Environment Southland estimates it will need an extra $1.99 million dollars in the next financial year alone, to continue its attempts to prevent Waituna Lagoon from “flipping”. This amount includes provision for additional staff and consultants for the Waituna response to enable existing work programmes to continue and also provision for a range of physical works, such as lagoon openings, that may be necessary to address immediate concerns.
Today the Council voted to allocate $665,000 from its reserves to pay for a part of the additional work, and will be seeking matching contributions from the Government and the dairy industry. Councillors have indicated that other parties will be asked for financial support as the project continues. An application will also be lodged for assistance from the Government’s new “Clean Up Fund”.
Saving the iconic Waituna Lagoon has become the highest priority for Environment Southland and the project’s funding was a key issue as Councillors discussed the 34 submissions received on the Draft Annual Plan. All of the submitters who made comment on this issue agreed that the work had to be done, though views differed on how it should be paid for.
Both DairyNZ and Fonterra made submissions endorsing Environment Southland’s efforts to protect the Waituna Lagoon and the multi-disciplinary approach to finding solutions.
The Council is looking at a variety of ways in which nutrient and sediment levels in the lagoon can be lowered, and wants to work with farmers to develop land management practices that minimise run-off. Council staff will also investigate ways in which land use might be regulated in the Waituna catchment, to address the issues. DairyNZ will work on possible solutions as well.
While funding for the Waituna project was the biggest item under consideration during the Draft Annual Plan discussions, the Council also accepted submissions which will see it putting more money into other areas of its activities.
These included $45,000 from the Marine Fee to help pay for harbour control at Milford Sound, $10,000 towards the costs of resurveying and landscaping a reserve at Cosy Nook and $24,800 for a fibre optic cable link to Invercargill City Council and Southland District Council to allow the development of a shared computer system. The Council has also made additional provision for insurance costs arising from the Christchurch earthquakes.
Overall, the changes arising from today’s deliberations will add $87,407 to the rates already signalled in the Draft Annual Plan, if they are confirmed when the Council meets to adopt the plan on 29 June. This would see a total increase of $730,292 or 6.95% in the Council’s rates.