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Rural rates await review

The complicated issue of whether contiguous rural properties should have to pay multiple uniform annual general charges will have to wait for a review of Gisborne District Council’s revenue policy.

The subject was raised again by councillor Bill Burdett at the council’s finance and audit committee meeting, where he said this was a huge issue on the East Coast.

But chairman Brian Wilson said staff were applying the UAGC charge on rural properties in accordance with the council’s policy and Mr Burdett would have to wait for the review.

Revenue team leader Fiona Scragg said contiguous properties were split into two parts. One would meet the requirements of the Local Government Rating Act and they were also included in rates remissions.

Mr Burdett said he had studied this policy, which had four requirements — was the land occupied, was it farmed, by whom and was it contiguous.

If it was, it met the threshold for remission.

Committee chairman Brian Wilson said there was more to it than that.

Mrs Scragg said there were two parts. There were properties that were in common ownership under the Local Government Rating Act, which were referred to as continuous, and there was council policy for non-contiguous properties that did not meet Section 20 of the Act. These were ones where there were leases on Maori freehold land.

Mr Burdett said the council had been talking about a review for some time.

Mrs Scragg said it was the council’s contracted rating valuer who decided the classification of land’s highest and best use, which was used in rating property.

There was a change to the objectives of this specific rate remission policy in the 2012 long-term plan, where the words “this remission is only applicable to land categorised by the rating valuer as a pastoral block” were added.

The council had been reviewing all its contiguous properties throughout the district.

It was agreed the policy would be reviewed as part of the revenue and policy review and if any changes were put in place, they would be backdated for one year, she said.

Mr Wilson said from what he had seen, the staff were applying the rules as they were written.

The only way that would change was when they reviewed the policy itself.

“Unfortunately you are going to have to wait until we do that,” he said.

Pat Seymour said that when a property was not contiguous but was used within a farming business, then generally the council did make the remission. That was a previous governance decision. The property would not then pay UAGC, subject to there not being a house on it.

Remission not for lifestyle propertiesMrs Scragg said a property had to be classified as a pastoral one. If it was a lifestyle or residential property, the remission would not apply.

Mrs Seymour asked how big a lifestyle property was. Mrs Scragg said it varied — there were lifestyle blocks up to 10 or 20 hectares.

Mrs Seymour said if there was no house on it, a property should not pay the UAGC.

Mr Wilson said the property had to be classified as rural land. If it was classified as lifestyle land, it could not be combined with a rural property. Also, the owners of the property had to be the same people.

Mrs Scragg it had to have a lease of 10 years or more recorded on the certificate of title. Most rural properties did not have that 10-year lease.

Mr Burdett said he could not let this go just like that.

This had huge implications for the Coast.

He was talking about contiguous properties as it related to pastoral farming, nothing else.

Mr Wilson said “thank you Mr Burdett, you have made your point”.

Shannon Dowsing said these were decisions Mr Burdett and the council had made in the past and the council was now here to review them.

Andy Cranston said if a portion of land was set up in a trust, it might involve the same people but it became a different ownership.

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