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Long Term Plan delivers on Regional Council priorities

Thursday, 25 June 2015 4:00 p.m.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council has adopted a Long Term Plan that focuses on delivering healthy water and soils, and resilient communities for the Bay.

Its 2015-2025 Plan, formally adopted today, outlines $104 million worth of operational work in the region next year, and a total rates rise of 6.5 percent for the 2015/16 year, with lower rises planned in subsequent years. This means between $1 and $28 will be added to the average annual rates bill per property. This is lower than the proposed rates increase that was consulted on. About 20 percent of the Council’s expenditure is funded through general rates, and the rest from a mix of investment income, cost recovery, general rates, targeted rates and Central Government grants. Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder said preparing the Long Term Plan was the result of a robust consultation with the community.

“We received 276 submissions, a significant increase on previous long term and annual plans, on our consultation document ‘Thriving Together – Whakawhanake Tahi’. This outlined what is important to our community – water quality and quantity, environmental protection, resilience and safety, regional collaboration and leadership and economic development,” he said.

“Over four days of hearings in mid-April we heard from more than 100 organisations and individuals in Tauranga, Whakatane and Rotorua. Many requests went beyond the scope of the proposals, some beyond the scope of our existing functions and services.”

Of 838 submission points, 285 – a third – were on community engagement, volunteer support and requests for funding. A total of $500,000 has been allocated for funding requests, the Council’s Environmental Enhancement Fund and corporate sponsorship.

More than 40 percent of submissions were on water quality and quantity, most supporting Council programmes. Giving effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is a key Long Term Plan priority, and resourcing is in place to support decision making for limit setting in the Water Management Areas. The Kaituna and Rangitāiki catchments are the first areas to go through the limit setting process.

Mr Leeder said demand was higher than funds available for biodiversity, so the Council needed to prioritise. Funding has also been increased to control containment pests – those that are well established in the region, and continued funding for the Tb Free NZ programme.

Mr Leeder said 37 submissions were received from Maori, almost 14 percent of total submissions, indicating that Maori were more engaged than ever with the Council.

“Maori are requesting more opportunities to provide feedback into our processes, and recognition of matauranga Maori [traditional knowledge] to inform our decision-making on freshwater. Our very successful Maori Capacity Conference will remain a biennial event.

“We have reinstated funding for Bay of Connections and SmartGrowth, will complete the eastern Bay spatial plan and retain funds to complete our own spatial plan, publish Invest Bay of Plenty data and undertake a feasibility study into a marine spatial plan. We’ve agreed to increase the operational budget by an extra $50,000 in 2015/16 to help cover the Regional Growth Study costs.”

Mr Leeder said the Council had budgeted over $11 million for contributions towards sewerage schemes in Rotoma, Rotoiti, Te Puna West and Ongare Point, subject to community agreement, consents and conditions. These projects are led by the District Councils.

Over $42 million of funding is allocated over the next five years to contribute to regional infrastructure projects. These four projects, the Ōpōtiki Harbour Transformation, Tauranga Marine Precinct, Tauranga Tertiary Campus and SCION Innovation Centre offer truly transformational economic change. Council intends to rebuild a regional fund for a range of priorities across the region, and the funding policy will be reviewed.

Overall, the Council is spending 33 percent of its operational budget on environmental protection, 23 percent on water quality and quantity, 16 percent on resilience and safety, 15 percent on regional collaboration and leadership and 13% on economic development, in line with its regional priorities.

LTP 2015 - 2025