Reefton mega rates rises leave residents outraged

7:31 pm on 10 February 2021

Some property owners in Reefton are in for whopping rate increases of more than 200 percent if the Buller District Council adopts a proposed new rating formula.

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People who live on small holdings near the town of Reefton are among the hardest hit by plans to reform Buller's rating system. Photo: Tourism West Coast

The council is calling for submissions on its latest bid to simplify the land-based rating system, after a review that has taken seven years and involved two rounds of community consultation in 2014 and 2017.

It says the proposal would cut the number of categories of ratepayers from 42 differentials to nine, and ensure comparable properties paid similar amounts in rates.

Worried Inangahua ratepayers told council representatives yesterday the new formula would send them broke.

Karl Bollinger, whose small holding in Blacks Point is made up of 18 separate lots, told councillors and Buller District Council staff his rates would jump from $2000 to $6000.

According to the estimate on the council's website database his riverbank paddocks with only swingbridge access, were now defined as residential.

"How can a former rural area suddenly become 'multi-residential?" Bollinger said.

The apparent anomaly could apply to many properties in historic Buller settlements, where miners and their families crammed into cottages on tiny lots in the 1800s. Most have since been grouped together under new titles with just one owner but still appear as separate sections on the council database.

Álun Bollinger, who also lives at Blacks Point, said his brother and sister-in-law would have to spend a quarter of their superannuation on rates if the council adopted the new system.

"Some of us moved here in the 1970s because it was affordable subsistence living, then people started paying ridiculous amounts for holiday places and sections ... I don't want my property value to increase - I just want to live here," Bollinger said.

If the council went through with the new rating formula it could force pensioners and others to sell their homes, Karl Bollinger said.

"If you push the rates up too high, you will then be up for (building) water and sewerage systems and you will have to open up the old legal roads."

Small holdings an obvious concern - deputy mayor

Buller Deputy Mayor Sharon Roche agreed the council could be opening up "a can of worms".

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Sharon Roche Photo: Buller District Council

"The most feedback we have had has been about small holdings, and the main concern is that anything under 10ha is classed as residential, but this issue of multiple titles or lots has just come up today at our last roadshow here in Reefton," Roche said.

Another Inangahua ratepayer, Bob Greer, challenged the council to explain why his remote property in the Maruia Valley had been classed as multi-residential under the new formula.

"It's got a house and a bach on it for two family members with disabilities. My rates would go up from $1067 to $2618. That blows our budget, basically - we can't take more off our beneficiary family members, they can't make ends meet as it is."

Another Maruia small holding owner, Chris Jones, said his rates were set to jump from $800 to $1200 if the council went ahead.

"Farmers will be paying less under this model and small landowners paying more - why are you giving farmers a discount?" Jones asked.

"I don't think the council has thought this through carefully enough. It doesn't achieve what they set out do do, which was to make the rates more equitable. And they've had seven years to do it."

Roche said the rates proposal was not set in concrete and the council needed to hear from people who might be adversely affected.

"The council is listening and we encourage everyone to make written submissions. We've modelled about 70 different versions of this over seven years, and we need to hear back from the community."

Submissions on the Buller rates review close on 19 February. Public hearings on the proposal will be held in March.

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