Marine charges for debate again

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:53 23/08/2014

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Owners of moorings, wharves, and marine farms in the Marlborough Sounds could be charged an annual fee for their use of public water space, under a council proposal.

Submissions on the Marlborough District Council's proposal to introduce coastal occupancy charges have to be in today.

The charges range from $55 a year for a mooring, $55 to $200 a year for a wharf depending on size, and up to $1920 a year for a salmon farm up to 16 hectares in size.

In a discussion document on the council's website, regional planning and development committee chairman Trevor Hook said the council had committed to coastal occupancy charges some years ago, but had not implemented them.

Hook, a councillor for the Marlborough Sounds ward, said as part of reviewing council planning documents, the council wanted to look at charges to pay for environmental monitoring it had to do around marine farming in particular.

"This is an important issue because occupation of the coastal marine area is not a right. It is public space over which everyone has a right of access."

Charging for occupation of coastal space was justified in principle in circumstances where the private benefit was greater than the public benefit, the discussion document said.

"Council considers that it is appropriate that ratepayers continue to contribute a portion of this cost. It is proposed that this should be 25 per cent of the costs. This means the remaining 75 per cent is allocated to those benefiting directly from the occupation of public space."

Hook said councillors were well aware there would be "a wide-ranging response" to introducing the charges.

The charges have been discussed several times over the past decade, and views are quite polarised.

The marine farming industry has said previously it was comfortable with a coastal occupancy charging regime as long as all occupants were included. It argued that moorings and wharves should be included.

Others argued only those occupants who used the water space commercially should be charged, as it was the marine farming industry that had prompted the need for marine environmental monitoring. They argued the charges should be levied on a per tonne production basis.

The council proposes to exempt wharves or moorings owned by the council or the Department of Conservation from the charging regime, because these "provide a significant level of public benefit being used by and available to many people".

Others to be exempted would be navigation aids, retaining walls, and public information signs.

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Ports and marinas with occupation consents under section 384A of the Resource Management Act would be exempt from charges till October 2026. cathie.bell@mex.co.nz

- Marlborough

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