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Rural residents oppose rate hike

Rural ratepayers have turned out in force to oppose rate rises at public hearings on South Wairarapa District Council’s [SWDC] annual plan.

One farmer said the proposed hike would force them off their land.

The hearings last week [June 8] formed part of the consultation on SWDC’s then-proposed average rate increase of 15.9 per cent, with a 29 per cent uplift for rural ratepayers and about a 10 per cent rise for urban residents.

After the hearings on Thursday [June 8], SWDC passed a resolution on Friday afternoon adding a further $500,000 to next year’s bill for urban ratepayers to fix the Martinborough wastewater plant.

This was initially estimated by SWDC finance staff to increase the total rates bill for the district by about 25 per cent, although the final figure has not been announced.

More than 20 presenters at the six-hour hearings meeting were rural residents who expressed frustration at the potential hike. They said they already got little benefit for their money but bear a large portion of the district’s rates burden. Many expressed dissatisfaction at the state of council-funded roads, which they said were poorly maintained.

SWDC said extra cash was needed to fund services it provided across three towns, fix ageing infrastructure, and maintain buildings.

“We only have a small ratepayer base of a little over 7300 compared to the size of our district, and these costs need to be spread across that small base,” the council said in consultation documents.

Elizabeth McGruddy from Federated Farmers [FF] said the organisation was concerned about the impact of the proposal on farmers.

“FF record concern that – against an LTP forecast of an average three per cent rates increase in the coming year – council now propose nearly 30 per cent increase for rural ratepayers,” she said, comparing the hike to that proposed at the time for urban ratepayers.

“The reasons for these dramatic – and disproportionate – increases are not clear in the consultation document.

“FF emphasises that farm incomes are exceedingly unlikely to be increasing by 30 per cent in the coming year to sustain rates increases of this magnitude,” McGruddy said.

Kate Reedy farms at Pahaoa Station on the south coast and described the difficulties she faced, with financial headwinds and logistical challenges caused by the catastrophic failure of Hinakura Rd last year.

“If this increase were to go ahead, we are looking at paying potentially $37,000 in rates,” Reedy said.

“The farm is not overly productive. It’s pretty hard to make a living.

“It would rate us off the farm if these rates were to go ahead. It is extremely tough times for farmers, and we just cannot continue,” she said, citing inflation and increased regulation as other economic stressors.

She thought a review of the rating system was urgently needed.

Richard Kershaw farms near Martinborough. He also strongly opposed the proposed rural uplift.

He asked whether, if the urban rates went up as well, it would make much of a difference.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the money getting spent wisely.

“We are one community. We all live in South Wairarapa. We all need to work together, and make this a better region to live in,” he said.

He said the district needed reliable, safe roads as a priority.

“We need to prioritise what is a need-to-have, and what is a nice-to-have.”

Former SWDC councillor Lee Carter described the consultation document as ‘incomprehensible’.

“Your consultation document gave a lot of information and a lot of words but was extremely brief on financial detail and lacked comprehension. In fact, it was nonsensical,” she said.

“Not so long ago, a council could get away with a consultation of this calibre. However, we are in the midst of a global recession. The extent of [council] spending is being closely scrutinised. Your popularity will deteriorate if you are not seen to be curbing council spending,” Carter said.

“This council should be binding our communities together, setting an example of transparency, balance, considerate rate increases, and paying full attention to spending,” Carter said.

SWDC is finalising the annual plan, which is expected to be passed at a meeting later in June.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. Why is the Council now talking about increasing the total rates bill to 25%, on the basis of having to fix the Martinborough Wastewater Plant, when it has received a $1.88 million grant (read bribe) from the government as part of the Three Waters Reform Programme ? The Consultation Document says that “recommendations for prudent investment of this will be taken to Council in the coming months “……why can’t this be spent on the Plant rather than increasing the rates? Its a ‘no brainer’ isn’t it ?

    Bill Armstrong
    Greytown Ratepayer

Comments are closed.

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