Rural ratepayers' load to be lighter

Close to $450,000 in rates demands will be shifted from rural ratepayers in Horowhenua to those in urban areas over the next three years.

The move was agreed to at a Horowhenua District Council meeting this week after submissions from those in rural areas claiming their rates demands were unfair.

Currently ratepayers zoned rural productive are responsible for 31 per cent of the council's general rate, but that share will reduce by 2 per cent in each of the next three years.

That means from July about $144,000 in rates which had been spread across about 2500 rural properties will now be added to the bill of the 15,000 other properties in the district.

The councillor who suggested the move, Barry Judd, said while the change likely did not go far enough for some rural ratepayers, it was a step in the right direction.

"For a number of years the rural sector has come to us and said `we are paying too much'," he said.

The rural zone held about 14 per cent of ratepayers who were responsible for 31 per cent of the general rate, he said. While there were 2500 titles in the rural zone, they were owned by about 600 farming businesses, he said, which meant many company owners were paying multiple rates bills.

Cr Nathan Murray said the move was a response to calls from the rural community.

"We have a submissions process for a reason. They had a strong message this year and last year, a clear message."

Cr David Allan said it was an issue of fairness. "I know it's not enough, but it's about charting a course over the next three years. The compelling logic of the submissions made it a no-brainer."

The shift in responsibility for 2 per cent of the general rate would see 2500 properties in rural productive zones each pay on average $57 less next year while the remaining 15,000 properties paid an average of just under $10 more.

The change was the most significant of those made to the draft long term plan at Wednesday night's meeting.

The average rates rise from July would still be about 7.5 per cent.

No substantial reductions to the budget for next year were made, however the council added $67,000 to provide heating for the Foxton Pool and $45,000 to purchase land in Waitarere for a walkway.

From the Foxton Freehold Account came $57,000 for the recladding of the Foxton Surf Lifesaving Club.

A total of $233,000 was cut from the budgets for three years from 2017 for new walkways around Foxton Beach.

The long term plan received 195 submissions, with 75 submitters asking to speak at hearings last week.

The item drawing the most submissions was the Foxton library and community centre development and councillors voted to retain $1.7m of funding in the plan for the project, though did not dictate how that money would be spent.

Manawatu Standard