Tauranga Ratepayers Alliance protest against 22pc rates rises achieves great turnout

The Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance says they have “achieved what we wanted” after hosting a loud protest outside the council building yesterday.

About 150 protestors chanted, tooted horns and held placards advocating for fairer rates as the Long-term Plan 2021-2031 was adopted by commissioners at a council meeting.

The meeting began with commission chairwoman Anne Tolley reading out housekeeping but the sirens, yelling and chants from a crowd outside could be distinctly heard.

Tauranga City councillor Andrew Hollis led chants to coincide with the start of the meeting.

“Two, four, six, eight, we want fairer rates. When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Democracy. When do we want it? Now!”

“Tell the council ‘one two three, we don’t want your LTP’.”

Police and security were present and protesters held signs saying: ‘No to a 22 per cent rates increase,’ ‘commissioners out, democracy in’ and ‘more transparency’.

It comes after an overall 22 per cent average rate rise was set last month by commissioners at the conclusion of the Long-term Plan 2021-31 deliberations.

Ratepayers’ Alliance spokeswoman Dawn Kiddie told the Bay of Plenty Times rates rises were “rating people out of their homes”.

“Retirees being told to sell up – where are they going to go?”

Kiddie said rates rises were needed to fix basic infrastructure in order for Tauranga to sustain growth but wanted rates to be fairer.

“We’re not against people coming to this beautiful city… what I’m against is rating our retirees out of their home and making sure our young kids can’t afford houses here.”

“We are all for rates rises, we are all for ensuring that the basics are done here first before the nice-to-haves,” she said.

Kiddie said she “couldn’t be happier” with the turnout despite the heavy rain.

“It couldn’t have been a worse day and to have a good few hundred still turn out is great.”

NZ Taxpayers’ Union’s Jordan Williams spoke at the meeting on behalf of protestors opposing the Long-term Plan, saying it was undemocratic.

Steering group member Michael O’Neil said to protestors outside: “We achieved what we wanted.”

Attendee Graham Holloway said he would like to see a rates revolt, “where we don’t pay our rates to the council”.

“We pay them to a solicitors trust account… That would then have a snowballing effect that money wouldn’t be coming in. They just might listen.”

Alliance member Chrissy, who would only be known by her first name, said she attended the protest because “people on fixed incomes, which is quite a lot in Tauranga, simply will not be able to continue to live here”.

Another protester, who spoke anonymously, said he attended the protest to “establish a belief in democracy”.

“The threat to not re-establish a re-elected governance next year is quite severe,” he said.

Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said rates rises for 2021/22 and the following years reflected the investment required to address the city’s needs. She disputed Kiddie’s concerns about people being rated out of their homes.

“Retirees are not being told to sell-up,” she said.

“Impacts of rates rises on people living on fixed incomes are very much part of our thinking, which is why the council is working on policies to help people manage or defer rates costs.”

Tolley said the decision to reinstate elected governance in 2022 rested with the minister of local government and was not the commissioners’ decision.

“We are seeking the community’s feedback on its preferences for the next council elections and it is our expectation that those preferences will be given effect to in 2022.”

The breakdown of how submitters commented on the level of investment and the impact on debt and rates:

Two options were presented in the consultation document regarding investment options.

Option one was to invest $4.6 billion with an increase in rates (excluding water charges and including the new kerbside service) paid by an average residential property of $7.58 per week and by an average commercial property of $32.45 per week.

Option two was to invest $4b with an increase in rates (excluding water charges and including the new kerbside service) paid by an average residential property of $6.65 per week and by an average commercial property of $30.21 per week.

There were 1793 written submissions to the Long-term Plan, with 1054 directly commenting on the level of investment and the impact on debt and rates.

– 46 per cent supported option one (490 submissions)

– 16 per cent supported option two (164 submissions)

– 36 per cent supported much lower rates increases and the implied lower level of investment (380 submissions – 355 of which were proforma responses from individual members of the Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance).

– two per cent commented on priority areas of investment but did not indicate support for either option (20 submissions)

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