Dairying 'singled out' in road levy debate

Central Otago dairy farmers may have to pay a levy for damage to roads.

At a Central Otago District Council meeting this week, councillors were split five to three in favour of a development contribution policy review that included the possibility of charging a roading development contribution levy on dairy conversions.

Development engineer Peter Morton said the current policy did not levy development contributions on dairying, but it could be argued dairy farming increased demand on roading more than other farming activities and could be reflected in roading development contributions.

"They create real damage on our roads and increase costs to council ... if we have dairying conversions to continue in this area, roading will continue to be an issue for you."

Maniototo ward councillor Stuart Duncan was concerned questioned the difference between the roading impact of dairying and other enterprises such as an intensive cropping operation.

"If you are going to go through the process, don't single out dairying."

Councillor Stephen Jeffery, of the Teviot Valley Ward, said while there was an "issue out there that needs to be addressed, this was only one little piece of it".

Morton said the most likely trigger for a contribution would be construction or alteration to a dairy shed.

The policy review did not suggest any change of policy would take place. It merely confirmed the issue would receive "active consideration and determination" as part of the policy review.

After the meeting, Federated Farmers Otago president Stephen Korteweg said he was disappointed dairying had been singled out.

"Even the idea of it smacks of more negativity towards dairying. I have got no problem with user-pays generally, as long as it's even-handed across the board regardless of what sort of operation is being undertaken and not just specific to dairying."

Horticulture and forestry operations would have frequent traffic movements, he said.

The whole region benefited from dairying, including increased Gross Domestic Product, which should offset any damage to roads, he said.

"What do they want? Increased productivity from their area or to make it as difficult as possible and chase it away?"

The council's development contribution policy was introduced in 2004 and collected funds totalling $5.1 million.

The Southland Times