Federated Farmers Submission for Waikato District Council Long Term Plan

Federated Farmers accepts that WDC is trying to ‘soften the blow’ for residential ratepayers whose property revaluations will affect the amount of variable general rate they pay. Our farming members are unfortunately well aware how property values can sometimes have little correlation with the ability to pay. However, this sympathy does not extend to allowing council to lower the, already low use, of the one funding tool designed to help spread the burden of council provided services more evenly.

The affordability of rates is a significant issue for farm businesses. Income from a farm business is extremely vulnerable to externalities such as weather events, exchange rates, pay outs and consumer demand and as such is highly variable from season to season. Rates are one of the most significant, fixed expenses for our faming members and unlike other businesses there is no ability to pass that cost on.
Over reliance on the General rate compounds the inequitable effect of land and capital value rates – the UAGC is a general rating mechanism that can act as a counter balance to this and as such Federated Farmers is seriously concerned at the proposal to reduce UAGC usage and increase the variable general rate by 6.24 %.

Federated Farmers supports the use of targeted rates. This improves transparency and equity, as those who benefit from the activity pay for that benefit.

We consider it important to have the percentage of UAGC use clearly reported in the Long Term Plan. This allows readers to see how close to the legislative maximum the UAGC use is, and therefore how committed a council is to reducing their reliance on the property value based general rate and how fair their rating system is consequently.

We recommend:

1. That Council ensures information in Consultation and supporting documents are fit for purpose and provide the pertinent information for the LTP topics prioritised by the Consultation document.
2. When seeking feedback, a better link between the options and outcomes should be made.
3. That Council continues to work hard to make efficiency gains and exercise spending restraint, to ensure rates increases are within the rate of inflation.
4. That Council reassess the Revenue and Finance policy with increased use of fully funded fixed targeted rates for those services with easily identifiable beneficiaries.
5. That Council improves transparency and accountability by including the general /targeted rate split ratio for all activities which are funded using a range of funding sources.
6. Federated Farmers seeks maximum use of the UAGC funding mechanism. If council determines that this would result in unfeasible rates increases this year, then incremental increases to achieve the 30% cap should be made over the next three years.

For more, please see the full submission