Boaties: Council treats us like a goldmine

CLAIRE FITZJAMES
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014

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Upset mooring-holders from Whangamata, Tairua and Whitianga are rallying against a Waikato Regional Council move to charge them a new $485 fee, saying the council treats the peninsula like a "private goldmine".

According to mooring-holders across the three harbours, the regional council is the only council in New Zealand to charge the resource-consent application fee. Now it is set to be introduced to other harbours in the region.

Up to 60 mooring-holders packed into the Aotea Lodge conference room in Whitianga last week to question the council on why the fee had been introduced.

Speaking afterwards, Whitianga mooring-holder Mark Alloway said owners could not understand why the charge was needed.

"It's big bureaucracy squeezing down on us . . . These moorings in Whitianga have been here for over 100 years and, if you do not pay it, they will be removed. "Why can't they just let the consent roll over?"

Mooring-holders already pay $170 a year in annual charges, and a $62.50 navigation safety fee, as well as $185 every three years in maintenance fees to contractors.

Before the $485 fee for a 15-year consent, the annual charge was partly covering the consent process and was thus covered by the general ratepayer.

The Resource Management Act and Regional Coastal Plan require all moorings to have resource consents.

The council said the $485 was to cover administration and monitoring involved with the consent process and would affect about 350 mooring-holders across the three harbours. Waikato's other harbours will be next in line for the charge.

At the meeting, it was decided that, until a solution was found, any mooring-holder with outstanding fees could ask for their application to be put on hold, without the risk of losing their mooring, and without the need to pay the application fee.

Mooring-holders who have recently paid their fees, and are up-to-date, will need to contact the council to be advised how that will be managed.

Regional councillor Clyde Graf was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. "A good attendance, a positive result, and I'm happy that staff were able to offer direction and solutions we can explore."

Alloway was also pleased with the turnout.

"It was a very good meeting. WRC have got the message Whitianga mooring-holders are not going to put up with this revenue-generating charge."

Before the meeting, in a letter addressed to the council, Tairua and Whangamata mooring-holders asked the council to stop the fee before "litigations precipitate".

The letter also stated: "Everyone in Whangamata and Tairua is of the opinion WRC is out of control, greedy, in violation of maritime rules, and is using the Coromandel Peninsula as a private goldmine".

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THREE WAYS TO CUT MOORING COSTS

Possible Waikato Regional Council solutions to the $485 mooring resource-consent application fee:

The council could change its policy so the general ratepayer funded a greater proportion of the costs. About 800 mooring-holders in the region contribute about $136,000 in annual consent-holder charges, and $50,000 in navigation-safety charges each year.

The council could change its coastal plan to make moorings in zoned areas permitted activities, thereby not requiring consents. This would mean mooring-holders would not incur consent application or consent-holder fees. However, that $136,000 would need to be funded some other way.

Staff will investigate a third option, which would involve the council's navigation safety team applying for a resource consent to authorise all of the moorings in each zoned mooring area.

The council could then administer the moorings through a navigation-safety permit process, which would reduce costs.

- Waikato Times

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