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Rates hike ‘hurting SW children’

An award-winning Wairarapa community sports organiser is speaking out about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis – including rising rates – on hundreds of the region’s most vulnerable, especially children.

Nifo Ili is the organiser of the Featherston Sports Hub and a driving force behind children’s sports in the region.

She won the Wairarapa Times-Age Volunteer of the Year Award last year for services to sport in the region in recognition of her dedication to ensuring children in Featherston have access to sports, food, and transport.

Now Ili said she knows of hundreds in the small town living at or below the breadline, with at least 50 families struggling to make ends meet. Parents are being forced to take on second jobs, often with antisocial hours, meaning children are being left to their own devices.

She said the cost-of-living crisis and recent South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] rates hike of almost 20 per cent has hit homeowners
and renters equally hard. On top of other costs going up, parents are struggling – with some children affected the most.

Ili has lived in the region for more than 50 years. With her own rates now about $5000 a year, up $1000 from last year, she has had to go back to work to help pay the bills – meaning alternative care arrangements for her autistic son, who lives at home.

She said hundreds of Featherston residents are in difficulty.

“People are struggling food-wise because of the rates going up. Kids of parents who are renting – their rents have gone up. Their rents might have gone up $50 or $100. That’s still a lot of money for those parents.

“Our [sports club] kids are affected because their parents can barely afford to put them on a sports field or on a netball court,” Ili said.

“They can’t afford their shoes, their sports gear, their subs, travel to sports events. We’ve got three girls in our team who are 13-year-olds playing in the representative side who have had to fund-raise for themselves to go to those tournaments because their parents can’t afford to.

“There are families where the parents have two jobs each, and they still can’t make ends meet.”

Ili said she is doing what she can to help.

“I get food for families that need food. I go out and try to get help for them.

“It’s getting harder and harder. It could be more than three hundred people. I’m dealing with so many.

“I don’t think the council really understand what they’ve put on families and on people.

“They have to understand there are people out there who are struggling.

“It’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”

Ili said it is time for councils to focus on the basics and not the nice-to-haves.

“The councillors need to go around and talk to people.”

Ili praised South Wairarapa mayor Martin Connelly for making an effort to communicate.

“When we have things, he turns up. He’s never been scared to turn up and face us and talk to us.”

SWDC has previously explained the 19.8 per cent rates increase was due to an increase in the water budget, especially for the Martinborough, Greytown and Featherston wastewater treatment plants [an issue that was consulted on], maintaining the rural roading reserve budget of $300,000 a year, and maintaining service levels – among other things.

Connelly spoke at the time of the decision about difficult choices councillors had to make.

“We know this council has a very small ratepayer base, compared to the size of the district, but has had to grapple with some huge issues costing a lot of money,” he said, while acknowledging how “our community is also hurting as the cost of living continues to rise”, and insisting SWDC had struck a fine balance and “settled on the absolute necessities to maintain a reasonable level of service”.


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZOnAir


  1. I refuse to believe Councils don’t know the effects of increased rates. I doubt their empathy and their ability to plan effectively whilst taking into consideration the need to tighten their own belts in accordance to their priorities. Most people at the bottom of the food chain have been tightening their belts over the last 3 years – it’s about time the Councils did the same. Multi million $ cycle ways whilst people are homeless or can’t pay their food bill. You King John’s should be ashamed. Angry!!

  2. It would be worth finding out if there was financial help from government such as accommodation supplement for these familes .It is available at some level to low income families.

  3. It’s disheartening to see the consequences of mismanagement. The time has come for the council to be held accountable.

    Maybe its time to start slashing the salaries of the Councilors, Mayor and Senior Managers until the Councils financial situation stabilizes. They need to start sharing the pain.

  4. The South Wairarapa District Council has become a synonym for monetary waste, asset mismanagement, and an unfortunate bastion of outdated, inept leadership. The council’s operations are drenched in inefficiency, their financial stewardship lacking, and their senior management lineup is a parade of antiquated, ill-equipped bureaucrats. It’s high time that we overhaul the SWDC structure – we must not only replace the old guard, but also introduce modern, dynamic governance practices. The era of free lunch on ratepayers’ hard-earned money must end.

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