Council comparison does not stack up

1 comment

Waikato-based farmers Martyn and Marie Sing are Federated Farmers members, but they also belong to a less desirable group - the 10K Rates Club.

This is a club of Federated Farmers members who pay more than $10,000 a year on rates alone. It was founded a few years back by Federated Farmers to highlight the exponentially growing problem of rates for its members.

While their rates bills are nowhere near as high as some other 10K Club members, the Sings say their situation, farming two adjacent 109ha properties split by a district border, gives them a unique perspective on the difference between councils.

"It means we can compare apples with apples," Marie says.

They farm in Motumaoho, near Morrinsville. One block sits in Matamata-Piako District Council (MPDC) territory, the other in Waikato District Council's (WDC).

Paying rates to two councils gives Martyn and Marie first-hand experience of the difference between councils which keep their expenditure down and those which don't. The rates demand from WDC is around 40 per cent higher than MPDC's demand.

"Our rates for the WDC property are $14,700 compared to $8400 for the MPDC property and get the same level of service from each council," Martyn says.

"Over the last five years, there have been rate rises. Rate rises at MPDC were kept to around 1 per cent per annum, while WDC's rate rises were around 8 per cent.

"I think this shows a real lack of discipline with Waikato District Council," Martyn says.

He says some of the difference can be traced to having property revaluations at different times, but that did not account for all of the difference.

"The last time WDC did a revaluation, the land valuation on my block dropped 30 per cent, but my rates on it still went up.

"WDC had said if people's land valuations were 10 per cent lower or more they would not be paying higher rates. However, in our case this is not what happened."

He believes councillors need to take more control. He hopes the government's reforms result in councils having much clearer definitions of what their core business is.

"I don't think councils' job is to have cultural affairs managers; that is Central Government's department.

"Then there is the events management side of things. Do we need all these events they run?" Martyn says.

His hope from any reform of local government is for councils to be given clear definitions of their roles, greater oversight and accountability to their constituents.

"At present, they have all the power and we just pay the rates."

- Hamilton News

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