A proposed change in council policy has left some community groups wondering where to find thousands of extra dollars a year while others could enjoy a surprise windfall.

Tauranga City Council has moved to standardise charges for community groups that own buildings sitting on council land.

Council property manager JD Thomas said current user fees were largely based on "legacy agreements" negotiated with individual groups.

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Some pay thousands, others pay nothing.

"The intent of the proposal is to provide a consistent, transparent and equitable approach to charging," Thomas said.

According to council fee information requested by the Bay of Plenty Times, changes would apply to 55 sections of land used by 52 groups.

A motorcycle club, fishing club, canoe club and tennis club each had about 220sq m of land but annual charges ranged from $1100 to $2900.

Under the proposed system they would all pay about $750 a year - a $234 admin fee plus a rate per square metre.

Other groups would not be so lucky.

Papamoa social services provider Anglican Care Waiapu's annual bill would go from $0 to $3450 for their 2350sq m Hartford Ave section.

Tauranga Regional Free Kindergarten Association's fees would rise $4700 - 130 per cent - to $8300 for six sites totalling 7200sq m.


Both groups say the council should consider things other than land size in their charging formula, such as a group's community contribution, user numbers and ability to pay.

Anglican Care Waiapu chief executive Lucy Laitinen said every dollar spent on fees was a dollar taken from services.

"I think we are helping the council achieve their plan for a thriving community."

Kindergarten association principal Peter Monteith wondered where the extra money should come from.

"Childrens' art supplies? The excursion budget?"

He said the change would be a shock to many groups that had made budgets and plans based on charges that could be hiked.

Tauranga Woodcrafters' Club president George Yardley said simply upping membership fees was not the answer as most clubs walked a fine balance between retaining members and paying the bills.

His club was in luck: fees for their 130sq m section in Mount Maunganui would drop $750.

"We are very happy about it," Yardley said.

Jo Stock says the Bayfair Community Garden cannot afford to pay the proposed $314 fee. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
Jo Stock says the Bayfair Community Garden cannot afford to pay the proposed $314 fee. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

"We will reinvest it in the club. I always felt the fee was excessive."

Also pleased was Tauranga Outrigger Canoe Club treasurer Alex Ryder. Fees for their Sulphur Point position will drop by $1000.

"We thought it was a mistake at first."

Ryder said the club was grateful for their space and never had a problem with the cost.

He did not see a need for standardisation when any club could negotiate a fee review.

- The council will make a final decision on the proposal later this year after hearing community feedback through the Long-Term Plan 2018-2028 consultation process, which begins today.

Land use fee changes

- Large increases to be phased in over several years
- Decreases applied from July 1, 2018
- No change where council owns both building and land
- Community groups on council land don't pay rates

Source: Tauranga City Council

"Totally unfair" - community garden shocked at fee

Jo Stock was "shocked" to receive a letter "out of the blue" from Tauranga City Council last week proposing Bayfair Community Garden start paying land use fees.

The gardens would be charged $314 a year under a proposed system standardising how community groups were charged to use council land.

"We provide a valuable service to the community, it's totally unfair," Stock said.

The Gloucester Rd gardens had been run by a team of volunteers for nearly 20 years.

The not-for-profit garden's sole purpose was to supply the Tauranga Foodbank with fresh vegetables each week, sending more than 500 banana boxes of produce last year.

Stock said they relied on volunteers and the generosity of local businesses to keep running.

"We have to scrounge to get enough resources to keep going. We can't afford to pay this.

"[The garden] is the heart of the community. We are contributing in a very practical way."
- Amy Diamond