'Totally ripped off' farmer admonishes council

Farmers facing big rate rises because of increases in their property values were notable by their absence at a Waitaki District Council draft annual plan meeting at Five Forks last night.

However, when the farmers present took the floor, one said he was getting "totally ripped off".

While the council has a draft 1.8% increase in its total rates take for the next financial year, rates bills for some farming properties could rise more than 50%.

Despite that, only 15 people turned up last night to hear about the 2010-11 draft annual plan, meeting 12 councillors and council staff.

Meetings held in Oamaru, Otematata and Palmerston have been low key, with councillors and staff outnumbering ratepayers in some cases.

Last night's meeting at the Five Forks Hall was the only one in a wholly rural area. It was expected to attract a big crowd because property valuations impacted more on farm rates than residential properties.

Even then, the proposal to close four public toilets in Oamaru was the subject raised by the first two speakers. The next issue was the need to upgrade rural water supplies.

Then rates came up - Bill Pile said he was being "totally ripped off" with his. On a 450ha dairy farm on the Waitaki Plains, he was paying $9500 a year, while his bill for 32ha of land at Moeraki was $9400.

Russell Hurst said his rates had gone up between 30% and 33%.

Martin McCone said there was no incentive to improve land, because rates went up as a result.

Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton said basing rates on valuations "did not work", but it was the only formula available. He hoped a Government in the future would consider a new formula.


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