Increase in rates but no relative benefit

Matakanui Station owner Andrew Paterson gets little in return for the $10,300 he pays in Central Otago District Council rates, he told the council yesterday.

He objected to a rates increase this year which would boost his annual rates bill to $11,000.

Speaking at the council's annual plan hearing, in support of a Federated Farmers submission, Mr Paterson said although his rates bill was going up, the services he got for his money were not increasing.

"What services do we get for this? We get to use the swimming pool in town [Alexandra] and get the road graded two times a year, or maybe three."

Federated Farmers had submitted that the basis for rates should be changed from land value to capital value.

"Council spending is well ahead of the rate of inflation and rates are in the top five, if not the top three of expenses for farmers," Federated Farmers policy adviser David Cooper said.

"For a ratepayer paying $10,300 in rates already, like Andrew, that's an increase this year of $708.

"For some farmers, such an increase may be significant when they're already struggling to maintain profitability."

Farmers were penalised by their properties having a high value, as the district council rates far exceeded the benefits they got, he said.

However, the council was to be congratulated for using a range of targeted rates and differentials for different wards to make the rates burden more equitable and it should continue with its rates reforms.

"The district's farmers are happy to pay their share, but the relative benefit they receive needs to be addressed.

"I believe this could be done by changing from land value rating to capital value."

Cr Neil Gillespie said the council could cut the rates back in line with the consumer price index, "but then what services would we cut, what would we stop doing?"The federation also asked for a targeted rate for tourism and promotion activities, aimed at those who received the benefits.

"Farmers already fund the promotion of their own product and pay levies. The people who directly get the benefits of promotion should pay for it," Mr Cooper said.

The council said it had reviewed its revenue and financing policy but planned to reconsider a differential relating to tourism.


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