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Rates hike show no community spirit

CARALISE TRAYES
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014
Orewa Community hall

COMMUNITY WINS: Drastic community hall hire fee increases set to hit groups around the Hibiscus Coast and Rodney have been dropped after it was found they were made in error. Orewa Community Hall users are pleased with the outcome.dramatic, with some groups experiencing a 400 per cent increase.

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Letters advising of huge hall hire increases have users up in arms.

Orewa Community Hall hireage rate increases alone are threatening to kill the very groups keeping the facility alive.

The Auckland Council has notified all hall users of rates increases which will have a significant impact. For one group it will mean a 400 per cent increase in rates since last year.

The increase has put such a strain on community groups, many are saying they will have to move or even close.

But Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chairwoman Julia Parfitt says the rates have not been approved by her local board or Rodney's and were sent out in error.

Parfitt says Hibiscus and Bays and Rodney local boards were part of a group of five local boards around Auckland that did not sign off the fee structure and requested further information.

"We made no resolution on it. It comes as a complete surprise to me that these letters have been sent out," Parfitt says.

An urgent meeting with council departments involved has been called.

A number of community halls across Rodney and the Hibiscus Coast received notification of fee changes from July 1. Dozens of community groups will be hit if the fees are imposed.

The council has included a form for groups that have "a community benefit that supports a local priority" to apply for a 50 per cent discount. A second 20 per cent discount is offered to current venue users booking off-peak times.

But hall users say the fees are outrageous even with the discounts.

They want to know why the rates have increased so dramatically.

To add to their woes, a new sign-in system which includes swipe keys for users was installed on Monday afternoon. Users can no longer arrive early to clean or set up without having to pay for the extra time.

Parfitt is adamant the council will have to now send out letters to all users informing them the fees are still under review.

"I don't know how this has happened."

Parfitt says the local board had requested more information from council staff about whether the charges were on par with other hall hire fees in the area.

"The last thing we want to see happen is for us to lose patronage."

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- Rodney Times

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