Rates relief deal may be pursued

Respite may be in sight for Headingly Lane residents hit by massive rate increases after the valuation of their rezoned land soared.

But they will probably have to wait until next year for Tasman District Council to tie down a final solution.

Several of the dozen or so homeowners affected by the increase told Tasman District councillors attending yesterday's full council meeting their rates were unaffordable, they questioned the validity of their new valuations, and said they were trapped paying high rates on overvalued land no-one would want to buy for years.

The rates increases came about after the land was rezoned as part of the Richmond West Development from rural to mixed business. It was driven by the council's desire to cater for growth over the next 50 years.

The issue saw residents and the council gather in a closed meeting earlier this month to discuss options such as a rates postponement or rates remission policy.

Headingly Lane resident Sareena Fraser yesterday asked why residents should pay increased commercial rates to stay in their rural homes. Her father, Colin Fraser, said the council should rate their land on its existing use rather than some distant potential.

Paula Broady, whose 87-year-old mother lives in Headingly Lane, said residents of the side road were particularly disadvantaged because any development interest would take years to reach them. In addition, the low-lying nature of their land would mean mean commercial development would be expensive.

"We want to see a remission policy based on existing use until the property is sold or developed."

She said landowners should be allowed to make the decision to move for themselves and not be forced to sell. Mrs Broady also suggested the council stagger the rezoning of land in line with developer demand.

Pensioner Eve Horder asked if the council was reluctant to adopt any relief policy because it would set a district-wide precedent.

Richmond resident Malcolm Saunders said as a ratepayer any rate remission policy would require general ratepayers to pick up the tab of the remitted rates.

However, McShanes Rd neighbour Jo Ellis supported the Headingly Lane residents and said the council had a chance to put it right.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the public flak the council had received had been unfair. "We are prepared to look at a remedy and work with the ratepayers who are prepared to work with us." But a rate remission policy would open the door to remission applications district-wide, he said.

In subsequent discussion the councillors supported the residents taking up Quotable Value's free offer of revaluations, the need for any change to go out to public consultation and the fact that any rating change would not be implemented until the new financial year.

They asked staff to report back on November 29 on rates postponement, rates remission and any other options to deal with the rating impacts of rezoning on residents..

The Nelson Mail