Spectre of rates hovers

By Gary Caffell

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A five-letter word is certain to dominate the local government reform consultations to be held by our three district councils next week.

Rates.

Everybody, but everybody, you talk to wants to know how any change will affect their own pockets.

Particularly if the councils get their wish and a single Wairarapa council is formed as a unitary authority.

It will be interesting - indeed intriguing - to see how those framing the discussions deal with the rates topic.

They will know, for instance, that even the mere suggestion of an increase for Masterton urban ratepayers is guaranteed to bring howls of protest.

And who could blame them when you consider their rates have jumped 25 to 30 per cent in total over the past three years.

Yes, much of that has been due to the costs of the much-needed sewerage upgrade, but now that imposition is virtually done and dusted they are hardly likely to accept anything but a major reduction next time around, are they?

From what we have heard so far there is simply no way those touting the unitary authority - or any other reform proposal for that matter - can say with any certainty what any of them will mean rates-wise.

Sure, they might be able to talk at great length about the savings which could be made in various areas but when it comes to actual specifics on rates nobody seems to have the facts and figures to back up their judgment calls on this crucial issue.

That being the case the councils will be banking heavily on winning support on the basis that their unitary authority proposal would at least mean Wairarapa would not have to endure being part of a Wellington super city, something which they see as being an absolute "no no" for those of us resident on this side of the Rimutakas.

Wellington and Wairarapa are two very different provinces in terms of both population and lifestyle and often what suits one will certainly not suit the other. The suggestion we would only have one voice on any super city operating body rankles big time and immediately creates concerns that we would quickly fade into obscurity.

Emotionally that's a strong argument, but whether it will silence the rates debate remains to be seen.

Gary Caffell is a Masterton district councillor.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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