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South Wairarapa’s rates rage

Members of the public at a South Wairarapa District Council meeting after councillors refuse to debate rates rises. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

Two petitions delivered to Parliament

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The anger continues over South Wairarapa’s rates and the council’s “competency”.

Two separate petitions have been taken to Parliament against South Wairarapa District Council

One petition, to review rates paid to the council, was put forward by Jenna and Mark Matchett, and Lacey and Tim Bourne. At the time of publication their petition had 319 signatures.

The other petition, to investigate the competency of the council in setting rates, was put forward by John Dennison. At the time of publication, his petition had 125 signatures.

The Matchett’s and the Bourne’s petition requested that the House of Representatives review the council’s rates increase in the Long Term Plan and align it with the figures published in the 2021-2031 LTP consultation document.

Dennison gave a similar request in his petition, requesting that the House of Representatives “initiates an investigation into competency of the council with particular reference to the LTP process that lead to the setting of the domestic rate for 2021/22 together with what consideration was given to ratepayers’ ability to pay”.

Jenna Matchett. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Jenna Matchett, who is the manager of Masterton Foodbank, said that when she had asked elderly people how they planned to pay their rates, they told her they would have to reduce their electricity bills by not using heating, stop paying for insurance, reduce their food bill, or sell their car.

She said there were many people in the community who wanted to speak up but didn’t know how – which is why they formed a petition.

Dennison said there didn’t appear to be any consideration of the ability homeowners to pay when setting the rates.

“I feel that there has been a lack of competency in the process by key officers and councillors.”

He said rates had risen by 25 per cent to as much as 60 per cent.

The Matchetts and the Bournes said events had cemented their lack of confidence in the mayor, chief executive, and councillors to act in the best interest of the communities.

The Matchetts and the Bournes said that they had taken the issue seriously because they were concerned that South Wairarapa would become inaccessible an infeasible as a place to raise young families.

They said that in any community there would be people who were financially able to manage the rates increase.

“However, for us it is about more than just being able to afford it. Our main concern is the broken relationship that exists between the council and the people. At present, there are a number of high profile decisions on the table for our council representatives to speak for us on.”

Jenna Matchett said the demand for community support was growing.

“With the stress of the latest level 4 lockdown, things are start to compound and there is an increasing sense of helplessness for many.”

“When I ask agencies what they think is the biggest contributing factor to this increase in need for support the unanimous reply is the increased living costs.”

She said the community needed a voice on these issues, which is why they started the petition.

She thought the council should front up and host a public meeting on the rates.

“It’s pretty dicey. It seems to me that if council were given an opportunity to own the situation, they would have taken it. But they haven’t, and it annoys people, because it takes their voice away. That’s why people are so angry at these meetings, because they are treated like it doesn’t matter what they have to say.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said the public were entitled to explore every avenue should they wish to.

“We recognise the importance of this issue and have been working with our ratepayers individually. At the same time, we are undertaking further investigations of our own.”

He said the council would “continue to make every effort to communicate with our ratepayers as investigations progress”.

– Additional reporting by Tom Taylor

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