Debate over support for Enviroschools

Councillors frustrated by the lack of action in sorting out whether the Otago Regional Council should support an Enviroschools regional co-ordinator have called for action.

Yesterday, councillors considered the recommendations of the annual plan committee which suggested the council turn down a request from the Dunedin City Council for $60,000 to fund the Enviroschools regional co-ordinator role, as it did not have enough information.

Cr Michael Deaker said that claim was embarrassing, given Enviroschools staff had submitted to the annual plan most years and there was an extensive description on the council's website of the work they did.

''I'd like to see this given more urgency, rather than simply declining the request.''

He called for both councils' staff to begin discussions with a view to moving the regional co-ordination function and employment of staff to the regional council.

''The time has come ... to take on this role and do it really, really well.''

Cr Bryan Scott said he was frustrated nothing had been done since the last annual plan process, when the subject of the regional council taking on the regional co-ordination role was also raised.

''We're still here debating this.''

Cr Gretchen Robertson said while there was a lot of support within the annual plan committee for Enviroschools, it was a ''slightly touchy and tricky'' situation, as the request involved the staff staying put at the city council.

Any shift in function could mean the regional co-ordination role needed to be ''unbundled'' from the other work the co-ordinators did.

Cr Trevor Kempton said the Enviroschools programme could offer the regional council a great opportunity to engage with children and families.

''It's a potential win-win situation.''

'Councillors agreed to Cr Deaker's additional recommendation for staff to work out a proposal for the transfer of the regional co-ordination role.

However, Cr Gerry Eckhoff disagreed, saying if the council was going to support Enviroschools it should also be putting funding towards the wilding pines group's request, which the hearing panel had turned down.

The panel's recommendations that funding also be turned down to the Clutha River Parkway Group, Heritage New Zealand, Pathways for the Pomahaka Group, Central Otago Wastebusters, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and the New Zealand Transport Agency were approved by the committee.

It also left the door open for funding for the Deep Water Lakes Management and Cargills Castle Trust.

The committee also supported the recommendation the council support the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group's possum ''mop-up'' by acting as the independent monitor of the success of the work.

In response to submissions calling for maintenance and dredging of Otago Harbour to improve access for boats, it recommended investigating the roles of the regional and city councils and other harbour users in doing such work.

The committee clarified the biodiversity work planned by council in the coming year saying it was a ''review'' rather than a strategy.

The recommendations did not change the proposed general rate increase of 2.5%.

It would now go to the full council meeting on June 25 for adoption.

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