South Wairarapa’s farmers say the rating system favours urban ratepayers, with one calling the issue a question of personal survival.
Fifth-generation coastal farmer Dan Riddiford and Featherston farmer Jim Hedley were among those who made submissions to South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] at hearings about a review of rating policies in Martinborough yesterday.
Included in the review are remission policies, and the revenue and finance policy that sets how rates are structured.
Riddiford and Hedley spoke about what they described as an unfair and burdensome financial impact on rural ratepayers, especially farmers.
Riddiford said farmers are at risk of being rated off the land.
“It’s a matter of personal survival,” he said.
“With the present rates burden, if land values increase as for carbon from $1,907 to $10,000, nothing [else] changing, I could be seeing a rates demand of $200,000 a year [from] both councils [SWDC and Greater Wellington Regional Council].
“I am not going to be rated off the land. I am not going lightly.”
Riddiford said fundamental issues are at stake for not just him, but other farmers too.
“You can do a deal with an individual, but you can’t do a deal with a community of angry farmers.”
Hedley submitted an analysis of how the current proposals disadvantage rural ratepayers.
“Council had an opportunity to create a fair and equitable rating system but has failed dismally. The process that council has followed does not instil confidence. All council has done is rearrange the chairs so as to come out with [a result] similar to what we have now,” Hedley said.
“The farmer pays a lot more because of the large amount of land required for the business they are in, not because they use a lot more of council’s services or it costs more.”
Riddiford said he recently attended a session run by Beef and Lamb New Zealand that described the financial difficulties farmers are facing in the region.
“The typical hill country farmer in Wairarapa, that is generally a better class of land than Te Awaiti Station [his own farm], is facing a cash loss of $174,000 unless something changes.”
Elizabeth McGruddy from Federated Farmers New Zealand [FFNZ] also spoke to a detailed submission from David Hayes, the provincial president of the organisation, which commended the review but proposed refinements to proposals.
A report to the committee noted 230 written submissions had been made to the council on the review, with 24 people scheduled to speak to their submission.
The FFNZ submission agreed activities that benefit the whole district should be funded by the whole district. FFNZ also agreed that shifting the rating basis from land value [70 per cent rural/30 per cent urban] to a capital value [60 per cent rural/40 per cent urban] is an improvement.
“Nevertheless, this relatively modest shift means that rural ratepayers [as we understand, around 34 per cent of the district population] would still pay disproportionately more than urban ratepayers,” it said.
“For clarity, one-third of the population would be paying near enough to two-thirds of the public good activities.
“The examples of rating impact for individual properties show that average urban residential families would pay $700-$1000, whereas average farm families would pay $4000–$5000 per annum [or more for farms with CV above the ‘average’].”
FFNZ submitted a farming family would pay about four times more than an urban family on things including governance, communications, dog control, alcohol and safe food, cemeteries, libraries, and camping areas.
SWDC had asked for feedback on a range of things, including changing the general rate from land value to capital value, who should pay for urban footpaths, whether the rural road reserve that’s currently paid for by rural ratepayers should be replaced with an infrastructure emergency resilience fund paid for by all ratepayers, and whether places for short-stays, like Airbnbs, should pay an extra charge.
SWDC will hold deliberations on the issues raised in the rating review in Martinborough on November 9 and 16. -NZLDR
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