A rural ward councillor is unhappy with the way the council owned farm is being run.

Rural ward councillor Rick Coplestone accused council of poor management of the council owned farm on Flint Rd at last week's meeting.

The 2019 Farm Business report was before councillors at Tuesday's council meeting, and Mr Coplestone said he was unhappy with some of its content and the amount of information councillors had on it.

"I want to know from council why we were taken this in a workshop, the workshop was cut short, it was never at a policy and services meeting and all of a sudden it's plumped on us here and we've got to make a decision on it."

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Rick Coplestone is unhappy with decisions around the council owned farm.
Rick Coplestone is unhappy with decisions around the council owned farm.

Mayor Neil Volzke said the budget in the report had already been approved by councillors as part of the Annual Plan.

Items such as mitigation of rates, or the potential purchase of a generator for the farm were on the agenda to be discussed at the meeting, he said.

Once the report had been received, discussion moved to the second recommendation in the report - that the farm return to council an annual dividend of $50,000 for rate mitigation with any remaining profit put towards repaying debt.

Mr Coplestone said he didn't consider the farm to be an "innovative property", and argued against the recommendation.

"Fifty thousand dollars going to mitigation of rates is like paying a credit card off with another credit card. You're not going anywhere, you're not spending anything, you're not doing anything. This isn't a farm for debt, this is a farm that's supposed to be freehold and delivering to the ratepayers."

Tiffany Radich, director of Corporate Services, said the farm business plan originally stated debt would be repaid first, but was changed after councillors discussed it in a workshop.

Councillor Jono Erwood spoke in favor of the amount set for rates mitigation.

"Fifty thousand rate mitigation to be returned to the ratepayer is a great start. We know exactly what we are going to get, we've workshopped this quite a bit."

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Councillor Grant Boyde, who is on the council's farm committee, said $50,000 was a sustainable amount.

Councillor Graham Kelly suggested an upcoming sale of a house and some land from the farm would also substantially reduce the debt, but Mr Coplestone argued it wasn't enough.

"The amount that is sold still gives us a $2 million debt on the farm, which is excessively high."

Speaking after the meeting, Mayor Volzke said $700,000 of the debt will be repaid this year.

"Clearly it is desirable to repay debt as soon as we can, while using $50,000 of the farm operational profit for rates mitigation allows today's ratepayers to have some share of the benefits from this investment as well."

Mr Coplestone was also unhappy with the 50:50 share-milk agreement on the farm, and would prefer a lease agreement.

"Fifty per cent of the profit goes somewhere else to somebody else. We are only getting 50 per cent of it yet all of the mortgage is ours. As far as I am concerned it is poor management. I fail to see how you can run a farm like that."

Mayor Volzke says leasing the farm is one of several options to be investigated in the future, pointing out this was stated in the report discussed at the meeting.

"It is too late to consider changes in the 2019/20 season, which has already started. The farm report included the intention to review financial arrangements within the next six months. This review would include looking at a full range of financial options."

Mayor Volzke says he does not accept Mr Coplestone's accusations of poor management.

"The farm management committee consists of knowledgeable, experienced and skilled people. We are also fortunate to have outstanding share milkers. Milk production was up 14 per cent last season. Compared to the previous year and the overall farm performance is well above the regional average."

Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the chief executive of Stratford District Council.