A loophole in legislation that has cost the Far North District Council $110,000 in lost rates is something deputy mayor Ann Court is prepared to fight but mayor Wayne Brown doesn't see it as a major issue.
A loophole in the Marine and Coastal Area Act, which replaced the Seabed and Foreshore Act, means many properties built over the water are exempt from rates.
Ms Court says some fights are not worth picking but this is one she is prepared to "die in a ditch" over.
"It's not right that some people are exempt from rates, when they use all the same services. I'd like to see us make a bit of a fuss about this," she says.
Among the properties affected are buildings at Mangonui, Rawene, Paihia and Opua, including Mr Brown's home at Mangonui.
The Department of Internal Affairs has written to all councils to find out whether and to what extent they are affected but it is thought unlikely that the act will be changed to fix the loophole unless there is significant impact.
Asked if he agreed with Ms Court that the council should "`make a fuss" about it, Mr Brown said he didn't see it as a big issue.
"The $110,000 the council stands to lose each year from it is about 0.1 per cent of its annual revenue. I am more concerned about the $24 million of rates owing on Maori freehold land and the lack of support from the Government to enforce payment of these," he says.
From another perspective, he says the council will spend more than $2 million this year repairing roads damaged by logging trucks and dairy tankers.
"This should be of more interest to Bay Chronicle readers who are urban ratepayers because they will pay about one-third of these costs even though their vehicles cause minimal damage to roads."
He says councillors had an opportunity while he was overseas last month to introduce a targeted differential road rate that would have required forestry companies and farmers to pay a fairer share of these costs. "However, with the exception of the deputy mayor Ann Court, they chose to defer the introduction of this rate for 12 months."
Asked if he should be paying rates for his Mangonui property, he said he is one of the district's biggest ratepayers, regardless of whether he is liable for rates on that property.
"So I consider that I already pay more than my share towards the costs of providing council services. I would also point out that, technically, rates are a tax on land, not a service charge.
"My property has no land or title and isn't inside Far North District Council territory. It is also liable for Northland Regional Council charges which properties on land aren't required to pay."
Asked if he will accept a rates refund, he said the council had no option but to reimburse rates levied illegally.
"To date, I haven't received any suggestion of a refund."
And asked what he felt should be done about the loophole, he said: "The council is used to Parliament and the Government costing it and ratepayers money.
"Local government reforms currently before Parliament are aimed at making councils leaner and less of a burden on ratepayers. Yet Parliament's speaker Lockwood Smith, his wife and secretary and four MPs are currently in Europe on a two-week jolly at the taxpayers' expense.
"Their visit to the United Kingdom, Belgium and Mediterranean beauty spot Croatia for the spurious purpose of `improving parliamentary relations' will cost taxpayers $158,000 and there will be no onus on the MPs to demonstrate the value of the trip to the taxpayer when they return," he says.
To see this story, go to stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/7218727/ MPs-tour-of-Europe-costs-158-000.
- Bay Chronicle