Over the years local councils have moved more and more to a user pays rating system.
Fair enough. But it's never going to be precise.
All ratepayers pay the same contribution to the art gallery and museum for instance, but some may never visit either. The point is though, they can. And it would be too hard to charge on a per visit basis.
But Totara Valley farmers Mark and Mandy Robins have raised a valid question of the Timaru District Council.
Faced with a $102 rate just for the CBay aquatic centre for their farm, they are also being charged $102 on each of two other parcels of bare land they own. Unfair they say. They can't use the pool three times at once.
The council will consider their argument . . . just not now. Councillors will do it at the annual plan hearing leading into the next rating year.
Many people will prick up their ears at this.
There will be other farmers in the same boat, but all business owners could make the same argument. "I pay the pool rate at home," they could say, "why should I also pay it at work?"
And if passed there will presumably be an impact on those farms which have more than one occupied house. Each house should be liable for the rate.
Waimate has just been through this, although there it was council-led.
For civic amenities, the district council moved from a rate per unit to a rate per separately inhabited part of a rating unit.
This raised the ire of some farmers, with one pointing out it would mean a 27 per cent rate increase which would see him paying twice the amount of a house in Waimate when he received few services and was 53 kilometres away from the civic amenities he was paying more for.
By comparison, businesses in Waimate saw a rates reduction when the civic amenity rate was stopped for them.
Similar examples will no doubt arise in Timaru, but a reshuffle of the rate is fair enough.
As the Robins argued yesterday, this should be a "people rate" rather than a property rate.
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