Rates deferment possible

A rates deferment policy could be the only solution to the dispute between the Tasman District Council and Headingly Lane residents which became national news last week when it featured on the television programme Fair Go.

Fourteen landowners have been affected by rate increases of up to 270 per cent after the value of their land increased dramatically when their properties were rezoned from rural to commercial.

The residents have expressed their concern at the massive increase and last week relations with council hit rock bottom when the Headingly Lane rates rage was aired on Fair Go.

However, Tasman district Mayor Richard Kempthorne was hopeful that the issue could be resolved and planned to arrange a meeting with the residents ‘‘as soon as possible’’.

He said he had an encouraging meeting with two of the affected property owners and said the next step was to sit down with all of them and find a solution.

There were a number of options including a rates deferment policy that would allow residents to continue paying ‘‘rates at a similar level that they are now’’ until they sold their properties, he said.

Although the residents rejected that option at an earlier meeting, Richard said that may partly have been because council wasn’t able to provide enough information.

‘‘I think the discussions we had were that people thought the rates increase was unfair and they shouldn’t have to pay at all and we couldn’t get past that. We were also unable to answer some of their questions – my intention now, especially after last week, is to focus on a rates postponement policy.’’

Headingly Lane resident Eve Horder said she would be happy to discuss rates deferment with council and said it was potentially a good solution for some residents. However, she said the details of the policy would have to be fair and she didn’t want to get hit with any hidden costs.

Eve’s rates doubled to close to $4000 with the rezoning and she will spend nearly a quarter of her annual pension paying her new rates.

Richard stressed he would not be discussing options for selling their properties to developers at the meeting, after that suggestion had ‘‘blown up in my face’’ on Fair Go.

‘‘I discussed that on Fair Go because if people did want to sell, the person they would have to talk to is a developer. My intention was to help residents who may be interested in selling but that’s blown up in my face.

I was significantly misrepresented and Fair Go used innuendo to generate a story at my expense. I have lost any confidence I had in them to represent the truth.’’

Richard said it was disappointing that Fair Go had inflamed the issue but the focus now was to find a solution.

‘‘The fact is that some of the residents have had significant increases in property value because of the rezoning, but the other fact is that some of them aren’t interested in that. They just want to live there and have rates as low as possible and it is really difficult for them and I appreciate that.’’