New marine pest management charges, plans adopted

28 Jun 2017

Ratepayers will foot around a third of the costs of Northland's marine pest management, with the balance met by roughly 4000 mooring and marina berth holders (and those with boatsheds) under a compromise agreed to on Wednesday, 28 June.

How to pay for marine pest management was one of the most hotly-debated proposals under a suite of initiatives the regional council went to the public about recently under a comprehensive combined consultation process.

Council chairman Bill Shepherd says decisions have now been made on council's Annual Plan 2017/18, Charging Policy 2017/18, Marine Pathway Management Plan 2017-2027 and Navigation Safety Bylaw 2017.

Chairman Shepherd says the council had originally proposed to charge mooring and marina berth holders, and those with boatsheds, $122 annually to pay for marine pest management. Additionally, three large Whangarei-based commercial facilities would have been charged $5,750 each.

However, he says councillors had decided on a different approach after a five-week submission period, during which council received more than 500 submissions and hosted several public information sessions. They had subsequently held three hearings meetings and a day of deliberations where the merits of each proposal had been considered.

The revised approach, which was passed by majority vote, means a now-reduced new charge of $79.50 (GST incl.) for roughly 4000 mooring and marina berth holders, and boatsheds. The three large commercial facilities in Whangarei will now pay $3,737.50 instead.

Chairman Shepherd says collectively the new charges are expected to net just over $300,000 annually and will help fund inspection, education, enforcement and other marine biosecurity activities.

After some debate, the decision to proceed with a Marine Pathway Plan, which has rules limiting hull fouling when vessels move to a new harbour or offshore island, was passed by a majority vote.

“Rules targeting the way marine pests are spread gives us a much more proactive and cost-effective approach; it’ll mean that instead of simply responding to arrivals we can actively prevent them.” 

Chairman Shepherd says implementation of the pathway plan would be done largely via the council’s existing marine biosecurity hull check programme.

Meanwhile, he says councillors had also approved a general rates increase which equates to less than $9 per rateable property per year on average (roughly 17 cents per week) as part of their Annual Plan approval.

The 4.84 percent increase will see the council collect $822,000 more across the region in general rates for the 2017/18 financial year.

“The additional money will help fund a suite of more than two dozen initiatives from native forest restoration to a safe boating programme.”

Council will also continue its regional infrastructure rate for another year and will reduce the amount charged under its Kaeo-Whangaroa Rivers Management Rate by 25 percent.

Due to a reduction in the cost of the Kaihu River Management programme of work, council has also reduced this targeted rate by 12%.

In other decisions, councillors had also decided to drop an exemption in council’s Navigation Safety Bylaw that had allowed kite boarders in the Waipu and Ruakaka estuaries to exceed the 5 knot limit. 

The move means kite boarders can no longer use these areas for kiteboarding if they’ll be travelling faster than 5 knots within 200m of the shore.