Anger at hefty rate rises
More than 60 dairy farmers, forestry owners, horticulturists and members of the rural community attended a meeting at Okaihau Hall on Tuesday to express their displeasure at proposed rate increases by the Far North District Council.
The council claims dairy farmers and forestry owners in particular are damaging roads with heavy traffic and is looking to raise $2.8 million for road maintenance.
The council commissioned consultants Morrison Low to justify rate increases of between 40 and 300 per cent in its draft long-term plan.
Forestry sector spokesman Phil Stocker of Northland Forestry says there were proposed increases of up to 500 per cent and this would not be sustainable for some members.
Horticulture spokesman Murray Forysth says his industry will get off lightly compared to forestry with increases of 16 to 41 per cent but a united front was required to achieve a re-think of the proposed increases.
Submissions opposing the draft plan have been put to council including one from Okaihau resident Ken Rintoul, who has a background in civil construction.
Mr Rintoul's independent submission challenged what he considered flaws in their information.
He highlighted that the proposed rate increases were not being applied to other sectors – commercial and industrial such as quarries, supermarkets and DIY centres – who all operate heavy haulage and use rural and urban roads.
Okaihau dairy farmer Murray Jamieson, who organised Tuesday's meeting says that for the past 50 years rural sector rates have been used for urban development while rural roads have been neglected.
"The proposed rate increases are for dairy farmers, forestry and horticulturists only while the urban population and lifestyle blocks are getting a rate decrease of 10 per cent," he says.
Federated Farmers Northland representative Louise Wilson says: "We are disappointed to only have received the council's submission one week out from submission response closure date and we are very concerned at the huge changes for members.
"There could be ramifications across the whole industry. If council is not prepared to listen there is always a judicial review," she says.
When asked for comment the council says councillors are aware of the concerns some sections of the community have about new rating proposals.
Councillors did not attend the meeting in Okaihau on Tuesday.
Communications manager Richard Edmondson says: "The office of the auditor general has advised that it would not be appropriate for them to participate in the meeting as part of the formal consultation process for the Draft Long-Term Plan."