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Rates grab undermines environment protection

Rates grab undermines environment protection

Federated Farmers is deeply concerned that Auckland Council is proposing the removal of rates remissions for QEII National Trust covenanted land in the region.

"This is a kick in the teeth for the environment, and for those land-owners - many of them farmers - who have voluntarily placed blocks of significant landscapes, wetlands, bush and forest under permanent protection," Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says.

"Farmers and other land-owners are doing the right thing by preserving biodiversity and habitat, often at significant cost to themselves in time and money, and yet Auckland Council wants to clobber them with rates."

The Auckland Council’s rates grab has at least brought to a head the issue of payment of rates on the more than 180,000 hectares under QEII covenant around New Zealand. There is wide variance in the way the nation’s local authorities treat covenanted land, with the more environmentally enlightened councils offering rates remissions and even habitat protection grants.

"It’s a big job for the land-owners, working hand-in-hand with the QEII Trust and sometimes other community groups, to fence and maintain covenanted areas, including running and paying for pest control operations," Katie says.

The Auckland situation illustrates this well. The QEII Trust’s CEO Mike Jebson notes that the $59k annually currently offered in rates remission by the Auckland Council can be compared with an estimated expenditure each year by the 291 Auckland covenanters of $1.663 million to support the region’s biodiversity.

"It would be great to see Local Government NZ taking a lead on this, and for the nation’s councils to reach agreement that this important work for New Zealand’s environment protection and biodiversity deserves rates concessions.

"Owners of covenanted land have essentially surrendered it forever to community good. Councils should recognise that commitment by waiving rates on it.

"We hope the Auckland community will give a loud and clear message to their council that its proposal is unacceptable."

The Department of Conservation has long argued that if its conservation lands were rated, it would only take away money used to continue to protect biodiversity. The same argument can be made about QEII covenant land, Katie says.


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