Regional Council delivers despite Rena
Monday, 8 October 2012 2:00 p.m.
Despite an increased workload and the grounding of the MV Rena off the Tauranga coast last October, Bay of Plenty Regional Council still delivered on its major projects, including progressing its major programmes for Rotorua Lakes and Tauranga Harbour.
All projects - including developing and adopting a new Ten Year Plan and a new Regional Policy Statement and day-to-day Council activities - were achieved, and the Regional Council ended its financial year with a surplus.
The Council adopted its Annual Report last week, recording an operating surplus of $3.4 million, compared with a budget deficit of $4.3 million, a variation of $7.7 million. However, it increased its overall non-cash surplus to $29.7 million due to an accounting adjustment following a revaluation of the liability the Council has for shares issued in a previous year.
Considerable progress has been made in protecting and restoring the Rotorua lakes, including research, monitoring and on-the-ground measures, policy development and stakeholder consultation. Achievements include land management and land use change policies, provision in the Ten Year Plan for rates remission to encourage forestry and bush, good results from annual lake health reporting showing stable and improving water quality. Lake Rotoehu is the healthiest it's been for nearly two decades.
The Regional Council is working with the community on a revised Strategy for the Lakes, Lake Ōkaro was dosed with alum to deal with toxic blue-green algal bloom, nutrient reduction targets at Lake Ōkāreka have been met and the Environment Court has approved the operation of Ōkere Gates at Lake Rotoiti and Ōhau Weir at Lake Rotorua.
Work also continued on protecting and enhancing Tauranga Harbour. A number of policies have been implemented to improve harbour health, including nutrient management plans on the catchment's dairy farms, progressing catchment action plans and a Tauranga Harbour Coastal Margins Project to look at coastal biodiversity and erosion. Estuary Care groups have been working on pest plant and animal control, managing mangroves and removing sea lettuce.
After extensive consultation a new Regional Pest Management Plan outlining management of pests in the Bay of Plenty for the next five years was approved last July. The Regional Land Transport Strategy 2011 - 2041 (RLTS) was adopted in November and a Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) was adopted in April.
It's been another record-breaking year for public transport. Over the year Rotorua bus service use was 23 percent higher than the previous year, rural bus service use was 15 percent higher and Tauranga passenger transport use was 11 percent higher.
Measures were implemented to improve air quality in Rotorua, which has the worst air quality in the North Island. In May this year the 'Point of Sale' rule came into force, requiring home buyers and sellers to remove or decommission wood or coal burners that are not clean air-approved before a property is sold.
The Council also continued its clean heat Hot Swap scheme, helping homeowners to convert to clean heat appliances with an interest-free loan, with 336 conversions this year.
The three-year-old Bay of Connections economic development strategy was reviewed and updated to ensure it remained current in a changing economic climate. Earlier this year the Bay was ranked second to top performing region in economic development in New Zealand in 2011, according to a report from Business and Economic Research Ltd (BERL).
Work continues on energy, aquaculture, forestry, transport and logistics sector strategies, and new strategies are being developed for information and communication technology, and Māori economic development and land use sectors.
Regional Council Chairman John Cronin said that in addition to the accounting adjustment which generated a significant surplus, unbudgeted operating revenue included $2.4 million received from Rivers and Drainage schemes. A total of $6 million of grants to external organisations funded from Council's reserves did not go ahead due to project delays. Some projects were carried forward into 2012/13
"Capital expenditure was $17.2 million, $1 million underspent. We spent more than originally budgeted for on repairs to river schemes to take advantage of good weather conditions, and this was offset by underspends on corporate services activities," he said.
"We budgeted to receive $79.8 million in revenue, but actually received $106.3 million, $26.5 million more than planned. Rates income was close to budget at $26.2 million."
The Council received $27.4 million in finance income, including a dividend from Quayside Holdings of $11.2 million and $16.2 million from interest and other income from investments, as well as gains of $1.2 million on the sale of investments and assets.
User fees and charges, grants from Central Government and other revenue was $3.1 million more than budget at $29.5 million. The Council spent $80.9 million on services to the community, $3.2 million less than budget.
A summary and full Annual Report are available on the Regional Council's website www.boprc.govt.nz, or hard copies can be ordered on 0800 884 880.