Zero rates rise petition fails to sway council

2:55 pm on 17 June 2020

Calls from Wairoa ratepayers for a zero rates rise have been unsuccessful with the town now facing an overall increase of 5 percent.

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Some Wairoa businesses are facing rates increases of up to 18 percent. Photo: Wairoa District Council

Wairoa District Council met on Tuesday to sign off its annual plan and rates take for the year to 30 June, 2021.

Earlier in the day, a petition of 369 signatures calling for a nil rates rise was presented to chief executive Steven May.

The petition was organised by 2019 council candidate Murray Olsen.

But councillors at the meeting were clear that not increasing the rates take from July would be impractical.

While the overall increase is 5 percent, average rates for households and businesses are set to go up by 9 percent and 18 percent respectively.

The variance is due to various targeted rates for things like roading and services, which apply differently to each property type.

Former councillor Min Johansen, who spoke at the meeting, said he didn't see a problem with the 5 percent rates rise, as long as it was applied consistently to all properties.

He criticised the lack of time the community had been given to provide feedback on the annual plan, with the document made available to him only on Monday.

An agenda for the meeting was made available online just hours before it was held at the War Memorial Hall, where several members of the public spoke out against the rates rise.

District's rating system broken - mayor

Mayor Craig Little acknowledged the district's rating system was "broken" and would be reviewed in the coming months.

Councillor Jeremy Harker said the community needed to consider what services it would forgo in order for rates to be reduced.

He said the rates rise "hurts - we know that" but the council was rating for future generations who would pay for the shortfall if the council opted for a zero rates rise.

Councillor Denise Eaglesome-Karekare recalled how a previous council decision to not increase rates resulted in them going up by something like 15 percent the following year.

Echoing Mayor Little, who left the meeting to attend a funeral, Cr Eaglesome-Karekare said the cost of "everything" had gone up, so there should also be petitions for zero price increases for things like power and petrol, as they affected how much it cost to provide council services.

Councillor Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke said a nil rates rise for 2020/21 was not practical but ongoing rates increases were not sustainable.

"We need to look at this strategically, rather than putting a Band-aid on the rating system each year."

All options should be on the table for the upcoming review, including doing away with differential rates or reducing services, Cr Tumataroa-Clarke said.

Rates make up 55 percent of the council's operating revenue and are forecast to generate $15.79 million in the coming year, but the council will still be $4m short on funding.

It is balancing its budget by, among other things, not collecting rates to cover wear and tear on council assets or potential costs of emergencies in 2020/21.

Ratepayers who are struggling to cover their bills are encouraged to contact the council to work out payment plans and avoid penalties.

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