Orchardists hard hit

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It would appear the Opotiki community does not mind how much it pays in rates as submissions on next year’s rates are few and far between.

Opotiki District Council has received only five submissions on its annual plan, which includes a proposed rate rise of 4.25 percent.

The rise is less than the 5.06 percent originally signalled due to the 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 wondered.

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.

Most properties in Opotiki have increased significantly in value 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.

Properties most affected by the combined increase of value and signalled rate increase are kiwifruit properties worth over $9,320,000.

These properties will see a rate increase of 55 percent from $20,005 per year to $31,007 per year.

Properties that will experience the biggest rate decrease, despite an increase in value, are Te Kaha coastal properties worth more than $560,000. Rates on these properties will decrease by an average of 14 percent from $3,012 per year to $2,579 per year.

Opotiki residential properties will see an average increase of 4.33 percent or $92.33 per year.

Rates on Hikutaia Woodlands properties will increase by an average of 10.33 percent or $260 per year.

Residents of on-water properties at Ohiwa can expect an average increase of 6 percent or $162.50 per year.

Rural properties, not residential, will see an average increase of 19.66 percent or $1,654 per year.

Kiwifruit properties will see an average increase of 46 percent or additional rates of $7108.5 per year.

While commercial or industrial properties will see an average increase of 4.5 percent or $212.75 per year.

Residential rural properties will pay less under the proposed rates and will see an average decrease of 8 percent or savings of $112.33 per year.

Te Kaha on water properties will also pay less under the proposed rates and will see an average decrease of 13 percent which will save them an average $295.5 per year.

This financial year’s fourth and final instalment of rates are due this week and Mr Gray said this may provide some insight into whether the community is experiencing financial hardship because of Covid-19.

He said a significant shift in non-payment would indicate there was an affordability issue.

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

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.

“Information and feedback from the community will inform the final annual plan document and future planning. There are several ways to provide feedback, but it is really easy to visit the website and submit a form online.”

The public can find the form at https://www.odc.govt.nz/ourcouncil/consultation/Pages/2020-21-Annual-Plan.aspx

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