The gallery swelled to more than 60 residents as the Far North District Council heard submissions on its Long Term Plan last Friday in Kerikeri.
The meeting saw an end to a week's worth of submissions starting on Monday in Kaikohe. Concerns ranged from the personal circumstances where a board document affected a single ratepayer to the effect the council's long term plan would have on industry and the environment. Craig Salmon spoke for the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.
He asked on behalf of chairman Dean Baigent-Mercer for a greater commitment to environmental sustainability by the council.
Forest and Bird says the council must be independent from mining interests.
"This must start with the withdrawal of council from the Explore Northland Mineral Group to maintain independence."
However, ratepayers' concerns were given the most prominence at the meeting.
David Kelly questioned the council's approach to targeted rates, especially its targeted rates on road use by industry.
He questioned whether there was enough consideration given to each industry's impact on roads.
"Council needs to take a far more elaborate approach if they indeed want to affect change," Mr Kelly says.
He asked the council to consider delaying the changes for one year.
He says horticulturalists are in the middle of harvests, suggesting otherwise growers may have been more active in their submissions.
Horticulture, he says accounts for $180 million of the area's gross domestic product and employs 1,200 people, but nevertheless works on "skinny margins".
The region has already seen abandoned orchards and he says with PSA a change of varieties will be likely in the kiwifruit industry in the next year or two.
Mr Kelly says $24m could be taken out of the local industry per year and with the time frame to change varieties possibly lasting three years, there could be a $72m impact to the local economy.
While ratepayers are looking at increases that could shoot up 40 per cent for some.
Mr Kelly asked that greater consideration be given to road user charges given the differences in tonnes per hectare produced by growers because of different varieties and the lower yields by organic growers.
- Bay Chronicle
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