Residents meet MP over new bill

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 13:10 08/10/2012

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Residents of Tata Beach and Ligar Bay communities say they are being charged stormwater rates for a service they are not using, and are opposing a new local government bill that is being rushed through Parliament which will mean they can no longer speak out against rate charges.

Fifteen residents of Golden Bay's Tata Beach and Ligar Bay communities met with Tasman West Coast MP Damien O'Connor to bring him up to speed with their opposition to both the local bill the Tasman District Council has developed to stop residents challenging stormwater rate charges, and to being charged stormwater rates in an Urban Drainage Area [UDA] they claim they were not consulted about.

Mr O'Connor said the residents had a good basis to challenge the bill over their stormwater rate.

“Council does occasionally have to back down,” he said.

He said he had faith in the select committee process to give Tata Beach residents a fair say during the policy making process.

“Any bill in Parliament will provide the opportunity for submissions and change,” said Mr O'Connor.

Tata Beach resident Bob Schmuke said under the UDA system they had been paying for stormwater services they were not using.

“They did it illegally, they didn't tell us they were putting in a UDA,” he said.

Fellow Tata Beach resident Anne Gentleman said: “The issue is straight forward, we don't have the service, so why should we pay for it?”

The issue began in 2006 when Mr Schmuke spoke out against a significant increase in stormwater rates after he and other members of his community felt they were using the stormwater services.

At the time the TDC admitted it had made a mistake in not following correct legal process and eventually reimbursed Mr Schmuke for his legal costs. To rectify their mistake the TDC have drafted a new bill.

The Tasman District Council (Validation and Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill will mean Tasman homeowners can no longer challenge rate charges. It will also authorise the council to recover any unpaid rates and legalise stormwater rates across the region.

Council corporate services manager Murray Staite said that the TDC had reconsulted with members of the Tata Beach community on the Tata Beach UDA in 2010, and the majority of residents were happy to go ahead with the proposed system.

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