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Monday
Feb032014

WRC Rates up 0.3% on Average

Paula Southgate lauded the low increase in a statement on 31 January. She pointed to "big boost to work to improve water quality and solid funding for bio-diversity and flood control."

This is good news, and shows that maybe we can expect a real change in emphasis following the appointment of the new team at the top, The previous farmer dominated Council may just be beginning to realise that the status quo on farming practices cannot be allowed to continue. 

New Chief Executive Vaughan Payne seems to think that they can expand the work programme whilst restraining costs - good luck! It seems also that there is to be a better consultative process put in place that should obviate the high costs of litigation that have plagued the Council in the past. 

On the other hand, Council has confirmed its intention to opt out of their $650,000 Tb control program over the next two years. This is fair signal that it has bought into the anti-1080 rhetoric of our Councillor Clyde Graf. This indeed is bad news, but all those who voted for him should have realised that this was on the cards. This of course flys in the face of the recent DoC decision to double or treble its use in at risk forests over the next three years, and Environment Commissioer Dr Jan Wright's strong recommendations. 

Public submissions open on 17 March and close on 24 April. 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (4)

Bill,

The decision not to fund TbFreeNZ (formerly AHB) this year has very little to do with the 1080 debate.

Waikato Regional Council has been collecting levies on behalf of AHB and the livestock industry for years. The cost of collecting those levies has been borne by regional ratepayers. In addition, the regional council has targeted non-livestock industry ratepayers for 20 percent of the monies sent to AHB/TbFree.

Two years ago when it adopted its current long-term plan, WRC staff (once again) raised the issue of whether AHB should collect its own levies at its own expense for its own industry-related pest control activities. The council (including its former farmer chairman) voted to cease collecting levies for AHB, but in a show of flexibility and support, gave AHB a full two years to work out an alternative funding and collection alternative. WRC decided to continue funding AHB for the years 2012-13 and 2013-14 but to cease funding in the coming year 2014-15. Despite the more than ample two-year notice (during which time both livestock and non-livestock ratepayers continued to fund AHB activities in the Waikato), AHB/TbFree failed to develop an alternative funding plan and does not expect to do so by this June. This despite the fact that we are talking about a huge multimillion-dollar organisation. The fact is, TbFree has no incentive whatsoever to collect its own levies at its own expense and to give up its non-industry ratepayer subsidy.

There never was any funding for AHB in the current long-term plan for the coming 2014-15 financial year. That was decided two years ago. In the run-up to this year's annual plan council meetings, however, WRC pest control staff suggested reinstating funding for AHB in the 2014-15 financial year, even though TbFreeNZ failed to take up its collection and funding responsibilities, which is why there was a vote last week. However, in last weeks vote, there was wide support around the WRC table to proceed in accordance with the long-term plan. This decision was supported by the likes of Hugh Vercoe and Peter Buckley. It was not a vote about 1080.

The reasons WRC has gotten out of the TbFreeNZ rates collection business include: the regional council has no say whatsoever about how those monies are spent ($400,000 executive salaries for a start?); ratepayers should not bear the collection costs of levies for a separate industry organisation; non-livestock ratepayers, even in non-risk areas, have been unfairly subsidising the livestock industry by targeted rates.

The council still carries out pest control (both 1080 and no-1080) around the region. It is a mistake to conflate the issues of collecting levies for TbFreeNZ and 1080. And it is wrong to say this has anything to do with our constituency councillor's (Clyde Graf's) personal views about 1080, which a majority of councillors unfortunately do not share.

Geoff Robinson

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeoffrey Robinson

Bill,

Sorry for the additional post, but I would like to quote from a staff report that was included in last week's WRC council agenda....

"The regional contribution (which is 10 per cent of TbFreeNZ costs within the Waikato) could be saved or allocated to other activities with higher regional priority."

The staff report goes on to note that it was TbFreeNZ that requested WRC provide a net contribution of $705,000 for 2014-15, even though it is not in the long-term plan (and therefore not in this year's annual plan unless council embarks on a reversal of that plan).

Geoff

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeoffrey Robinson

I cannot dispute any of what you say Geoffrey - you are better informed than I about what has been happening with the WRC,
I understand from others that there is a lot be desired about the manner in which TbFreeNZ has been administered, so the decision is probably totally justified, and I withdraw any inference that it was related to the 1080 argument.

February 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill Barclay

The current council still has a significant number of farmers or those with farming interests on board.

To the best of my knowledge:
Buckley
Husband
Vercoe
Livingston
Stark
Kneebone

Could be others?

The change in emphasis is due to Southgate and Co Governance imperatives.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

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