Poultry farmer cries foul over $50,000 council levy

STEVE EDWARDS
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2014

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A farmer who is challenging a $50,000 fee has forced the Matamata-Piako District Council to take a second look at its development contributions policy, when it reviews its long-term plan next year.

Bernie McDavitt was surprised when he received a $49,346 bill from the council, as a development contribution levy he must pay for building new, free-range poultry broiler sheds at his Clothier Rd, Elstow, property.

But a consultant's report, examining the development against the council's policy on development fees, suggested the bill be reduced to $1694.50.

The report said the "large discrepancy" came from council calculations which suggested with two new poultry sheds at the sitewould generate 17 times more traffic than the whole operation. "We consider that due to the nature of this operation the assumptions made in this instance are incorrect and do not accurately reflect the additional demand likely to be generated by this activity on public infrastructure," the consultant's report said.

Development contributions are levies for council-funded infrastructure required as a result of growth in development and new homes. Services include roading, water, wastewater and stormwater.

A council staff report said without those contributions ratepayers would have to fund an additional $790,000 a year.

"It's a policy approach that both assists our district's growth and is arguably fair and equitable to ratepayers."

However, council chief executive officer Don Mcleod said the McDavitt case showed the council needed to look at the flexibility of the current framework.

Darrell Russell, head of Piako Group which invested $5 million in developing a vehicle and tractor sales and service centre on SH26, is another who questions council calculations. "I don't mind fair fees. But beyond that you are creating roadblocks to development."

He challenged a $44,000 development contribution, eventually halved by council.

As well as beautifying Charleston and McRae streets, Russell was also required by the council to hold wastewater on site. Four 25,000 litre concrete water tanks cost $27,000. On top of that, he spent nearly $200,000 to put in underground piles and relocate the main sewer line to meet council requirements.

"[The bill] shook me to a point where I contemplated whether to continue or abort the project."

The council is reviewing development contributions as part of its long-term plan. Options include developers continuing to pay; ratepayers paying; or both parties sharing the cost of growth.

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Council communications officer Nicole Nooyen said any changes should be seen in the 2015/16 financial year.

It would go out for public consultation with the long-term plan in March 2015. steve.edwards@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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