Cold comfort in council's rent-rises delay

Hamilton community groups faced with sizeable rent increases under a new council policy say phasing in the rises over two years won't ease their pain.

Hamilton City councillors this week approved guidelines setting out how the council's community occupancy policy would be implemented.

The council was forced to temporarily shelve the new policy last month after councillors couldn't agree on the wording of the guidelines.

The community occupancy policy, which was adopted by the council in November, has caused anxiety among the city's community, volunteer and trust groups, with 87 of these groups facing rent increases ranging from $42 a year to more than $11,000.

The policy calculates rent at 12.5 per cent of the market rate per square metre.

But in an amendment to the guidelines, put forward by councillor Andrew King, councillors agreed that any group facing a rent change would have the change phased in over two years.

The phase-in clause applies only to community groups that had an agreement at the time the new occupancy policy was adopted in November.

Some groups, such as the St Andrews Golf Club and the Waikato Migrant Resource Centre, face rent reductions.

Councillor Dave Macpherson, one of three councillors to vote against the guidelines, said it wasn't good policy to solve one group's problem by creating problems for others.

Community groups delivered a great service to Hamilton, he said, and should be allowed to use council land for free.

"What we are doing now is penalising 80-odd groups."

Speaking afterwards, Chris Jessop, chairperson of the parents support committee of the No 7 (City of Hamilton) Squadron Air Training Corps, said the council policy was a "slap in the face" to community groups.

The city's cadets currently paid a peppercorn rate of $1 to use council land on the corner of Dey St and Cambridge Rd but this would increase to more than $2000 a year.

She said the two-year phase-in period would not take any pressure off the cadets who relied on fundraising, grants and parents to meet costs.

"This is an organisation that is developing young leaders of the future and this is another annual bill that we have to find money for. Ultimately this will restrict our ability to grow the organisation."

Waikato Times