Elderly home owners struggling to afford high annual rate hikes in Horowhenua are gathering voice.
Horowhenua Grey Power local government spokesperson Lew Rohloff spoke at a Horowhenua District Council meeting last week concerned with rate rises that were climbing by almost six per cent each year.
"This subject has commanded a great deal of Grey Power's attention over at least the last two decades, particularly with regard to the seriously unaffordable and totally unsustainable impact property rating has on the limited financial resources of low to middle-income households," he said.
Mr Rohloff said they were hopeful a current Productivity Commission inquiry into Local Government Funding and Financing would address inequality and provide a more sympathetic "appeal authority".
Horowhenua Grey Power had lodged a detailed submission to the inquiry and "in the interests of openness and transparency" submitted a copy to HDC.
"The past decade has seen the affordability of local government funding for low to middle-income households within our district deteriorate to the level where it is totally and unreasonably disproportionate to the valuation of property in householder ownership and occupation," he said.
"The pressure on household incomes over that period from property rating in particular I feel has had an impact on the economic health of the district," he said.
Mr Rohloff said it was important that councillors were individually aware of his organisation's concerns.
"I am hoping that individual councillors will do some homework. It is so important that in my opinion they cannot afford in their obligation to rely solely on the recommendations of council officers.
"They have a responsibility to be fully informed."
Mr Rohloff said council had broken a promise to have a rating review by setting rating levels adopted in a Draft Annual Plan recently.
"We do not make these claims lightly. For decades now, Horowhenua Grey Power has made detailed assessments of the unaffordability of the districts rating model for low to middle-income householders."
He said households were bearing the brunt of rating demands ahead of commercial enterprise.
..Councillors have simply set our representations aside, apparently preferring .... to relentlessly prioritise commercial interest over the wellbeing of low-income recipients.
"It is not our assertions of council bias. Councillors have simply set our representations aside, apparently preferring, by some unspoken policy, to relentlessly prioritise commercial interest over the wellbeing of low-income recipients."
It highlighted a need for legislation that would introduce rating parameters rather than leave it to council discretion, he said.
"I hope the inquiry is as exhaustive as it promises to be. We believe the inquiry will seriously consider the particular plight of low and middle-income household in Horowhenua."
Submissions to the Productivity Commission closed last month. A draft report was due for release in June, with a final report expected in November.
Mr Rohloff said it was important to his organisation that they weren't seen as escalating tension with council, rather entering into discussion.
"We want them to come along with us, and to be treated fairly," he said.
Horowhenua Grey Power is an incorporated society affiliated to Grey Power New Zealand and represents nearly 1000 members locally.
Mr Rohloff said the large majority of members relied on New Zealand Superannuation as their principal source of income, he said.
Many Grey Power members were also involved in other community groups. Their concerns over rates rises were not age-specific, as they were also echoed by young families.