Rural landowners urged to speak up over rates

Marlborough farmers are calling for rural ratepayers to support a change in the Marlborough District Council's rating system.

Marlborough Federated Farmers president Gary Barnett has called a meeting with councillors, and asked them to explain how rates are set and give rural ratepayers an opportunity to air their concerns.

"The demands by council on some ratepayers is much too high - some people's rates have gone up 40 per cent in one year," he said.

"The rates are much too volatile, they go up by huge amounts, but never come down."

The meeting on February 21 in council chambers would help people understand the complex rating system, and suggest ways it could be done more fairly in the future, he said.

Mr Barnett said rates were calculated based on the relative shift of valuations between different types of land use, such as vineyards or pastoral.

The rates have been set according to valuations done in 2011, when farms dropped in value, but not as much as vineyards, which resulted in farmers paying a greater proportion of the rates.

"It's a ridiculous system and it doesn't reflect the productivity of the land at all," he said.

"We're hurting out there, we want to know what the council are doing about easing up on the rates increases."

Councillor Francis Maher said the council was conscious of the effect on rural ratepayers when the price of lambs was down 30 per cent and wool down 40 per cent compared with last year.

New Zealand's rating system was "ancient" but the council had to work within the confines of the general framework driven by the Local Government Act, he said. "We are very aware of the impact rates have on different sectors, but any change to the way rates are set will impact some one."

He encouraged people to come to the meeting so they could better understand the rating system and offer suggestions on improvements. "I look forward to hearing any good ideas that are actually going to work."

Mr Barnett said all rural ratepayers were welcome at the meeting. He encouraged anyone interested in making a submission at the meeting to get in contact with him, to ensure the best use was made of the time.

Phone Gary Barnett on 03 570 5586 or email

The Marlborough Express