Rate 'burden' shared
A shortfall created by a cut in next year's rate increases for farmers and rural businesses approved by the Horowhenua District Council this week will be met by all other ratepayers.
During deliberations on its draft Long Term Plan 2012 to 2022, councillors voted unanimously for a 2 per cent reduction to the general rate for rural businesses for the coming year, and further 2 per cent cuts for the following two years, a recommendation proposed by deputy mayor Barry Judd.
Farmers had been facing an overall rates increase of about 10 per cent next year, with other ratepayers facing a 7.4 per cent rise.
The reduction would save the 603 rural business owners, who collectively own 2576 rural properties, about $144,000 in the first year.
With no council projects identified which could be sacrificed to fund the shortfall, it would likely be spread among the other 14,864 rateable properties in the district at an increase of just under $10 each.
Greypower spokesman Lew Rohloff said that $10 would not be insignificant, coming on top of rates already unaffordable to many on low and fixed incomes.
Mr Rohloff said this was yet another example of the council showing preference to farmers and other rural businesses, which he claimed were under no financial hardship, unlike many others in the district.
He said it advantages the "privileged" farming community to the detriment of all other households and further impoverished those already struggling.
Horowhenua Farmers Ratepayers Group spokeswoman Chris Mitchell said rural rates had risen about 30 per cent over the past three years, whereas rate rises in urban areas had been "minimal".
Mrs Mitchell said as many farmers owned multiple properties, the proportion of rural business ratepayers was less than 15 per cent, yet they had been required to pay 31 per cent of both the general and the roading rate.
She said this had been an "unfair burden" on the productive agricultural sector.
At this week's meeting councillor Nathan Murray agreed that there had been inequity in the rural rating system.
He said spreading a sum of money among nearly 15,000 ratepayers, as opposed to about 600, was the most pain-free solution.
Councillor Wayne Bishop said one of the underlying frustrations in the rural community was that rural businesses were the only businesses required to pay a higher rate. He said a debate for the future could be whether urban businesses should help shoulder some of the district's costs.
The draft Long Term Plan 2012 to 2022 was approved for auditing and the final plan expected to be adopted formally on June 27.
- Horowhenua Mail