Farmers slam hefty rates hikes
Farmers have signalled their frustration at planned rural rates hikes by packing out the Manawatu District Council chambers during submissions hearings.
About 40 farmers and farm owners turned out in support of Federated Farmers' submission to the long-term plan yesterday, seizing the opportunity to protest rates rises that were in some cases up 30 per cent on last year.
Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei president Andrew Hoggard said changes in the levels of differentials for rural categories meant a larger chunk of the revenue generated by ratepayers would come from rural zone residents.
"For Federated Farmers, it is extremely disappointing that this massive shift in targeted rates to the general rates mechanism will result in a shift from approximately 85 per cent of all rates revenue collected through targeted rates down to approximately 45 per cent.
"This shift burdens owners of large and valuable properties with the lion's share of the rates contribution for the district."
General rates apply across the district while targeted rates are aimed at areas where there is a clear benefit from services.
Kimbolton farmer and former All Black Sam Strahan said the proposed rates were the highest increase he had seen in 48 years as a ratepayer.
"I've never come across anything like this, so that's a gold-medal effort." The farmers' submission outlined concerns about what their money would be used for. "It must be remembered that property value rates bear no relationship to either ability to pay or use of a service," Mr Hoggard said.
"For farmers this means a heavy tax on their key asset [land] to pay for all manner of community services, many of which they rarely if ever use."
Manawatu Mayor Margaret Kouvelis commended Federated Farmers on its "thorough argument" and confirmed that the council would be reviewing the increases in recognition of the negative response.
"We have heard a large number of complaints from the rural community and we are listening to them attentively," she said.
"Federated Farmers' submission was well researched and very well expressed. For me, as a relatively new mayor, I think it was quite a historic moment in the chamber to see such an overwhelming number of farmers who are deeply concerned about what a rise of 20 to 30 per cent would mean for them."
Federated Farmers policy adviser Tessa Mills said rural ratepayers hoped to see a return to uniform targeted rates so that they were not shouldering the cost of "town" projects.
Mrs Kouvelis denied suggestions from Federated Farmers that the council was displaying a lack of transparency by withholding explanation of what the increased rates would pay for.
She said a shift in emphasis from targeted rates to general rates was to create more "flexibility" for council spending. All expenditure records were accessible to the public, she said.