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Forestry roading levy mooted to aid upkeep

A FORESTRY levy that will help meet the $25 million cost of keeping roading up to standard for the industry is recommended for investigation to the District Council’s Future Tairawhiti committee meeting.

The levy is one of six options presented to the committee, which consists of the full council, and the recommendation would see the council set up a working party with the Eastland Group and Eastland Port to discuss its feasibility.

The introduction of a levy would have to be part of the next 10-year long-term plan consultation process. The council is seeking a legal opinion to determine if the levy is legal.

A levy based on weighting has been investigated by the Far North council.

The remaining options are to keep with the existing differential targeted rating model, to update that model, to change to a weight-based model, a mixture of the roading differentials and a forestry levy or to ask for additional government assistance.

Staff are recommending investigating the present differential levels, investigating a forestry levy, or investigating a combined differential and forestry levy.

Weight-based model not recommendedThey are not recommending proceeding with a weight-based model or retaining the status quo. An application for additional government assistance is recommended only when a forestry levy is known to be obtainable.

At present, the council receives $24.4 million for its subsidised roading programme from the government through a financial assistance rate of 62 percent. Ratepayers fund the remaining 38 percent or $9.6.

Eastland Port has announced plans to expand to accommodate more than five million tonnes of wood by 2027.

Opus has estimated that the cost of upgrading the pavement of selected rural roads to a standard that would allow log extraction would be $25m over the next 10 years.

That would be $2.5m with the local contribution estimated at approximately $1m a year. There are also costs associated with strengthening bridges to HPMV standards.

The council operates a differential targeted roading rate based on land use. This gives forestry a weighting of 5, industrial and commercial 2, horticultural and pastoral 1.5, residential, lifestyle arable and others 1.

Under this system the residential and lifestyle sector contributes $3.26m to the total rate take for roading of $9.6m, horticultural and pastoral $2.3m, forestry $0.97m and industrial and commercial $0.86m. The remaining $2.21 million comes from the uniform annual general charge.

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