Bid to spread Box repair costs

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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A cash injection of more than $250,000 could be required to keep the Waihao Box sustainable, according to Environment Canterbury staff.

The box was built in 1910 to create an opening through the gravel beach to the sea for the Waihao River and Wainono Lagoon. However coastal erosion and storm damage have caused major wear. Work began on repairs earlier this year, but ECan estimates the total project could cost more than $400,000.

A paper to be discussed at the ECan commissioners' meeting on Friday suggested the manner of funding maintenance and repairs was inequitable. Currently, the Wainono Drainage District's 23 ratepayers fund 80 per cent of the continuing maintenance, with the remainder funded through a Waimate District-based works and services rate.

"The current funding of the box is not considered sustainable. Apart from economic benefits, the box contributes to the environmental wellbeing of the district and region by managing water quality, biodiversity values, fish passage and drainage," the report said.

Waimate District Mayor Craig Rowley said he was aware of the ratepayers' concerns.

"The box is a vital community asset, and a major source of flood protection," he said. "However, it's expensive to maintain and a small group have been paying for the bulk of it."

An ECan staff report suggested contributing $250,000 from its reserves toward the project.

"Effectively this would mean that every ratepayer would have contributed less than $1 to the work required on the Waihao Box. This approach then spreads the cost of a regional community asset across the region with no cost imposed on the existing ratepayers," the report said.

"It would reduce the rate demand imposed on the direct rating district by 50 per cent."

The staff report suggested this would provide an interim solution while "buying some time" to carry out a more detailed analysis of how it should be funded.

In this year's submissions to ECan's draft annual plan, several members of the Wainono and Waihao drainage groups suggested funding for the box should be spread across more ratepayers.

Central South Island Fish and Game chief executive Jay Graybill agreed there should be a higher contribution from uniform general rates "in acknowledgement of the importance and value of this catchment . . . to the entire Canterbury community".

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- The Timaru Herald

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