A special rate levied on the forestry industry could help cover some of the damage and dust problems on Whangarei's roads from logging trucks - an idea backed by Federated Farmers and Northland District Health Board.
Northland Federated Farmers provincial president John Blackwell said a "roading differential" - a targeted rate imposed according to the tonnage of product leaving a property via road - would see fairer rating of large rural tracts.
"The rating value of forestry land is very low. So when you've got land value-based rating (as in Whangarei), it gives forestry a very easy run," Mr Blackwell said.
A former Kaipara district councillor, Mr Blackwell said KDC had successfully introduced differential roading rates. Far North District Council unsuccessfully floated the idea last year. Per hectare, the forestry industry had the highest tonnage of product going via road, followed by dairy "then sheep and beef a long long way behind", he said.
Land Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said a roading differential was an idea being floated by a number of local bodies around the country.
He said while he supported a "user pays" system, a differential roading rate would be extremely difficult to administer.
"It's riddled with complications.
"With forestry you only harvest once every 30 years whereas with a milk tanker its travelling every day and sometimes twice a day."
Rates for the coming year in Whangarei would be finalised under the Annual Plan, currently under consideration by councillors, though no major changes were expected from the status quo set in the council's 2015-2015 Long Term Plan.
Mr Blackwell submitted on the plan, though his submission focused mainly on the rates increases some dairy farmers faced in a time of hardship for the industry and did not address the roading differential idea.
However, Northland DHB medical officer of health Clair Mills did submit in favour of a targeted "forestry roading rate", to address the road damage and dust. Dr Mills' submission was sparked primarily by health concerns for residents living on dusty unsealed roads.
"This [rate would be] in line with the 'polluters should pay' principle affirmed by the Public Health Association of New Zealand," she said.
As part of their deliberations, councillors will grapple with what to do about a group of residents at Wright and McCardle roads in Pipiwai, now armed with evidence showing the dust levels on their roads were in fact illegal and in breach of the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality.