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Roading rates back with cost trimmed

By Peter de Graaf

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The Far North District Council is having a second attempt at bringing in a "fairer" rating system that caused an outcry among farmers and foresters last year.

The idea behind the new user-pays system to is make each sector - residential, commercial, industrial, forestry, etc - pay a targeted rate for the wear and tear they inflict on council roads.

The proposal would see rates soar for quarry, mine and forest owners, due to the damage done by heavy trucks, while rates would drop significantly for commercial and industrial properties (see the table at the bottom of this story). Dairy farmers would be hit with a rates rise averaging 15 per cent while home owners hooked up to council sewerage and water schemes would pay about 7 per cent more whether the proposal goes ahead or not.

Last year's attempt to bring in targeted roading rates ran into stiff opposition from farmers and foresters, who disputed the council's figures. They also said much of their transport was on state highways which are not maintained by the council.

As a result, councillors put the new targeted roading rate on hold for a year while staff further crunched the numbers.

They went ahead, however, with user-pays charges for households hooked up to council sewerage schemes. As a result, homeowners hooked up to small, costly sewerage schemes such as Russell and Hihi now pay substantially more; while people connected to large, ageing schemes, such as Kaikohe and Kaitaia, pay less.

The latest proposal addresses some of the concerns raised last year by farm and forest owners and is contained in the council's 2013/14 draft annual plan, which went out for consultation on March 18 and is available at www.fndc.govt.nz.

Under the latest proposal the average forest owner faces a 167 per cent rates increase instead of 234 per cent in the initial plan. The average increase for dairy farmers drops from 32.6 per cent to 15.2 per cent.

Another objection to last year's proposal was that the district's 32 mines and quarries were treated like any other industry, despite the heavy traffic they generate. As a result they now have their own targeted roading rate which would see their rates soar by an average of $28,000 a year, or more than 900 per cent.

A spokesman said the council was committed to recovering road maintenance costs generated by heavy traffic and a targeted rate was the preferred option. However, if heavy traffic users could offer alternatives the council would listen to any practical suggestions which met its statutory obligations. The council was also investigating other solutions which made use of technology, he said.


The overall increase in rates take set out in the 2013/14 draft annual plan is 3.49 per cent or $2.6 million.


Anyone who wants to have a say has five weeks to get a submission in. Councillors will finalise the plan on June 20.


 


Swings and roundabouts


The FNDC's proposed ''fairer'' rating system would see rates soar for some sectors (mining, forestry) and drop for others (commercial, industrial). The idea is that each sector pays for the damage it causes to council roads through a targeted roading rate. The figures in bold type show the average change in rates for selected sectors in 2013/14 if the ''fairer'' rating proposal goes ahead. The figures in brackets and italics show the average change in rates if the council sticks with the current rating system.


Mines/quarries: +938.8% (<1%)


Forestry: +167.2% (<1%)


Dairy farming: +15.2% (<1%)


Residential, connected to water/sewerage: +6.5% (+6.8%)


Residential, not connected: <1% (<1%)


Commercial: -19.3% (+4.2%)


Industrial: -30.3% (+3.5%)

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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