Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Rates cuts fail to impress

George Haffenden hasn't paid rates for about seven years. Photo / John McCombe
George Haffenden hasn't paid rates for about seven years. Photo / John McCombe

Ratepayers reckon they have been paying most in NZ.

While angry ratepayers have taken to Kaipara streets to protest soaring hikes, those in Thames-Coromandel have been told their rates will actually go down.

The cut - an average 5 per cent across the district for the 2012/13 year - is believed to be the highest in the country.

But that doesn't mean everyone is happy.

Puriri builder John McLoughlin proudly wears a tattered T-shirt boasting his 40 years in the trade. It's actually 49, he says, before letting slip that Saturday is his 65th birthday.

He's eagerly anticipating the arrival of his first pension payment - he reckons he's going to need it.

"Rates might be down but I paid $1950 last year. That's miles too high. We've got the gold medal for the highest rates in New Zealand," he says.

Friend Catherine Boman agrees.

She paid $2500 in rates last year for her humble 1930s Thames bungalow.

"My brother lives in Auckland in a big posh house and he pays about $1800."

Costs are being shifted sideways, with residents now charged $1.80 to dump a bag of green waste, which used to be included in the rates.

They also have to buy their own rubbish bags, Boman says: "That's another $100".

Across town, builder Jackson Scarlett reckons user pays for rubbish bags is "a bit of a have".

"We pay rates for those services."

It is good rates are going down, but he is worried homeowners will "cop it" from somewhere else.

"They give to one hand and take from the other."

He also feels for council workers who have lost jobs and worries about the flow-on effect in the community but agrees cuts are necessary.

Next door, retired Occupational Safety and Health officer George Haffenden hasn't paid rates for about seven years. He's on a deferment scheme and his rates, which were about $2900 last year, will be paid from his estate when he dies. But he is pleased with the cut.

"About time. I'm all for paying taxes and rates, it's essential for services, but we did have the most expensive in the country. And what do you get for it?" he says, pointing to drains that flood in heavy rain.

Wayne Morrison, who retired with his wife to a bach in Cooks Beach almost five years ago, is worried community assets will become run down if less rates also mean less maintenance.

And he's pleased his children are grown, because the council has made it clear that extras, like community swimming pools, will have to be self-funded.

But change is necessary, Morrison says. "The past council has been throwing the rates up willy nilly for years. It's nice to have a mayor that is not going crazy spending on everything."

- Herald on Sunday

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