Rezoning creates shock rate rises
An anomaly that has left some Horowhenua ratepayers with rates increases of as much as 140 per cent will be fixed before the bills are mailed out next month.
At an extraordinary meeting last night, the Horowhenua District Council unanimously supported a new rates remission policy to tackle the problem.
The issue affects about 29 properties on the outskirts of Levin that were rezoned as residential two years ago because of their potential for subdivision.
When Quotable Value reassessed the properties this year it bumped up their land values as a result.
Affected ratepayers told the council last night the result was rates increases of between 38 per cent and 140 per cent this year. The remission policy passed last night will have council staff revaluing the properties involved, lowering the land value, and thus the rates bill, to a level comparative with similar properties in rural zones.
Brian and Ann Thomas alerted the council to the problem during annual plan deliberations this year.
Both their Roslyn St farm and Brian's parents' farm next door were among the properties affected.
Brian Thomas told the council last night he felt the rezoning had taken place without council staff fully appreciating the implications.
Because the land was now zoned residential he was concerned zoning laws would limit their ability to change practices on their farm or what they used the land for.
A farmer's ability to change crops or build new sheds or barns would be affected by the rezoning, he said.
Council chief executive David Clapperton acknowledged the rezoning had an impact but said it was not as restrictive as that.
The zoning laws looked at the impact of farming, such as runoff into waterways, and not at the practices on the farm.
In all, 19 ratepayers made submissions ahead of last night's meeting, with some asking for the opportunity to appeal against the new valuations of their property that the remission policy would set, if they still felt it was unfair.
Councillor Christine Mitchell said she supported this.
"It's important there is a facility for appeal, it's clearly important to submitters. If it was me, I would want to know the new valuation before I received the rates notice."
Council finance manager Doug Law said there were strict time frames involved for when rates notices had to be sent out and there would not be time to allow for an appeal process.
Councillor Ross Brannigan said that extra level of bureaucracy was unnecessary and the council should get on with implementing the rates remission policy and any problems could be tidied up next year.
After the policy was passed, Mayor Brendan Duffy addressed the 20 or so ratepayers in the public gallery. "That should be to the delight and spontaneous applause of the audience but it didn't quite work," he said. His comment was met with applause.