Pay now - or watch the decline of Auckland’s green backyard
Farah Hancock outlines the push for Aucklanders paying an extra fee for environment spending on top of their rates - and the fears over what will happen if it doesn't get approval
Without a targeted environment rate a community group fears all Auckland Council will be able to do is “manage the decline” of Auckland’s environment.
The council says two thirds of Auckland’s native species are threatened with extinction and kauri could die out completely in the next 30 years.
Hopes for reversing the decline lie in a targeted rate and community involvement.
Submissions are open for feedback on options the council has put forward of either a $21 or $47 per year targeted environmental rate for an average-priced home.
The proposed targeted rate forms part of a 10 year budget discussion. The rate would be in addition to a 2.5 percent rate increase.
Waitakere ward Councillor Penny Hulse, said her personal view is the environment has taken a back seat for too long.
“The mayor, whether he regrets it or not, gave me the Environment Committee to chair and said get on with it. I’ve made it my absolute focus to lift the environment back out of the back room and put it in the forefront of everything we do, hence the targeted rate for the environment and water.”
The higher proposed targeted rate would limit the risk of kauri dieback spreading, restore seabird habits, increase protection of parks, islands, harbours and lakes and support community environmental groups.
A Proposed Regional Pest Management Plan has been created by the council. Over 300 pages, it details an approach to various pests in different areas of Auckland with options from eradication to control specified.
“What we are trying to say to people is with the lower targeted rate, we kind of go backwards. The higher targeted rate we achieve most of our pest management plan. Even that doesn’t fully fund it. We would need more money to fully fund our whole regional pest management plan.”
One of the keys to achieve the goals in the pest management plan and to move toward the aspirational target of going beyond predator free New Zealand 2050 to Pest Free Auckland 2050 lies with mobilising community groups.
“If we get the higher targeted rate it gives us more money to get in and support our community groups who you just have to love. These are people like our Titirangi South group who go out and they weed berms and road edges and verges in their own time and with their own resources deal with weeds in these areas.”
Hulse said the higher targeted rate would give the council more money to support community groups with equipment such as traps, bait, gloves and spray.
Auckland is the second weediest city in the world .. that's very, very weedy."
“In one way you could say ‘Is it council sliding out of its responsibility and making community do this?’ A cynic could say, yes, a council should be doing this. On the other hand, there’s no way on God’s green earth we’re going to able to afford to do all of this. It’s because of our Aucklanders who love the environment, they keep this going.”
Gecko Trust NZ has worked with Auckland Council for several years. The charitable trust helps community groups with neighbourhood environmental projects and is currently active in 30 neighbourhoods in New Zealand.
General Manager Ella Rose Shnapp said groups the trust works with have received local board grants from Auckland Council in the past and are trying to work with council in key areas such as Titirangi South where a group of 400 volunteers are controlling pests and weeding.
“Tiitrangi as a whole is actually pretty much the weediest suburb of Auckland and as Auckland is the second weediest city in the world, that’s very, very weedy.”
Shnapp said the council alone did not have the budget to control weeds, or to be able to work with the community and target specific weeds. She hoped a targeted rate would allow this to happen.
For Shnapp, the prospect of the council not implementing a targeted rate is alarming.
“It’s actually really frightening to think that what council is able to do with their funds at the moment is just manage the decline of the environment.
“This what the targeted rate is, it’s an opportunity to put our foot down and say no, it’s enough of decline, it’s enough of extinction, it’s time to start making things better so we don’t lose what we have got.”
Submissions to the proposed targeted rate and the proposed pest plan close Wednesday 28 March.