Call for targeted rate for drainage

Many of the rural drains have collapsed, are broken or have been blocked by excessive weed growth.

Landowners in two rural areas in North Rodney could find themselves saddled with a new targeted rate to pay for fixing and maintaining their stormwater drains, if Auckland Council recommendations are adopted.

Council’s Healthy Waters division estimates it would cost $45,000 a year to manage drainage at both Te Arai and Tapora, which it says could be funded either from the general rate, or a targeted rate levied on local properties.

Despite objections from some landowners and Local Board members, Council staff would prefer to see a new targeted rate to “ensure those served by the drainage assets and those who contribute to the need for maintenance of the assets pay for that work”.

The proposal is the latest stage in a long and complex history of responsibility and management of the drainage districts at Te Arai and Tapora, which were established by the former Rodney County Council in the 1950s, plus a third one at Glorit in 1989. Historically, targeted rates were charged to fund Te Arai and Tapora, until the 1990s when the former Rodney District Council switched funding  for all of them to general rates.

After Rodney became part of Auckland Council in 2010, responsibility for the three districts was delegated to the Rodney Local Board, together with an annual maintenance budget of $26,500, the sum of which dated from the 1990s and has never been increased. This resulted in drains falling into serious disrepair, excessive weed growth and a good deal of frustration from landowners in recent years. Incidentally, these are the only drainage districts in Auckland – in all other rural areas, private landowners are responsible for maintaining drains on their land.

Two years ago, Rodney Local Board and Healthy Waters agreed on a $260,000 repair and remediation package for all three drainage districts, funded by Healthy Waters. However, last month’s Local Board meeting heard that due to the effects of Covid-19, Healthy Waters could no longer sustain the level of investment needed to keep this up.

Healthy Waters’ commercial partnerships team manager, Shaun MacAuley, said a targeted rate would solve the problem.

“There is a lot of work to be done in maintenance and capital upgrades. It’s not been funded for a very long time,” he said. “The community is very clear that they want us to act, but we need the means to act.”

He said Healthy Waters wanted the Local Board to support a joint community-council management scheme for the Te Arai and Tapora drainage districts, which would cost $45,000 each per year, and a private management option for the smaller Glorit districts, where landowners maintained the drains themselves.

However, Board members voted to support public consultation on how drainage districts should be  funded in Council’s 2021-2031 Long Term Plan process, and noted that it had not received adequate funding to do the job itself. The Board also requested that responsibility for the drainage districts be transferred to the Governing Body of Auckland Council in future.

Healthy Waters will seek formal approval to transfer decision-making from the Local Board to the Governing Body, as well as move forward with implementing new management options for each drainage district and work on refining its proposed targeted rate options ahead of the Long Term Plan consultation process early next year.

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