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Rates Rise To Hit Orchardists Hardest

Owners of high value kiwifruit orchards will be the biggest rates losers in the coming year, forking out an extra $10,000.

While the average annual rate rise in the Opotiki district is forecast to be 4.25 percent – down from the 5.06 percent originally signalled – the actual increase varies significantly depending on location and property type.

The big winners are the owners of coastal properties at Te Kaha who can expect an average decrease of 13 percent and rural residential property owners whose rates will drop 8 percent.

Kiwifruit orchardists with properties valued at more than $9.3 million are the biggest losers with their rates due to rise 55 percent, increasing from $20,000 a year to $31,000.

Most properties in Opotiki increased significantly at the last triennial valuation with residential properties increasing by an average of 34 percent, commercial by 32 percent and rural properties such as dairy, pastoral and horticultural by 16, 18 and 70 percent respectively.

Opotiki ranked third in the North Island for year-on-year growth and had the highest growth of 11 percent in the last quarter of 2019.

The properties most affected by the combined increase in rateable value and the council’s proposed rate increase are kiwifruit orchards, rural non-residential properties and higher value town properties.

While many Opotiki residential property owners can expect an average increase of 4.33 percent, equating to $92 a year, the rates on properties at Hukutaia/Woodlands will increase by 10.33 percent or $260 per year.

At Ohiwa, coastal property owners will see their rates go up on average 6 percent.

Rates on kiwifruit properties will increase from 46 to 55 percent or between $7100 and $10,000 a year.

The council only received five submissions on its 2020-21 annual plan in which it signalled the average rate rise of 4.25 percent, down from the anticipated 5.06 percent thanks to a reduction of the uniform annual general charge.

Finance and corporate group services manager Bevan Gray told Monday’s risk and assurance committee that there had been very little feedback on the plan and nothing related to any financial hardship the community might be facing.

“If we are not receiving feedback, does that mean it is generally accepted?” he questioned.

Independent chairwoman Arihia Tuoro queried whether this level of engagement was typical of the Opotiki community or whether it reflected the stress of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Chief executive Aileen Lawrie said when she began at the council a decade ago, it received 100 submissions in one day on its long-term plan.

But since the law change requiring councils to consult on their long term plans every three years, there had been fewer and fewer submissions.

“It follows the general trend, which is unrelated to Covid-19,” she said.

Ms Lawrie said 10 years ago there would be a massive document produced once a year and everyone would save up their comments for that.

Nowadays there was much more “in the moment” consultation, online or at the council’s pop up shops.

Mr Gray said typically the council would only receive a lot of feedback if it was considering something outside the norm.

To save time and money, the council is not undertaking a special consultative procedure before adopting the annual plan, but Mr Gray said community feedback was still important.

“We would welcome any further feedback the community would like to provide between now and the adoption of the plan on June 30,” he said.

The final instalment of 2019-20 rates are due on Friday and he said this could provide some insight into whether the community was experiencing financial hardship because of Covid-19.

A significant shift in non-payment would indicate an affordability issue.

Mr Gray said the council had asked for people who were struggling to get in touch, but it had not received any calls to date.

© Scoop Media

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