Who in the Heritage Area wants a rates increase?
The Governing Body is currently consulting on a proposal to change rates for rural residents. The proposal is that small landowners (below 6 hectares) should pay more rates and large landowners (over 50 hectares) should pay less.
Overall the rates paid by rural ratepayers will be the same but on average small landholders will pay $73 more a year and large landowners $1,353 a year less.
I am not sure where the proposal has come from. There would normally be an agenda item voted on by a committee of Council but the only trace I have been able to find is this agenda item for the Rural Advisory Panel.
The Local Board is due to host a meeting involving members of the public on September 30 although even now I can fairly confidently say that the proposal will not be received warmly. Nor should it be.
The report says this in support of the proposal for change:
Large properties tend to be further from council services, and have unsealed roads. Almost all large properties are farms or forestry. They create local jobs and reduce the need for people to commute to the city.
Smaller properties are mostly residential lifestyle. They tend to be located closer to urban areas, and usually have sealed roads. They also tend to be in areas with higher household incomes and are associated with urban commuting, creating demand on transport services.
Out west I would be attacked if I said that smaller properties mostly have sealed roads. Many do not. Public transport in the villages is barely existent if there at all. And the large farming and forestry property owners have a dramatically larger demand on transport routes and roads so why should they be subsidised by the small land owenrs?
The report offers this as reasons why change is not warranted.
Large farms are run as businesses and have tax advantages not available to residential ratepayers. They currently pay a third of the rates charged to other rural business properties. Farms and forestry are also associated with heavy vehicle movements which contribute significantly to cost of maintaining local roads.
Rates already reflect differences in access to services and the quality of roads to an extent. This is because properties that are more remote, or have unsealed roads, have lower land values than similar properties that are close to urban areas or have sealed roads.
This makes much more sense. The damage to a road caused by regular trips by a logging truck or a milk truck dwarfs that caused by private motor vehicle use. And a small block adjacent to a sealed road will have a greater value than a comparable property adjacent to an unsealed road so there is a differential already built in.
There are particular reasons for opposing the change out west. In the Waitakere Ranges Local Board area there are only 12 large properties out of a total of 1,528 properties (less than 1%). Regionally there are 1,249 large sections out of a total of 17,268 rural properties (7,2%).
And as a special local reason the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 poses some restrictions on how locals can potentially use their land, specifically in the case of subdivision of property. Locals with small sections should be supported as much as possible in their efforts to preserve the local environment, not discriminated against.
I am always willing to consider counter arguments and change my mind but at this stage I think that the proposal is not in the interests of local people and I will be opposing it.
I agree with Dave Smith and Penny Sparks from the Oratia Residents and Ratepayers Association members of which would be particularly hard hit if the changes are made. The proposal does feel as if large influential property owners trying to drive the council to decrease their rates at the cost of small landowners.
Anyway by all means attend the consultation meeting and have your say.
When – Wednesday 30 September 2015
Where – Waitakere Ranges Local Board Office, 39 Glenmall Place, Glen Eden
Time – 6pm (light finger food refreshments will be served)
RSVP – For catering purposes by 25 September to: Sharon.Davies@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz