Farmers call for drain rates review

Taieri farmers have called for a review of the way rates for drainage and flood protection works are set in their area to ensure those getting the most benefits from any proposed works pay.

Farmers formed the majority of the 28 submitters present at the regional council's draft long-term council community plan hearings in Dunedin yesterday.

They were heard by a panel comprising Crs Duncan Butcher (chairman), Gretchen Robertson, Stephen Woodhead, Louise Croot, Doug Brown and Bryan Scott.

In the draft plan, the council proposes spending $4.3 million in the lower Taieri mostly on the Silver Stream flood hazard, $2 million over four years on the West Taieri drainage scheme and $1.4 million over five years mainly for the replacement of pumps at East Taieri.

Taieri farmer Colin Scurr said they could not expect schemes put in place 30 years ago to be relevant to today's land use, so the rating classifications needed to be fixed before the regional council continued with any of the Silver Stream works.

The proposed capital works of more than $7 million in the three Taieri targeted rating areas were too much and a "more realistic level of expenditure must be planned for in your final LTCCP", he said.

Outram farmer Fred Doherty said it came down to the level of risk landowners could accept. West Taieri ratepayers should be listened to as it was their homes and livelihoods that were at risk.

He believed the council had to explore all the options so farmers were not faced with a doubling of their rates bill.

Federated Farmers Otago called for the council to put on hold any capital upgrades for the flood protection scheme until a review of the cost-benefit classification was undertaken.

The organisation also suggested further consultation with the West Taieri drainage liaison committee over the next three years, with a view to full consultation on any further upgrades in 2012.

West Taieri farmer David Wilson said continual, significant rates increases of 30% were starting to get "quite onerous" on ratepayers.

He asked for a promise from the council to look again at the timing of the work as, given the economic climate, "the last thing farmers needed was a large rates increase".

West Taieri farmer Ian Bryant said the plans for new pumps were too expensive and suggested refurbishing pumps could be an option. Thousands of dollars had been spent fixing the three pumps, which would go to waste if they were taken out, he said.

Upper Pond Ratepayers Group spokesman Simon Parks said, with the significant change of land use in the area, some ratepayers were unfairly burdened. "We'd like a greater level of consultation."

The hearings continue in Oamaru today.



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