A semi-retired couple says the Western Bay's high rates drove them out of the district, and a local budget advice service says it is seeing more pensioners struggling.

But the district's mayor, Garry Webber, predicted the grass would not be greener on the other side for long with other councils forecasting steep rates rises, and said the district's rates had not stopped the district's population boom.

Last week the Western Bay's average residential rates of $3192 in 2016/17 was named the highest in New Zealand for the fifth year running, according to a list compiled by the Taxpayers' Union.

School bus driver Lesley Sonntag, 65, and plumber Andrew Sonntag, 64, said they saved more than $1000 a year in rates by moving from Katikati to Paeroa, in the Hauraki District.

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Lesley said they moved from the Bay of Islands to Katikati three years ago with plans to retire in a few years.

They had worked hard to be debt free before retirement.

But when they did the sums they realised they could not afford the retirement they planned on fixed pension incomes in the Western Bay.

"I was terrified the rates were just going to go up and up. We didn't want to be stuck on a fixed income with no options," she said.

The rates on their two-bedroom Katikati home were about $3500 a year when they left, Lesley said.

They moved into a three-bedroom house on more land in Paeroa and were paying rates of just under $2400 a year.

Paeroa had other attractions - central to family, easier to get to and from the Bay of Islands, a tidy area - but the rates were the biggest difference.

"If the rates situation was better we would have stayed."

Paeroa is part of Hauraki District Council, which had New Zealand's 28th highest average residential rates last financial year at $2382.

Hauraki has forecast annual rates increases of averaging out to 4.4 per cent a year over 10 years.

The Western Bay has forecasted annual increases of 2.7 per cent a year over 10 years.

Webber said the numbers showed the pressure councils, including Hauraki, were under to do vital wastewater and freshwater infrastructure upgrades his council had already done and started paying off.

"We as a council we run a good business."

He said it was not rates alone putting people on fixed income under pressure - the cost of electricity and other services was also rising.

Webber advised anyone struggling should talk to the council about spreading payments out and look into the government's rates rebate scheme, which about 6 per cent of his district's ratepayers had already taken advantage of.

Diane Bruin, manager of the Tauranga Budget Service, said her team had seen an increase of people on fixed incomes, generally pensioners, struggling to pay Western Bay rates.

"We understand it is a growing trend in the Ōmokoroa and Katikati area as people can't afford to pay the high rates.

"We have an increased demand for our services in this area and provide a clinic in Katikati on Tuesday and Wednesday to assist."

She said ideas for people struggling to pay rates included rates rebates, working with the council to reduce debts, reducing spending, downsizing, getting more income from the property or a reverse mortgage.


Katikati house
- 2 bedrooms
- 500sq m land
- bought for about $250,000 three years ago
- sold after renovations for $465,000 in March
- rates $3500

Paeroa house
- 3 bedrooms
- 970sq m land
- bought for $380,000 in March
- renovated kitchen and ensuite
- rates $2400