Community board alarmed over impact of rates increases on hard-up residents

3:53 pm on 26 November 2021

South Wairarapa community leaders fear this year's rates rise of 29 percent will create elitist communities in the district.

calculator and dollar bills in New Zealand currency

Pensioners will be among those hardest hit by the rates rise, Martinborough Community Board members say. Photo: 123RF

Martinborough Community Board (MCB) chair Mel Maynard said the rates rise was pushing out people "that have actually created these towns that other people have fallen in love with".

Yesterday, an agenda for the South Wairarapa District Council's (SWDC) Finance, Audit, and Risk Committee showed rates arrears were 80 percent higher for the end of September than the same time last year.

The current year's amount at the end of September (the end of the first quarterly billing period) was $345,000.

Total outstanding rates arrears were $482,000.

There were 301 properties with outstanding rates, the agenda stated.

In August, arrears notifications were sent to mortgage providers for 52 properties for last year's rates arrears totalling $71,000.

The arrears information was not available in the MCB agenda for its meeting on Thursday, but member Nathan Fenwick expected it would be "grim viewing".

Deputy chair Aidan Ellims said he had feedback that ratepayers were disappointed and dismayed the council had not reset this year's rates at its meeting on 17 November.

Instead the council decided to reset or make a variation to its Long-Term Plan next year, keeping this year's rises as they are.

"I've had one working couple within Martinborough tell me that their wages have not increased, however other costs, including rates have increased, so they are considering where they could move to elsewhere in the country where the cost of living is lower.

"A retired resident who is on the pension has also expressed concern that, with his current rates, he will be having to tap into his emergency savings account because the options for rates relief do not apply to him.

"We are an inclusive community here in Martinborough.

"It's just sad that with the way things are going, some of our community members feel they are in a position where they may have to leave."

Maynard echoed Ellims' sentiments.

She said ratepayers feared the rates rises would "create elitist communities which will no longer have any heart".

"There definitely is that hurt from our ratepayers that this increase has been allowed, knowing that nobody on a pension would actually be able to afford it any longer, unless they have an emergency fund or something else they can delve into."

She felt the council had not taken into account the makeup of the South Wairarapa community in its final decision on the rates rise remedy.

"The fact that people are calling the rates rise elitist shows how out-of-touch [the council is] regarding the true makeup of our community."

Maynard would be speaking at the next full council meeting on 15 December to relay the concerns of Martinborough ratepayers over the rates decision.

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