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Rural areas bearing the brunt of rates increases

Luisa Osborne
Rural landowners
Farmers are bearing the brunt of increasing rates.   Luisa Osborne

Rates were at the forefront of a public submissions hearing last week. 

Public submissions for ECan's long-term draft plan took place last week, and rates were brought up in almost every hearing. 

Hinds farmer Bill Thomas said the online rates calculator suggested a 24 percent rate increase for his property, but in actual fact it had actually increased by 47 percent. He said it showed poor communication on ECan's behalf. 

Thomas said he was unsure why there was an increase, as any involvement ECan had on the farm was being paid out of his pocket. 

"To target New Zealand farming, is to target high value production." 

The fallout, he said, was they would not be able to afford to employ staff. The amount they would pay in the rate increase was equal to employing someone for about 86 days. 

He said it was a major concern for the entire Ashburton district where agriculture is the main employer. He felt farmers were being unfairly targeted by the rates increase. 

Bill's son James Thomas asked the councillors if they could name an urban property facing the same increases. 

"Is it fair those who live rurally have such increased rates – compared to those in town, given the amount of services available to those in town compared to rurally?" 

Similarly, Nicki Murray said rates were disproportionately skewed towards rural landowners. 

According to calculations she's made, a landowner in Fendalton was paying 30 percent less rates than her Cheviot property. 

According to ECan, general rates were charged based on the capital value of the property and location, whereas targeted rates were charged where there was a specific benefit to the property owner. 

In the draft long-term plan ECan said affordability was key, and it planned to keep any rates increases as manageable as possible, without compromising reasonable progress the communities would like to see.

Public submissions to ECan closed on May 6.