Furious Kaipara residents and community leaders have threatened a mass rates strike after hearing about a proposed 31 per cent rates hike.
The rise was revealed on Friday in the Kaipara District Council's draft long-term plan. Kaipara mayor Neil Tiller described it as an aggressive approach to reducing debt. He wants to slash the district's current debt of $85.2 million to $46 million by 2022.
But some locals believe it will cause significant financial hardship for many.
Bruce Rogan, chairman of the 320-strong Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers' Association, said he expected a revolt over the proposed new charges would be voted for at a community meeting today.
"If these rises go ahead it could spark the biggest civil disobedience seen in New Zealand for many years," he told the Herald on Sunday. "We will be calling for people to stop paying their rates with immediate effect to make the council come to their senses.
"The 31 per cent rise is an average figure, so many people will end up paying a lot more than that. Pensioners and others on fixed incomes will really suffer.
"Older people tend to be very law-abiding and wouldn't take a decision like this lightly. But, for a lot of folk, it won't be so much a case of 'won't pay' as 'can't pay'."
Rogan added: "The council is not getting another cent out of me."
Aranga dairy farmer Michael Griffiths reckoned his rates would jump from $40,000 a year to more than $60,000.
"The rise for me would more likely be in the region of 57 per cent and I would really struggle to pay that," he said.
"I run a very tight ship as it is and to be asked for an amount like this out of the blue is big. There is already talk that the milk-solids payout for dairy farmers will drop next year, so this is serious stuff."
Mangawhai resident Helen Curreen, who is also a member of the ratepayers' association, stopped paying her rates five months ago because she was unhappy with the way the council was handling debt. She said she knew others who had done the same.
Kaipara District Council chief executive Steve Ruru last night defended the proposed charges. He said a controversial Mangawhai sewerage scheme went over budget and had to be paid for.
"A lot of debt had been deferred ... but it is so large that it needs to be addressed now. It would be disappointing if some people refused to pay their rates because that is not very constructive.
"What has been proposed is a draft and I would welcome feedback from people rather than them simply talk about not paying up," he said.By Russell Blackstock Email Russell