‘Prudent, precautionary’ decision to re-set special pest rate

17 Feb 2016, 9:01 AM

A targeted rate designed to target pests which threaten kiwi and help eradicate selected weeds on private land at Whangarei Heads is to be officially re-set in a ‘prudent, precautionary’ step to remove any future doubt as to its validity.

Believed to be one of the first of its kind in New Zealand, the $50 annual Whangarei Heads Pest Management Rate’  is levied on about 2000 ratepayers in an approximately 10,000 hectare area stretching roughly from Bream Head to Parua Bay.

Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd says under section 100T of the Biosecurity Act the council needs to be able to demonstrate it had specifically taken identified matters into account when setting the rate in June last year.

“Council is confident it complied with section 100T at that time, but will re-set the rate as this is the most prudent option and manages future potential risk should the setting of the rate be challenged legally.”

Councillor Shepherd says the issue came to light late last year after a member of the public raised questions about the way the rate had been set and the council had sought a legal opinion.

That opinion confirmed there had been “material compliance” with the legal requirements but suggested re-setting it as a precaution for the avoidance of any doubt and to be explicit about the section 100T matters.

Adopted as part of the council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) 2015-2025, Cr Shepherd says the targeted rate had attracted submissions from 255 ratepayers, of whom 61 percent had agreed with it, 25% had disagreed and 16% had other issues.

A report recommending the rate be re-set at its original $50 annual level was considered by councillors at a meeting in Kerikeri yesterday. 

The report says in addition to regionwide LTP publicity and public meetings (including one at Whangarei Heads) last year, every resident in the targeted rate zone had been written to advising them of the issue and describing the options.

The report’s authors, council CEO Malcolm Nicolson and Corporate Services Manager Dave Tams, says they believe residents within the relevant zone were informed “through a number of avenues and the majority of respondents were supportive of the targeted rate being introduced”.

“While council is aware that some individual members of the community (within the targeted rate area) are opposed to the rate, the council is not aware of widespread community concern about the rate.”

Councillor Shepherd says councillors had yesterday considered the section 100T Biosecurity Act matters and agreed to re-set the rate.

While further public consultation was not required, the decision to re-set the rate will be notified, including through public notices, shortly.  The rate is then expected to be formally re-set at the council’s next full meeting in March.