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Rates debate gets heated

South Wairarapa farmer Jim Hedley walked the fine line between criticising council processes and breaching Standing Orders as he presented to the council’s Strategy Working Committee on Wednesday.

Hedley, who pays tens of thousands of dollars in rates each year, wants a more equitable rating scheme.

He said the small number of farmers in the district shouldn’t be billed a major portion of the total rates, especially not when they don’t have access to council water, refuse collection, and sewerage.

The problem is not unique to South Wairarapa District Council.

During the last Local Government Review, Federated Farmers said the existing system of property value rates, used by councils around New Zealand, was loaded against agriculture.

Farmers paid “many more times than other residents for council services and infrastructure, even though some of those services aren’t even available to rural residents”.

“We know that councils have tools to allocate costs more equitably, such as per property charges and differentials, but councillors tend to be mindful of the voting majorities in urban areas,” Federated Farmers local government spokesperson Sandra Faulkner said at the time.

Hedley told councillors on Wednesday that information they were given to inform last year’s rating review was “incorrect and heavily biased against rural, especially farmers”.

South Wairarapa District Council’s Standing Orders allow public presentations to be five minutes long, and as Hedley reached the four-minute mark, committee chair and Deputy Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter asked whether Hedley wanted his notes circulated to allow time for questions.

His presentation was then taken as read, and councillor Alistair Plimmer signalled he had a question for Hedley.

“Jim, you’ve been coming here for as long as I have been on council telling us how we’ve got it all wrong all the time.

“Not once have you said we’ve got something right in four years,” Plimmer said, before asking when Hedley would run for council instead of “lecturing us all the time”.

Sadler-Futter interjected: “Hey, let’s just be careful with the questions we ask”.

Hedley said he hadn’t included what the council had done right because he only had five minutes to present.

Mayor Martin Connelly said he regarded Hedley’s last comment on his presentation paper as “being contrary to the Standing Orders”.

This last comment said: “council must be blind” to not have identified differentials in its rating review, which was a “continuation of the poor … information given at the last Annual Plan at the expense of rural”.

Sadler-Futter noted Standing Orders did not permit “passing insults on either our consultants, staff, or councillors”.

Hedley also said he would be presenting on behalf of his wife, but this was not allowed and this presentation was also taken as read.

“I feel that our views are extremely important and that the information given to as you as councillors to make decisions is correct and not a pack of bloody lies,” Hedley said.

Councillor Martin Bosley said he was “sick of the abuse”.

Councillor Plimmer said, “the same sort of abuse comes to us each time … Do we have the right to decline someone making a presentation if every time – every single time – we are abused?”.

Sadler-Futter noted if a speaker was being repetitious, disrespectful or offensive, and had previously spoken on the same issue, “there is discretion of the chair to decline public participation”.

Councillor Kaye McAuley said she liked for Hedley to present, but there needed to be a change in language.

“I object to being called incompetent and deceptive”.

Mike Gray, a former long-serving elected member, spoke in support of Hedley’s public participation. – NZLDR

LDR is local body
journalism co-funded
by RNZ and NZ On Air.

1 COMMENT

  1. WHAT THE ? Standing orders 👎 are far from a Democracy society. It’s a Kangaroo Councils way to SHUT YOU UP. Rate payers are being (Used and abused) and more so for the Rural rate payers who get absolutely 💯 no Services. Councils are becoming A DICTATORSHIP (THIS HAS TO STOP)

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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