Momentum Waikato is welcoming the Waikato Regional Council's decision to financially support the building of the Waikato Regional Theatre.

WRC has announced it will provide $5 million — the full amount requested for the regional portion of the proposed theatre's capital budget.

"Momentum Waikato thanks the Waikato Regional Council for recognising the new multi-purpose theatre is a transformational opportunity for the Waikato," says Kelvyn Eglinton, Momentum Waikato's Chief Executive.

"The Waikato Regional Theatre will define and transform the Waikato's cultural identity and life for years to come, and be a catalyst for the economic development of local creative industries.

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"It will provide a pathway to arts careers for young people from across the region, and bring the world's best entertainment, for every taste, within easy reach of the heartland.

It is therefore appropriate that the region is investing in this great facility," says Kelvyn.

The proposed Waikato Regional Theatre has a budget of $73 million, to which Trust Waikato has already put forward $15 million and private donors have pledged $5 million, meaning the WRC's $5 million takes the committed funds to $25 million.

The Hamilton City Council has approved a $25 million share of the cost, which takes the available total to $50 million.

Momentum Waikato intends to raise the balance of $23 million from funding bodies, corporate sponsorship, private donors and central government.

Waikato regional councillors have confirmed a 10-year budget which invests more heavily in biosecurity and flood protection, as well as in a regional theatre and inter-regional passenger rail service.

It follows two days of deliberations, which concluded on Tuesday after considering the submissions of more than 300 individuals, organisations and groups on eight proposals released for feedback in March.

As a result, there will be a 4.1 per cent average general rates revenue increase from current ratepayers in 2018/19 — less than $50 for the majority of regional ratepayers. General rates are forecast to rise by 5.2 per cent in 2019/20 and 3.5 per cent in the third year of the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

"Through this long term plan the council will be providing higher levels of service for things such as biosecurity and catchment works," Council chair Alan Livingston said. "We've had to be realistic. With pest plant and animal control, for example, it was clear we had to invest more if we were to keep on top of threats to our region.

"It has been a long journey to develop this 10 year plan and, while there's still work to do, there's a major milestone reached this week," Council chief executive Vaughan Payne said.

"We do need to put the rates rise in the context of very low rates increases over the past four years.

"This isn't a business as usual long-term plan. There are meaty issues we have to tackle for the region, and they require new thinking and innovative ways of addressing them," Mr Payne said.

During deliberations councillors agreed to use investment fund returns to maintain the rates subsidy and not increase funding for regional development.

Freshwater management was among the organisation's many other business as usual priorities that have also been budgeted for.

That includes finalising and implementing Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Plan Change 1, as well as scoping the implementation of a freshwater strategy to ensure the best use of the
region's water.

Key decisions:
Regional theatre
The council agreed to contribute $5 million to the capital cost of a regional theatre in Hamilton.

This will be funded through a targeted rate over regional ratepayers, excluding Hamilton.
Waikato, Waipā and Matamata-Piako ratepayers, who have been assessed as primary beneficiaries, will pay $5.54 per property per year. Ratepayers from Thames-Coromandel, Hauraki, Ōtorohanga, South Waikato, Taupō and the portion of Rotorua in the Waikato region will pay 50 cents per property per year.

The decision is subject to Hamilton City Council confirming its funding of $25 million towards the capital cost.

During deliberations the council also agreed that a funding deed would be developed for the council's approval. It will require a number of issues to be addressed to the satisfaction of the council prior to any funding being released.

Biosecurity work

The biosecurity rate will increase over the first three years of the long-term plan to ensure the current pest control programme is delivered and there is money to properly address high risk pests.

High-risk pests include wallabies, kauri dieback, velvetleaf, alligator weed and yellow flag iris.

Having considered submissions, councillors voted unanimously in favour of budgeting $60,000 per annum over three years for a pest fish coordinator.

The funding is subject to an equivalent amount being provided by the Department of Conservation.

The coordinator will be responsible for overseeing coordination of programmes to manage invasive pest fish, especially koi carp, in the Waikato.

Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service

Funding for a start-up Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service has been included in year 2 of the plan following a vote of 11-1.

It is subject to securing funding of no less than 75 per cent from the NZ Transport Agency for the operational costs of the service.

If approved, the service would likely start in October 2019 and be funded by way of fares, a NZ Transport Agency subsidy and rates via a $20 uniform charge, plus $2.24 per $100,000 of capital value capped at $2.5 million, on Hamilton ratepayers.

During the meeting councillors heard that a demand survey indicates use of the passenger rail service is likely to be higher than first thought.

New catchment works

An increase in catchment rates was approved to enable the council to meet the high demand from the community and stakeholders for planning support and funding of catchment activities, such as soil conservation, erosion prevention and stream protection works to protect land and water.

The increased budget will also enable the council to take advantage of available third party co-funding opportunities.

Regional Emergency Services Fund

Councillors voted in favour of increasing the regional emergency services fund rate to $4.13 per property per year — a rise of 39 cents.

This means local Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) will be included as a beneficiary of the fund and the contribution to surf life saving will rise to cover increase in demand for services at Hot Water Beach.

Community facilities framework

A framework for assessing who should contribute to funding regional sports, recreation, cultural and arts facilities was not adopted by councillors.

Of the 113 submissions received on the proposal, 42 per cent didn't support the framework, with 52 per cent in favour of it being adopted.