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Claims about ‘unfair’ rating policy disputed

CLAIMS by Waiapu Ward member Bill Burdett that Gisborne District Council’s rating policy towards contiguous land under different ownership structures including Maori land was unfair were disputed at the council’s finance and audit committee.

After a sometimes stormy exchange the committee chairman Brian Wilson ruled that it was not an appropriate subject to come before the committee in this form and if people wanted to change the process they should seek a review.

Mr Burdett said he had a $30,000 increase in the rates for his property because of the way council staff were interpreting the process. Where was the fairness and equity in that?

Mr Wilson said this was a personal matter and should not have been brought to the committee in this way. Mr Burdett could seek a review of his rates.

Mr Burdett said that was a waste of time, and he had already been to Mr Wilson in confidence.

Mr Wilson said there was a conflict of interest,

Mr Burdett said there were wider implications than his own situation. The way the rates were being applied was wrong.

Pat Seymour said the process did not take into account the issues around multiply-owned property and varying ownership structures. One person might be paying the rates under various ownership structures. The sooner the process was reviewed, the better.

Mr Wilson said the committee could not just change the process. If people wanted the rules changed they should do it by seeking a review.

The way the staff were applying the process was correct and the council had a legal opinion supporting that.

“I believe they have followed the proper process,” he said.

Revenue team leader Fiona Scragg said the process was working but not everyone was getting the answer they wanted. The council might consider widening the scope of its rating policy review.

Shannon Dowsing said it was inappropriate for the committee to be discussing the issue. Mr Burdett was obviously conflicted. The system was working perfectly well for some people.

This was challenged by Pat Seymour but Mr Wilson said it was up to him as chairman to decide what was appropriate.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz said she had been approached by neighbours over the issue of contiguous properties.

She would support a review of the process.