Rates uproar

 COMMUNICATION: a major bone of contention for new Pokeno ratepayers.

Calls made for council to reduce costs and pass savings on to ratepayers. A group of unhappy Pokeno ratepayers have gone as far as writing a letter to the Minister of Local Government requesting he allow Pokeno to revert back to Auckland

At least 100 Pokeno residents attended the town meeting about rates last Thursday.
The council was represented by several officials and three councillors, Lionel Petersen, Jacqui Church and Willy Hayes, as well as Waikato District Mayor, Allan Sanson.
Communication appeared the biggest point of contention for many of the newer residents, as they discovered they had missed the entire Long Term Plan consultation process earlier this year.
This was part of the process which forms the basis for the level of rates council charges all property owners. Large changes in their rates, compared to the previous year, appeared without warning, which included charges for items they believed they had paid their property developer for.
Many said an advance warning of a rates rise would have been appreciated.
Council says for a number of properties, big increases could be explained as in previous years, rates were derived on part value of the property. For an example, the rates were charged solely on the section, before the house had been built.
Rates are charged on capital value and even if land value does not go up, when a house is built the capital value as a whole increases. Without a house, water and wastewater charges are also much lower initially, and have sometimes kicked in long after the house was built. In some cases, water charges are still catching up, resulting in a bill for two and half years in one hit.
Council is working on a brochure for new residents and property owners and will, in future, include information on pending changes in LIM reports. The brochures will go to all developers and builders to give to potential buyers.
Council representatives present also explained that rates pay for the maintenance of pipes and services that the developers have put in as it becomes the Council’s job to maintain these.
Council rates are based on capital value from July 1, 2015, so if the improvements took place shortly after, charges do not apply until the following year.
The Council’s budget is based on assumptions of growth in the district. Pokeno is growing much faster than expected or planned for and some services, like footpaths, are lagging behind.
The issue home owners in Pokeno are experiencing is something Waikato District Council has never been faced before.
It is clear that methods used by Council to communicate to residents are not been effective enough.
“We really want to work with you, and it is sad that there is so much disconnection with what we are currently doing. We have tried very hard to involve residents in our processes through brochures, letters, signs, newspaper ads, community meetings, workshops, and visits to the local
markets,” said Tony Whitaker, Waikato District Council’s General Manager, Strategy and Support.
“Clearly expectations around rate levels have not been met, but we did not raise those expectations, nor did we designate Pokeno as a growth area. Within 12 months of becoming a part of our district, we began to realise the growth within Pokeno was much faster than we had estimated in the 30 year plan.”
Mayor, Allan Sanson, said it meant an entire new town was being built in record time and council processes are trying to catch up.
Mr Sanson also said that from his own experience many smaller councils charge rates higher than the Waikato District.
The Pokeno Community Committee is currently working with council on behalf of residents. For more information and to keep in touch with the committee, please email pokeno107@gmail.com and the team will put you on an email list so you receive updates as the come to hand.

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