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Signs of ratepayers' desperation

KERRY GALLAGHER
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2012
Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers
STANDING STRONG: Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers chairman Bruce Rogan is one of those staying to fight. Other residents are choosing the ‘flight’ option.

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It appears to be a case of fight or flight for many Mangawhai residents.

Signs in Mangawhai and at Mangawhai Heads indicate residents are selling up or rallying for a rates strike.

Analyst Joel Cayford is overwhelmed by the number of signs.

Mr Cayford is a planning consultant and lectures at the Auckland University Planning School.

He says homeowners are rushing to sell, and traditional ratepayers are taking action against the Kaipara District Council because debt is spiralling out of control.

This is putting more pressure on rate increases, forcing people out of their homes.

Mr Cayford also says properties are being sold are at a "significant discount", reflecting concern at rating liabilities and uncertainty.

The problems in stem from an $80 million debt incurred by the council to service an unpopular sewerage scheme.

The council lifted rates by an average 31 per cent to pay the bill but many in Mangawhai facing increases much greater. Some revolted - lodging a complaint with police, protesting and refusing to pay rates, while the situation is investigated by the Auditor General.

The council has been replaced by a team of four commissioners.

Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers chairman Bruce Rogan says the council has brought financial ruination to the area.

A lot of the debt t it was trying to recoup is illegal and ratepayers are not obliged to pay it, Mr Rogan says.

He is one of those choosing to stay and fight.

And he says many residents have no choice but to avoid paying because they cannot afford the rates.

Raewyn Bennet is one of them. She lives in a 72 square metre house on a 600 sqm section and her rates were $905 in May 2007.

They are now $2505 but do not include an extra $578 towards a "one off payment" many residents are paying off over 25 years.

This one-off payment was $7500, but the council is increasing this to $19,000 over 30 years, she says.

"So next rating year I am picking with that increase and a general increase of maybe 10 per cent or 20 per cent, my rates could be over $4000 for a small section and house nowhere near the beach."

Beverly and Philip Revell's rates would have gone up by about 100 per cent to more than $5000.

The Revells have been ratepayers for more than 30 years and have a bach in Mangawhai Heads where they hoped to retire.

Now they are left with rising rates which they say are unaffordable.

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"Our retirement plans are on hold, an uncertain financial future looms along with a property which is losing value and will be more difficult to sell if we had to," Mrs Revell says.

Bach owner Peter Grierson is not considering selling because he loves the area and plans to retire there. But he is "aghast" at rises.

- Rodney Times

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