The question of who should foot the bill for new rules to stem the spread of marine pests has attracted many submissions to Northland Regional Council's proposed Annual Plan.

The proposed plan drew 515 submissions across the three major policy areas it included - marine biosecurity and pest control, harbour navigation/safety and the annual plan/charging policy.

Submissions closed on April 21 and will go before the council hearing later this month.

NRC chairman Bill Shepherd said the Proposed Northland Regional Pest and Marine Pathway Management Plan had particularly attracted a lot of interest.


"We did expect that to be a big issue."

The Marine Pathway Plan proposes the biggest change to the existing pest plan, including new rules limiting hull-fouling when vessels move to a new harbour or offshore islands, and the user-pay debate.

The NRC wants a proactive, preventative approach that targets the way marine pests are spread, rather than the current emphasis on responding to incursions.

But a quick look by the Advocate through the NRC's website submissions' portal revealed many people and groups are opposed to the council's preferred user-pay method when it comes to footing the bill.

The public was asked for feedback on three options.

The first, and the council's preference, is a marine biosecurity charge with boat owners, mooring holders and boatsheds paying $122 a year, marinas $122 a year per berth and three large industrial marine facilities (Port Nikau, Northport and Golden Bay Cement) paying $5750 a year each.

Option two is the current approach where all ratepayers foot the bill for marine pest management, at about $5.20 a year each.

Option three would split the bill, where ratepayers pay half the current amount and boat owners and marinas pick up the rest.

Several submitters wrote it is unfair to put the financial onus of marine biosecurity on a small number of people (boat, boatshed and mooring owners and marinas) when the whole region benefited from having a healthy marine ecosystem.

Mr Shepherd said he has not read the submissions and cannot comment about specific points; that is the role of the council when the submissions are heard.

The method of rolling three documents into one was chosen because the council felt having a single feedback process would make it easier for people to have their say, Mr Shepherd said.

"The number of submissions [515] is a really positive sign the community are taking an interest.

"Sometimes it's hard to know what people want but there's always a reaction when you decide to change something.

"The fact that we've got a high amount of engagement means people care about these issues."