13 Sep 2016

Charges considered for coastal structures

4:20 pm on 13 September 2016

Three more regional councils are looking to start charging for the space used by wharves, boat ramps, marine farms and other private structures on public land.

The jetty at Port Levy.

Environment Canterbury has not yet looked into whether to introduce a coastal occupancy charge. Photo: Wikicommons

But recreational and commercial operators say they're already contributing significantly to the community and additional costs could have serious financial implications.

Under the Resource Management Act, regional authorities are required to consider whether they want to charge fees for structures, such as jetties and boat sheds, built on public land.

Southland is so far the only region with coastal occupancy fees, while Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Marlborough are in various stages of considering the charges.

Environment Southland manager strategy and corporate planning Ken Swinney said the charges earned the council about $70,000 a year.

"It comes off a whole range of things, whitebait stands, marine farms, jetties, anything that intrudes into the public water and marine space has an annual charge.

"It is just to remind you as an owner of a wharf, or a jetty or a mooring, that this is not exclusive occupation that you've got here."

The fees in Southland range between $17 and $610 annually.

In some areas of the country, the charge would earn a lot more money, Mr Swinney said, because "those places are busier."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council regional integrated planning manager David Phizacklea said once its Proposed Regional Coastal Environment Plan was operative, it would begin work on coastal occupancy charges.

"We expect to make a start on this work in late 2017," he said.

Waikato Regional Council decided in 2003 to levy charges, but it's not clear when they will come into force.

Mussel farm floats in the Sounds

Marlborough mussel farms. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Submissions closed earlier this month regarding the introduction of charges in Marlborough.

A 2014 Marlborough District Council document suggested fees between $55 and $4000 for fin fish farms bigger than 29.1ha.

Clearwater Mussel manager John Young said the charges were controversial for an industry which already contributed a lot to the local community and national economy.

"I think we're seen as a commercial interest and that we're making a lot of money ... it's difficult to grow things here, it's difficult to market, and it's difficult to get things to market, and it's marginally profitable and we have to be very careful that we don't actually put us out of business."

Mr Young said most marine farmers wouldn't have a problem paying if the charges were reasonable and applied to everyone.

Waikawa Boating Club moorings and assets Rear Commodore Moorings and Assets Paul Williams said there could be serious financial implications for clubs run by volunteers.

His club had 99 moorings it maintained with other clubs in the area.

"We're hoping to get an exemption because we're providing a public service by providing these moorings, provided people join up to the club obviously."

Auckland Council said it had chosen not to include a charging regime 'at this time', but would reconsider that after its unitary plan was made operative.

Greater Wellington, Northland Regional Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council have also decided not to introduce charges, but didn't rule it out in the future.

In a report last year, the Tasman District Council said while it would like to introduce a coastal occupancy charge, it wouldn't because of the 'barriers to implementation'.

The Manawatu-Wanganui, West Coast, and Taranaki regional councils said they had ruled out introducing a coastal occupancy charge.

Environment Canterbury, Otago Regional Council and the Gisborne District Council have not yet looked into whether to introduce a coastal occupancy charge.