Rates bill is turning us into council serfs, say farming couple

By Wayne Thompson

North Rodney deer farmers Betty and Eric Terzaghi say that in 20 years the rates bill on their 45ha retirement farm has reached the point where "we have become serfs in the service of the council". Photo / Mark Mitchell
North Rodney deer farmers Betty and Eric Terzaghi say that in 20 years the rates bill on their 45ha retirement farm has reached the point where "we have become serfs in the service of the council". Photo / Mark Mitchell

North Rodney deer farmers Betty and Eric Terzaghi say that in 20 years the rates bill on their 45ha retirement farm has reached the point where "we have become serfs in the service of the council".

Rates ballooned to the point where the net profit on raising 60 to 100 deer a year for export went directly to the council.

"Zilch for our labours," the couple told Rodney Local Board's hearing of views on the Auckland Council's draft annual plan.

They said they paid four to five more in rates in rural Matakana than others in urban Auckland.

"For which we get the same dusty unsealed road for 20 years."

They opposed a rating system based on capital value, including a property's subdivision value, whether or not the property had development consent.

Treating the rural sector as Auckland's cash cow would not deliver Mayor Len Brown's Auckland Plan aim, they said.

The plan aims to "recognise and strongly support the role of rural areas, including productive farmland, in defining the character and contribution of rural areas to creating the world's most liveable city."

Mr and Mrs Terzaghi said a viable and vibrant rural sector could not be created without change to the rating system.

The Auckland Council proposes to standardise the 65 rates remission and postponement policies which it inherited from the merger of eight councils and which would cost $675,000 in the next two years.

Some, including Rodney's, are to be dropped. Its large area of valuable coastal farmland would cost $270,000 a year to support.

Waimauku farmer David Steele said all Auckland's farm land should be treated equally.

"We pay very high rates close to the city, and it's becoming increasingly harder to farm."

Warkworth registered valuer Guy Scholefield said that around the coastal margins, numerous farmers were subsistence farming on the most appealing farmland imaginable.

"The view does not provide any income."

He gave an example of a 125ha coastal property, with a rateable land value of $5.4 million.

It paid $17,500 annual rates, or 88 per cent of gross farm income.

Rates took $14.50 per stock unit, compared with an inland farm carrying the same 1200 stock units, which paid $2.50 to $5.

Federated Farmers supported the Rodney policy to encourage continued productive farming businesses rather than subdivision for non-farming purposes.

Farmer Ann Flanagan told the Franklin Local Board's hearing that rates were a large and fast-escalating part of farm running costs.

"Rates ... move ever upward while farming income can fluctuate markedly. This exacerbates the burden."

She said a rates remission policy had given some relief to traditional pastoral farmers who needed big holdings.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 22 Oct 2014 18:28:25 Processing Time: 550ms