'Rates would cripple us': Agencies

Hamilton social agencies say a proposed rate rise would cripple them.

Social agencies which normally work quietly away to support some of the city's most vulnerable residents have been forced to step forward and plead for compassion.

Among proposals in Hamilton City Council's draft 10-year plan is a change which would see community organisations pay commercial rates for their retail operations.

Some of the city's leading community organisations yesterday left councillors in no doubt about the ''crippling'' impact proposed rates rises would have on their work.

Hospice Waikato's Rosemary Poole said its charity shops generated half of the $1.9m per year it needed to raise, and the plan would see its rates bill rise by 242 per cent.

Presbyterian Support Northern submitter Kim Gouk said its rates bill would rise from $1370 to $11,380, which would ''cripple'' the organisation's work in the community.

St Vincent de Paul manager Mike Rolton said funds from its retail shop helped the organisation support victims of domestic abuse, and its food vans in some of the city's poorest areas were bringing together neighbourhoods previously dominated by gangs.

"Any rates rise for us, would mean I would have to seriously consider cutting that.''

Mr Rolton hoped councillors would show some compassion and reject the proposal.

Earlier, councillors were defensive when criticed for their performance, Councillor Roger Hennebry telling one he was insulted by his claims they had done nothing.

Deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman also took umbrage when a submitter described his perception that there was a ''whiff of cronyism'' in the way contracts were awarded.

Waikato Times