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Otago regional councillors yesterday voted 6-5 to charge people in the entire district, going against council staff’s preferred proposal of making only Lake Hayes residents foot the bill.
The decision was made during a finance committee meeting in Queenstown during which councillors deliberated on public feedback to its proposed long-term plan 2021-31.
The council had proposed spending $3.5million on improving Lake Hayes’s degrading water quality and during consultation presented three options on how that work could be funded.
Those options were:
- Creating a new targeted rate for Lake Hayes residents, including Shotover Country.
- Using an existing river and water management targeted rate, which would allocate the funding across the entire Queenstown Lakes District.
- Spreading the cost evenly across all Otago ratepayers.
While there was some support among councillors to charge the whole region, the majority of councillors voted to charge the entire district.
Council staff had indicated their preferred option was to make Lake Hayes residents pay because they received the most benefit from the lake, but that concept was debated by submitters who said the benefits were region-wide.
Some submitters also argued that it was the polluters who should pay, and it was not necessarily those who lived directly around the lake that had polluted it.
It seemed most councillors agreed, as no councillors yesterday supported the option of targeting Lake Hayes residents.
Cr Andrew Noone said the lake restoration project improved the environment, and that would benefit more than just those who lived around the lake.
Cr Michael Laws called the idea of creating a targeted rate for Lake Hayes "appalling".
"[Lake Hayes is] enjoyed by everyone in the region, [it is] iconic not just to people in the region, but in the country."
Cr Michael Deaker agreed it was "Otago’s lake".
"We can not go back and find the polluters, they are dead and buried," Cr Deaker said.
"But everyone can play their part in restoring any lakes in trouble," he said.
Cr Gary Kelliher was not at yesterday’s meeting.
Some councillors also agreed with submitters who said the proposed Lake Hayes rate should have included other areas, including Millbrook and Arrowtown.
Council staff were asked whether a mistake had been made, to which corporate services general manager Nick Donnelly said Millbrook and Arrowtown were not included as an assessment did not find them to be areas that used the lake for recreation.
"People will always argue whether they do or do not, but that is the assessment we have and that is what it is based on," he said.
Despite the feedback, 66% of submitters voted in favour of Lake Hayes residents paying.
Of those who voted in favour of Lake Hayes residents paying, about 70% said they lived in Dunedin and 16% lived in Central Otago.
The option chosen only received 19% support from submitters, with 54% of those being in Dunedin and 32% in Central Otago.
More than half of the 15% of people who voted for a region-wide rate were from Central Otago.