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QEII National Trust set to fight Rates Remission Policy

Wednesday 4 April

QEII National Trust set to fight Auckland Council’s Rates Remission Policy

QEII National Trust has been flooded with calls and emails from our members in the Auckland region who have protected their land with covenants forever and are disappointed to see that the Auckland Council propose this move.

Auckland Council is consulting on removing the rates remissions for all QEII covenants in the region. Some of the previous councils that now make up Auckland Council offered rates remission for QEII covenants under legacy policies, and some did not.

QEII National Trust CEO Mike Jebson says “covenantors make a significant contribution to conservation by protecting their land, forever. This contribution to habitat protection, biodiversity and conservation is far beyond most other landowners. We believe the council needs to recognise the contribution made by these land owners in protecting indigenous biodiversity, natural landscape and the many other unquantifiable community services.”

Jebson says “we always prefer to work with councils, and have a very productive relationship with Auckland Council on many issues. But this policy takes us in the wrong direction. We should be seeing rates remission as well as grants for habitat protection and conservation, not this policy. We don’t have a choice but to fight this policy on behalf of our members and covenantors, recognising the contribution these land owners make is the right thing to do on behalf of all New Zealanders.”

A 2017 study by Waikato University Institute for Business research has found that on average, QEII covenantors are spending $64,108 to establish covenants over their land to protect its special values forever. The study also found that each covenantor on average invests a further $5,964 annually to maintain and enhance each piece of protected land.

Mike Jebson says “this huge investment by land owners puts in perspective the $59k annually currently offered in rates remission by the Auckland council against an estimated expenditure each year by the 291 Auckland covenantors of $1.663 million to support the regions biodiversity.”

“Our members are submitting that the Council needs to recognise the role and contribution of conservation on privately owned land to the region by agreeing that covenanted land is non-rateable. We maintain that this is provided for in the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002, and the Council charging rates on land protected with the National Trust its contrary to that Act.”

The CEO of the Environmental Defence Society, Gary Taylor, says the Council needs to reverse direction on this issue.

“It’s important that the public interest in landowners permanently and rigorously protecting their land is recognised by Auckland Council by providing rating remission, as is done by many other councils throughout New Zealand. It’s an important acknowledgement that QEII covenanted land is subject to additional protection,” said Mr Taylor

“We all need landowners willing to protect their land to do this, and rates remission is one small contribution that Auckland Council can make to help acknowledge these land owners and the important work they do,” says Mike Jebson.

ENDS

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