Wānaka Sun       

Environmental issue front of table for ORC LTP

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 01 Apr, 2021 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

An “urgent interest” in environmental issues has directed the Otago Regional Council (ORC) Draft Long Term Plan (LTP) that was adopted last Thursday.

The plan will be subject to a consultation period before it can be finalised and adopted in June.

ORC Chair Andrew Noone said the LTP sets out an “ambitious program of improvements” to meet the growing expectations for Otago's environmental management.

“We've got a lot of work to do as a Council. The requirements on regional councils around the country are increasing as the government and our communities take a more urgent interest in environmental issues. We've set out an ambitious work programme in the Draft LTP to respond to these expectations.”

Noone said the big areas of improvement were in science and monitoring, policy, and regulation.

“We're investing in more comprehensive and detailed environmental monitoring and science, to give us the best information basis for managing land, water and biodiversity in Otago. We're ramping up our policy work on a new Land and Water Regional Plan that sets out the rules and policies to protect Otago's environmental values, in line with national direction. And we're improving our regulatory function, which includes more capacity for consenting and compliance. These are all core functions which, over the long-term, have really important benefits for Otago's environment.”

The LTP proposes a total rates increase for Otago of 47.5 per cent in year one, comprising a 73.2 per cent general rates increase ($80 per household on average) and a 29.3 per cent targeted rates increase.

“We know the first questions from our ratepayers when we bring an Annual Plan or LTP to the table are, ‘What will it cost?' and ‘What will it pay for?',” Noone said.

“We recognise the proposed rates increase is a big step up from where Otago rates have been in the past. Unfortunately, those low rates are no longer sustainable with the work programme in front of us. Catching up with the 0 per cent general rates rise that we absorbed last year during Covid-19 lockdown, as well as the extra resource taken on in science and regulation this year, meant a 35 per cent total rates increase before we even began to consider the next ten years.”

The consultation period will run from Friday, 9 April, to Sunday, 9 May, during which the public can have their say on the Draft LTP. A consultation document will be in mailboxes during that period, while submissions can also be made online via the ORC website.

“This is a big year for ORC, and it's a big LTP, so we really encourage people to engage with the proposals and let us know what you think. The consultation document sets out three key areas where we are asking for feedback. These are our biosecurity service levels and funding, and how we balance the overall LTP budget. You can also comment on any other aspect of the LTP.

“The consultation period starts in just over two weeks and runs for a month, so there's plenty of time to consider the options and make a submission. Look out for more information in your letterbox soon, and do take the opportunity to have your say – we'd love to have your input,” Noone said.

Read edition 1020 of the Wānaka Sun here.



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