Forestry operations may pay more rates for road repairs

Waitaki-based forestry operations could pay higher rates to keep up the district’s roads, and Oamaru businesses could be off the hook for paying for the district’s toilets.

These changes were among those approved in the Waitaki District Council’s draft revenue and financing policy 2018.

Consultation on the proposals began  this week and will close on April 30 so the hearings can coincide with the council’s long-term plan hearings in May — and the policy can be used when next year’s rates are set. In its draft policy the council outlines 10 changes to its rating policy.

A targeted rate from Oamaru businesses now pays 10% for district toilets and shifting that cost into a general rate would save Oamaru businesses $70,000. The council proposal states the "service level differences that prompted" the targeted rate’s original inclusion in the policy had changed. In another proposed change, the council would also remove targeted rates to fund Waitaki lakes camping, increasing the average Oamaru residential rates bill by $10.

The council also proposed adjusting a targeted rate for forestry land to put aside $120,000 next year as it built a reserve to respond to "forestry generated" roading issues. Council finance and corporate development group manager Paul Hope said "an awful lot of rural councils" were dealing with forestry activities becoming "almost continuous" in the district and its impact on roads.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher defended adding to forestry companies’ rates bill. He said Horse Range Rd, near Palmerston, had been "smashed to bits" by a forestry operation and required $3million in remedial works. While others in the district were complaining about the level of service on their rural roads, "resources get sucked to another area".

He did not accept that the council would be targeting the forestry ahead of the dairy industry — which also had an impact on the district’s rural roads — because dairy properties were valued much more highly and consequently already paid more rates.

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