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Farmers Terrified By Power Of General Competence

12 April 2002

Farmers Wendy Clark and Ian Blair have asked the Local Government and Environment Select Committee to consider amendments to the empowering provisions of the Local Government Bill.

The Local Government Bill potentially allows local authorities to expand into "modern" activities funded by a 17th century tax on land. As a land intensive business farmers pay a disproportionate share of the rates burden and often have limited access to local authority services.

In a submission on Friday, Franklin dairy farmer Wendy Clarke said that as long as local authorities can be politically manipulated, minorities will suffer-ever increasing costs.

"I've never been able to understand why, because our business is land intensive, it is deemed right that we pay more for parks and reserves and governance, for example, than those who choose another means of making a living regardless of income, mortgage or proximity to those services."

Mrs Clark suggested that if Councils take on new social services, traditionally provided by Central Government, they should get additional funding from Government to do so - so that the cost is still footed by the taxpayer not the ratepayer.

Wairoa Sheep and Beef farmer Ian Blair told the Committee he was desperate to escape the intolerable rates burden on his small hill country property.

"My small business is already hammered by the cost of local government, the only protection I have from ballooning rates is the fact that presently Council functions are defined in law. Under the provisions of this Bill if Council decides to build a $5m visitor centre, and allocate the costs to a separate rate on farmland, I will have no recourse outside of the consultation process prescribed in the Bill."

Mr Blair proposed that an additional check be provided in the consultative requirements of the Bill when a Council undertakes a new significant activity. "The check I am suggesting is a referendum of all citizens on whether the new activity is wanted and whether they are prepared to have the local council meet the cost."


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