Stalemate in Kaipara rates protest

By Annette Lambly, Mike Barrington

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The Kaipara rates strike is making a big impact with the owners of 1107 properties - 507 of them in Mangawhai - not paying their 2012/13 rates.

And of the owners of the remaining 12,812 Kaipara properties, 2644 have only partly paid their rates, many covering the amount rated for 2011/12 and waiting to see if controversial rates increases imposed this year will officially be declared illegal.

Increases which have more than doubled some rates were set by the former Kaipara District Council in a bid to deal with debts of around $80 million, mostly attributable to the Mangawhai sewerage scheme.

While the previous council admitted some of its rates and fees had been imposed illegally, the four commissioners who the Government has put in to replace the councillors have been told by Local Government Minister David Carter to enforce the rates.

Commissioner Peter Winder told a council meeting last week the commissioners were looking into the rating situation but had limited options available this year.

"To remake rates is complicated, expensive, time consuming and would require public consultation," he said.

"We cannot collect a different amount to what was set out in the Long Term Plan (LTP), but we are trying to find an appropriate way to go forward."

Kaipara Citizens and Ratepayers Association spokesman Ron Manderson had asked the commissioners to consider a phasing-in period for the rates or rate capping as affordability was a concern to many residents.

After the meeting, he said he was disappointed the commissioners were not seeking forensic evidence on the rates situation.

"The report the Auditor General is doing on Mangawhai is not sufficient," Mr Manderson said.

"We need a report on the whole of council... on who is responsible, what we can recover and from whom."

He said the association intended to lobby the Government to increase the rating rebate, now capped at $590 for those eligible, to help people on limited incomes.

The association is also circulating a petition asking Mr Carter to get the commissioners to amend the LTP to limit any rate increase to 10 per cent.

Commissioners chairman John Robertson said in a media statement those not paying rates were asking the others to pay for services like roads and water that everyone used.

The commissioners had not yet discussed penalties which might be imposed for not paying rates, he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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