28 per ratepayer for the year.”
Reagional council Chairman Rex Graham.
Graham says the bottom line is that many of our rivers, lakes and streams are a disgrace and in some cases getting worse.
“Our role as councillors is to consider all options to meet the needs and aspirations of the Hawke's Bay community, to make real progress in priority 'hot spots' and to continue our efforts to safeguard Hawke's Bay's natural environment,” he says.
“We need to fix them and we need your help to do this.”
He says the proposed rate increase is to offset the large portion of annual income from Napier Port which council receives, heavily subsidising the cost of services to ratepayers.
“Thanks to our booming regional economy, the Port is enjoying unprecedented growth. This will bring its own challenges,” he says.
“To support this growth, the Port must invest in infrastructure and dividend payments may reduce for a period of time.”
With the 2017-18 Annual Plan coming into play July 1, council is proposing an average rate increase of $28 or 9.88 per cent.
The above table shows how the proposed rate increase will affect different parts of the community. [Note: NC is working on getting a clearer version of table].
This compares to the forecasted increase of 5.51 per cent set out in the last Long Term Plan, for the 2017-18 year.
The regional council’s vision for the six “hot spots”:
The council wishes to develop a comprehensive action plan to restore the lake and prevent future contamination from the wider landscape. Its goal is to make this a place that families can return to, and where children can swim.
The council wants to work with Napier City Council, Maori, Department of Conservation, other landowners and businesses in this area - a national treasure – to clean up water entering the estuary, remove pests and restore the environment to good health.
WHAKAKI LAKE and WAIROA RIVER
Here it wants to develop a catchment enhancement plan to improve land use opportunities and reduce sediment from erosion choking the lake and aquatic life.
LAKE WHATUMA and TUKITUKI CATCHMENT
For this area or the region, the authority wishes to develop an environment enhancement plan for riparian, wetland and biodiversity improvement.
The council says additional funding will accelerate the current riparian enhancement programme. It wants to improve in-stream ecology and reduce contaminants entering the water.
The local body says effective pest control helps to improve the natural diversity of our region. Bird numbers and tree health has improved dramatically. The council plans to do more in the area of predator control and says it is working hard to keep more soil on the land where it belongs, not in our waterways and marine environment.
In addition to this Graham says the HBRC is looking at other areas such as an increased science effort on our rivers, lakes and estuaries.
“To support restoration programmes and monitor our progress over time,” he says.
“Our rivers and lakes need to be 'swimmable'.
"In addition to curbing sediment loss entering our estuaries and Hawke Bay, we want to start a programme of marine research that has been by recreational, customary and commercial groups.”
Finally, Graham says the council wants to improve the way we engage and inform our communities, including the support and servicing of local tangata whenua representatives, committees and schools. In this vein, the council is asking ratepayers to have their say on this proposal and its draft Annual Plan for 2017-18. See below for more information.