WHAKATANE boaties will contribute more than $280,000 to helping maintain the river entrance if a proposal to charge boat ramp users gets the green light from the public.
Whakatane District Council’s projects and services committee agreed at a meeting yesterday to consult the community over the proposal to establish charges to use the town’s boat ramp, but several members have already indicated that it will be a hard one to get through
Outlined in a report from capital projects manager Jim Finlay, the proposal is based on a model used in Taupo, by the Department of Internal Affairs, which asks users of the Whakatane boat ramp to “pay for the benefits they enjoy”.
It follows on from requests by several members of the community for the council to upgrade the boat ramp and associated trailer park area.
Mr Finlay said while the harbour fund was used to cover many of the costs of maintaining the Whakatane River entrance, he believed it should only be used for capital projects.
He said funds collected directly from users could be used to help pay for benefits they received from the facilities and services, while relieving pressure on the harbour fund.
“The proposal to set fees for use of the boat ramps around the district not only follows council’s policy of asking users to pay for the benefits they enjoy but it also then helps to rationalise the expense of provision of these services and the dimension of these expenses.”
Mr Finlay said the council’s long term plan established the allocation of costs for ports and harbour services as 70 percent from the harbour fund and 30 percent met by private use fees and charges.
He said if the proposal was adopted then the council could raise $281,800 towards the “total cost benefit to all vessel users” of $939,300.
Mr Finlay said this was not the first time he had worked on instituting fees for the use of the Whakatane boat ramp and he had developed a similar proposal in 1997 and 1998, which was unsuccessful.
He said the council should expect a robust response from ramp users because many of them believed the harbour fund should be used to pay for related costs.
“However. there have been many occasions when berth holders who pay fees for the use of the port raise their concern that council should exercise a consistent policy and ask the private sector to share the private benefit component.”
The proposal would involve ramp users buying a seasonal or casual charge online, which could be used like a parking ticket on the trailer. Mr Finlay said the situation could be monitored by the senior maritime officer, volunteers and parking officers without any need for council to hire extra staff.
A concept plan, outlining an upgrade to the area at a cost of $600,000, was also attached to the report.
Ramp extensive to maintain
WHAKATANE mayor Tony Bonne said he has concerns about whether the community support the proposal to implement boat ramp charges.
He said if the council decided to go ahead with the proposal; the Whakatane boat ramp would be the only one in the Eastern Bay with charges.
“The boating fraternity is huge and makes a large investment into the district. So, I’m supporting this to go through to submission stage but currently there are no other ramp fees in the Bay of Plenty.
“Let the people come forward. It is a very popular activity and it is a very popular past-time, and this is why people come here from all over the world.”
Councillor Russell Orr said he did not believe the matter should be put out to public consultation.
“I generally support the concept of users pays but we have a harbour fund for a reason and I think you will find that there will be a lot of opposition.
“Also, if we are going out to consultation then we should have idea in mind of what we want. If we don’t then I do not think it is worth doing.”
However, deputy mayor Judy Turner said maintaining the Whakatane bar and other services offered to boat ramp users was expensive and she didn’t agree that all ratepayers should have to subsidise the costs for “the few”.
Mrs Turner said she enjoyed going to the gym and was prepared to pay to use the gym, and others were happy to pay for their hobbies such as golf. Therefore, she said boat ramp users should also expect to contribute to the costs of their past-times.