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Wood council says fuel tax fairer to fund rural roading

A regional fuel tax would be a fairer way of paying for forestry roads than the differential system used by Gisborne District Council, Eastland Wood Council says.

In a submission on the 10-year plan, chairman Iain McInnes said the wood council was supportive of increased funding for rural roads, as it was obvious there had been insufficient funding in the past few years. But it opposed the way the council had gone about deciding how to fund it.

One option that could be considered was a regional fuel tax when fuel was used at the time of harvest and when the harvest revenue was received, and therefore was better aligned with actual and reasonable costs of road use and impact.

A regional fuel tax would mean that those carting logs further paid more because they used more fuel and the roading costs would only apply to those forests that were being harvested.

Some forests would never be harvested but they paid a roading rate for roads they would never use. Under such a mechanism, forests or part- forests not being harvested would not incur these costs, as roading differentials would be removed.

The wood council supported an actual user-pays approach rather than an assumption- based approach.

The council had not engaged with the industry regarding the proposed increase in the forestry differential.

The council had stated on numerous occasions there would be specific engagement with industry. This had not occurred.

The roading differential was half the rates for many forests. The increase in forestry harvest had been foreseen for many years, yet little strategic planning had been carried out.

The horticulture industry was forecast to double production by 2022, which would significantly increase the impact of vehicles on the Poverty Bay Flats. The targeted roading differential for horticulture/pastoral remained unchanged at a weighting of 1.5.

The highest and best use rating unit was a coarse approach, which did not deliver a fair and equitable rates mechanism.

The council’s fixed annual fee for compliance monitoring of resource consents was overly difficult to administer, Ernslaw One environmental planner James Sinclair told the council.

They did not have confidence that the council could accurately administer the proposed approach. The fee approach was too complex and did not provide direct benefits for compliance.

He asked the council to not apply its proposed annual science environmental monitoring charge. Because the charge would be for individual consents and the number of forestry consents, the forestry industry would bear a disproportionate share of the cost of science and environmental monitoring for the region.

Income from the proposed fee would also likely subsidise the scientific monitoring for permitted activity land uses such as pastoral farming.