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Local Body Rates - Value for Money?

By "The Alderney"

How many of you read your rate demand?How many look at the Draf  Annual Plan that your local council puts out?Not many, I bet.

A neighbour, here in the Manawatu, goes to his District council at submission time and gripes about his rates. He's quite happy with the overall amount that has to be raised. He's happy about the allocation for most items until he gets to ROADS AND FOOTPATHS.

Here he says council is not being FAIR and EQUITABLE as they claim they endeavour to be. He has a 300-cow dairy farm with the usual run offs, not far from a country community, and his all-up bill for Roads and Footpaths is $3500.

He didn't think it too bad until he compared the situation of the Annual Plan sample house in the nearby local township.

The Local Council uses Land Values for this item of billing so his large land area is used to determine his rate while only a small town section is used for the town house. He has had to pay the equivalent of 120 houses! So off he went to gripe.

He must have had some effect because the latest plan for the 2000/2001 has bought in a standard charge of $50 and then a land value based assessment. His new charge for Roading and Footpaths will be $3300 while the average community house will be $80. That is down to a factor of 41 houses!

His arguments are worth thinking about. He dismisses the old archaic system of the country needing to look after the rural townships saying that the farms no longer draw staff from there, and that the farm services are no longer there. The banks have gone, the dairy companies have amalgamated and closed, while the vehicles are serviced at the franchise holder in the bigger settlements.

The small local township is now a satellite or dormitory for the local city or large town.

Then he considers his three houses, which have 4 vehicles, and compares that with 3 houses in the township. He guesses that the cars from three township houses would rack up far more kilometres than the five cars on his farm. He sizes up his $3300 bill with that of $240 for three houses.

His critics point to the $3060 difference, as a fair price for the road use generated by his farm. He has a milk tanker call regularly. Occasionally a stock truck is needed. Hay and silage can arrive by truck, as does the fertiliser. The vet., the metre reader, the AB technician and the sales people all happen by. But wait, he says ... All those big trucks pay Road User Charges.All those vehicles come from a rateable property where they have paid towards the roads' upkeep.

He went again to council this year and got a much frostier reception. They couldn't see his argument about visiting vehicles already contributing to road upkeep and generally implied his business was well enough off to pay a large share. They also pointed out that if the system were changed further, the communities, with their new water and sewerage schemes, would not be able to pay!

So he may have a point when he says the rural areas are still supporting the local small communities, and as for the FAIR and EQUITABLE bit.... forget it!

He also thinks that until Central Government introduces a scheme that covers a user pay system for road usage, we will be lumbered with such anomalies.

It could also be suggest that if ALL the monies raised by fuel taxes and road user charges were put to roading, the local council requirement from rates might be insignificant.

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