Relief for residents stung by rates jump

Lower Queen St residents are happy their repeated calls for Tasman District Council to address the huge leap in their rates following a zone change, appear to have finally been heeded by councillors.

Councillors yesterday agreed to ask staff to report back on the options of rates remission and rate postponement policies, to deal with the effect on rating of council initiated zone changes.

Afterwards Headingly Ln resident Colin Fraser said he was pleased the council was considering a district-wide policy.

During the public forum session of yesterday's full council meeting, half a dozen residents and their supporters told councillors the replacement of their rural zoning with mixed business under the Richmond West Development had seen their rates soar to unaffordable levels and made their land unsaleable.

The deferred zoning over about 14 properties in Lower Queen St and Headingly Ln was lifted last year, when a sewerage line was laid to service part of the planned Richmond West Development.

Lower Queen St property owner Maxwell Clark said other ratepayers in areas earmarked for rezoning feared the same could happen to them.

Eve Horder of Headingly Ln said the situation was not fair. "We have been offered sympathy and help, but no action."

Mr Fraser said the Headingly Ln land was not suitable for commercial development because of the road's poor access and the land's low-lying nature.

"You have effectively stopped us from being able to sell our properties. No-one will buy our land if we want to move into resthomes or care, but all our assets are in our land. You have destroyed our ability to sell."

Paula Broady, whose elderly mother lives in Headingly Ln, said the council made an error in lifting the zoning deferment across all the affected land, rather than staging its release.

"The Richmond West Development Plan talked of 24 hectares of commercial land needed in Richmond to 2024 - why was the whole block released?" she asked.

Chief executive Lindsay McKenzie told councillors the only prospect of addressing the issue lay in the adoption of a rate postponement, or a rates remission policy. The policy could be specific to those currently affected or district- wide, he said.

Councillor Trevor Norris said the council would face the same situation in other areas if it did not resolve the issue.

"If I was sitting there with a lifestyle property, I would be cheesed off if I was forced to sell."

Deputy mayor Tim King said any policy had to be district-wide to cover future proposed zoning changes, as would be seen in Motueka and those that flow from the council's impending rural review.

"We have made it harder for people to exit their properties and they are at a lower value than prior to the re-zoning, and we need to consider a general remission policy."

However, the council would be naive to put a specific policy in place to address the issue and not believe it would be approached by other interest groups.

"We need a policy that is district-wide," he said.

Councillor Stuart Bryant said the Richmond West Development decisions were made at the height of the property boom in 2007, when demand for Richmond commercial land seemed to outstrip supply.

"We have been slow to act, the world economy has gone into recession and there is no longer the demand," he said.

Mr McKenzie said background work on policy options was mostly completed and a paper on the options would be presented to the council at its community services meeting in February.

The Nelson Mail