Published 25 June 2006
Auckland Regional Council has decided not to try imposing coastal occupational charges yet, as it & other regional councils seek to resolve several uncertainties.
But on the way to a resolution, they’re also hoping to get some legislative changes â€“ at the moment unlikely â€“ which would take consideration of the proposed regime & charges to be created under it out of the public realm.
Because there’s a deadline in the legislation and the councils might miss it, possibly causing legal difficulties for any other changes they want to make to their regional plans, the councils want the deadline deleted or extended.
Rates have been suggested as an alternative to occupational charging for marine activities, but the regional councils have found that’s tricky too.
ARC planning group manager Phil Pannett and policy & planning general manager Greg Hill said in their report to Wednesday’s regional strategy & planning committee that marine activities might be defined as rating units and therefore subject to rates. But marine activities are generally not identified on district valuation rolls held by local councils, so working out how & what to rate, and the methodology, would take some time.
The Government created a provision under section 64A of the Resource Management Act for regional councils to apply charges for wharves, jetties, moorings, marinas, boat ramps & sheds, cables, pipes & marine farms â€“ activities that had a degree of permanence or exclusivity.
But Mr Pannett said it wasn’t exactly clear what the occupation charges are: “It is generally accepted that the charges are to â€˜recompense’ the public for the loss of being able to use & access those parts of the coastal marine areas occupied by structures, and are akin to a rental (with the money being used to promote the sustainable management of the coastal marine area).”
The term was previously “coastal rentals,” but Mr Pannett said the new section 64A provisions made it clear that charges wouldn’t be rents and were also not a cost recovery mechanism.
The deadline for getting the charging regime in place is 30 June 2007, but to do that the regional councils have to use the Resource Management Act’s first schedule process, which involves public notification.
“This can be a particularly difficult, costly & time-consuming exercise for contentious issues such as this. Appeals to the Environment Court are highly likely. Councils will have to defend both their decision to charge and the details of the charging regime in court.”
While private interests who’ve had their pockets emptied by endless appeals funded by the public purse (with time not an issue of concern) can only weep, Mr Pannett said the regional councils had proposed a legislative solution:
The first schedule process (public notification) would be removed
The charging provisions would be shifted into the administrative section of the Resource Management Act
The charging presumption would be changed to one requiring a charge to be paid where a private benefit was obtained from the use of public space, and
A request would be made for consistency, with an agreed valuation methodology.
Auckland Regional Council will compile another report on the issue and keep tabs on progress with the Northland Regional Council, Environment Waikato, Environment Bay of Plenty & the regional affairs committee of Local Government NZ.
Attribution: Council committee agenda & meeting, story written by Bob Dey for this website.