A Bowentown couple who have lived in the Western Bay district for 10 years are selling up as rates are too high and out of control.
Selwyn Hill is selling his property and moving to Hauraki before the end of the year.
"Paying nearly $4000 a year in rates, my wife and I have decided to sell and move to Hauraki as the rates are too high here and it is getting out of control," he said.
Mr Hill raised the rising rates issue at a Western Bay mayoral, councillors and community board candidates meeting on Saturday at the Community Centre.
"People living on a fixed income cannot afford it," he said.
The topic came under hot debate with many locals also saying they were also struggling to pay their rates.
Most candidates for mayoralty acknowledged the issue but said it was a difficult question to answer.
Kevin Tohiariki said the current situation was inherited from "bad decisions".
"If the debt and the rates are too high it is because everyone operates under managers, but what we need is a good leader with a good direction."
Gary Webber agreed and said the new council would have to look on how to keep the rates stable.
"But the debt is part of running a business. The core issue is how to manage it better."
Don Thwaites said that the council had been doing its best.
"We are working our butt off to decrease the rates and development of the area is the only way to do it."
He said developers needed to alleviate the rates burden.
Gwendalyn Merriman said debt was not something the council has full control of.
"We cannot manage it as it depends on a sound planning of future population growth."
Mike Lally said it came down to the lack of productivity and low wages across the district. Mr Lally said council needed to take more responsibility over the issue.
"Council debt leads us into trouble. This is not fair to make ratepayers pay for this."
According to Western Bay of Plenty District Council, the district's high rates came down to growth and geography.
"Due to the Western Bay being a large, mainly rural and thinly populated district, providing infrastructure is more difficult and expensive in rural areas.
"For example, we have five wastewater plants to Tauranga city's two and we're also maintaining a complex roading network and have a number of significant stormwater improvements projects," its website says.
Western Bay locals can vote for their new mayor and councillors until October 8.
The average rate for the Western Bay district is about $2734. This is calculated by dividing a $56.4 million rate take by 20,621 rateable properties, the council says on its website.
"Rates vary considerably across the district, depending on what services - such as wastewater, water or stormwater - each ratepayer can access and pays a charge for. Some commentators use a figure in excess of $3000 as the average Western Bay rate. This is the average urban rate - not the average district rate."
The Waihi Leader met a Waihi Beach resident, who wishes to remain anonymous.
This year, he said he is paying more than $3800 rates - excluding GST - for his 489sq m property.
His invoice for 2016/17 shows rates went down this year by around $100 despite a constant increase since 2002. Rates have nearly doubled since then.
Meanwhile, his land and capital value also doubled to peak in 2007 before decreasing gradually.
His rates have kept increasing for the same period (2007-16).