War warning over rate change risk

Marlborough District Councillors are "risking World War III" if they changed the district's rating system, a council meeting has been told.

This week's community and finance committee considered a suite of papers on the district's rating system as part of the early work on next year's review of the council's long-term plan.

One of those discussed changing the system from one based on land values to one based on capital value, a combination of land and improvements. Those improvements might be a house or a vineyard or irrigation.

Councillor Geoff Evans has pushed for the council to look at changing to a capital value system, arguing it would help the rural community in particular. Other councils were adopting it.

Council corporate finance manager Martin Fletcher said there were advantages and disadvantages to both ratings systems. "There is no perfect rating system and ratepayers have ‘got used' to the current system."

He said there had been opposition to proposed changes in other areas of the country which had looked at changing, and in some cases, the opposition had been enough to get councils to drop those plans.

"There appears no compelling reason to change from the status quo and embark on a very challenging process."

Other councillors agreed that if Marlborough was "starting from scratch", it would adopt a capital value system.

But to change now would cause too much upheaval. There would be some "winners" and "losers" and some people could be facing "dramatic" increases in rates.

Councillor David Oddie agreed a review would be worth looking at, but he questioned whether the council was "brave enough", after a dispute with residents of the Karaka Point settlement near Picton over their rates.

Councillor Peter Jerram said it would be making changes for no benefit.

"Some are going to be a hell of a lot worse off and some a bit better off . . . If you thought Karaka Point was a battle, this will be World War III. Do you really want to cause that much chaos in your community?"

Councillor Brian Dawson said he had sympathy for Evans, but was concerned that any controversy over rates would distract from the issues council needed to tackle, such as regional growth, investment, and retaining young people in the district.

They agreed to retain land-based rating for the next long term plan period, but there was a call for the issue to be considered further.

The Marlborough Express