Featherston board demands rates meeting

2:00 pm on 7 October 2021

Featherston Community Board has now "officially" joined Martinborough and Greytown boards in requesting a public meeting to discuss the district's miscommunicated rates rises.

State Highway 2, which rolls through the centres of Featherston, Greytown, Carterton, and Masterton, is the main arterial route to and from Wellington.

(file image). Photo: LDR / Marcus Anselm

At this week's Featherston Community Board meeting, chairperson Mark Shepherd said he had emailed South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] chief executive Harry Wilson on two occasions requesting that a meeting be held in the town to address the recent rates rise.

Because the request had not been approved formally through the Featherston Community Board, it was not tabled at a September meeting of the council, Shepherd said.

Instead, SWDC considered recommendations from Greytown and Martinborough's community boards two hold a public meeting in each town.

The outcome of the September meeting was that SWDC officers would do a report to council "on how the matters will be addressed".

SWDC's Long Term Plan [LTP] Consultation Document, published in March, indicated that the council needed to collect an extra 17.9 percent in rates, the council said.

But in June, South Wairarapa councillors signed off a rates resolution where the anticipated rates intake totalled $22.9m, a 28 percent rise compared to the anticipated intake in the rates resolution from the year prior.

The rise was criticised by ratepayers, some of whom can no longer afford to pay their rates.

At the start of September, a statement signed by each councillor and the chief executive said the increase was not adequately explained in the LTP consultation and they apologised.

"We acknowledge that the message should have been clear, and we are committed to absolute transparency in responding to the situation," the council statement said.

In the joint statement, councillors said a public meeting would be held "as soon as possible" and that the council would "work with legal advisers to consider all the options that may be available to ease the rates burden on ratepayers for this year".

At the September council meeting, mayor Alex Beijen said the council had "already indicated we wish to hold a public meeting on rates" but that Covid-19 restrictions were currently in play.

Under current alert level 2 restrictions, there is a cap of 100 people at any gathering.

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