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Rates review a massive task

Opinion Piece

The situation regarding the way farm properties are charged in Gisborne District Council’s uniform annual general charge is just one rates problem for the council, which is in the process of reviewing its whole rates system — a massive task. The Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) is applied for a separately used dwelling that is part of a rating unit. The present UAGC is $636.57. This is all right for urban properties but creates problems on rural land that may include several properties farmed by the same ratepayer.

The council has a clear policy that remission of UAGC charges for properties is only applicable for land categorised by the rating valuer as a pastoral block. This was changed in 2012 as part of the long-term plan that year.

It seems straightforward on the face of it, but long-serving Waiapu Ward councillor Bill Burdett believes there are properties that are being charged the UAGC on land that has no buildings on it. This has huge implications for the East Coast he says. Finance and audit committee chairman Brian Wilson, one of the most experienced sitting councillors, says staff are applying the remissions according to the policy and any changes will have to wait for the review.

The council has 25 rates remissions and postponement policies. At its meeting last week the committee was told that staff approved total rates remission of $747,000 for the 2017/18 financial year which ended in June.

The remission for multiple UAGC charges was $68,335.

That was actually below the budgeted figure of $841,000. The rates remission figures equate to 1.4 percent of the total rates revenue for the year. That includes $102,058 for land on the whenua rahui register of unproductive Maori land, $102,443 for Maori freehold land in general circumstances and $134,442 annual remission for Maori freehold land. The biggest remission is actually that for permanent crops, which is $136,890. The council’s rating policy is extremely complicated and reviewing it is a really challenging task. The fact that the finance and audit committee is made up of the whole council is a reflection of its importance.