The rates ‘anomaly’ about to be smoothed over with massive increases

Filtered rain water, fussy loo flushing, and school runs married with trips to the dump – the sacrifice of living in paradise.

At least the rates are cheap. Oh, about that.

Homeowners on the outskirts of Picton, some overlooking the Marlborough Sounds, have been told they are facing massive rates increases this year – with one bay staring down the barrel of a 78 per cent hike.

Their houses are deemed ‘Picton vicinity’ by the Marlborough District Council, not quite far enough out to be ‘Sounds admin rural’, where rates are expected to drop by close to 20 per cent.

At Ngakuta Bay, between Picton and Havelock, residents are reeling.

Philip Maslen, 73, bought his property 20 years ago and said the rates increase was “not justified”.

“We get no services. We have to recycle everything that we can and what we can’t recycle we put into rubbish bags and take to the dump, where we’re then charged $2.50 a bag to get rid of it.

“It takes around a quarter of an hour to get to the Picton dump in winter, but in summer it’s double the time due to tourists.”

Ngakuta Bay Residents Association member Pam Tan said her water supply came from a nearby stream, which meant she had to boil her water before drinking it.

“And for three to four days after it rains, the only thing that comes out of your tap is dirty water,” Tan said.

“There’s so much to do on the house and I’d rather spend money on that.”

The council’s long-term plan consultation document showed a property in ‘Picton vicinity’ with a land value of $170,000 was likely to get a 77 per cent rates increase, or an extra $500 a year.

The increase would bring their rates into line with ‘Blenheim vicinity’, and about $270 a year shy of a similar property in central Blenheim.

Council chief financial officer Martin Fletcher said the main driver behind the steep rates increase for ‘Picton vicinity’ was “equality and fairness”.

“The previous rates system was not working,” Fletcher said.

“The general rule of thumb to go by is the further you live away from council services, the less you’re supposed to benefit.

“Picton vicinity was an anomaly in the system. Residents from the area were paying less in rates than residents in Sounds admin rural.”

Picton vicinity residents had full access to roads while ‘Sounds admin rural’ did not, Fletcher said.

Fletcher said the new rates system, which decided ‘Picton vicinity’ received most of the same services as Picton, would “restore balance”.

A council spokesman said ‘Picton vicinity’ residents did not pay for water, sewerage and rubbish collection, but they did pay for roads, democracy, community facilities and environmental monitoring.

Permanent Little Ngakuta Bay resident David Bendell, whose property was in line for a “huge rates increase”, said the bay’s previously low rates were because they did not get the same council services.

“It creates little fishhooks in your day-to-day life that you wouldn’t get if you lived in town,” Bendell said.

“We have to minimise our water usage. This means having a front-facing washing machine, a water-conscious dishwasher and sometimes not flushing the loo.

“We also have to clean filters often, especially after a heavy load of rain, and there’s around three filters in the house.

“During the week, we sometimes load the car up with rubbish on the way to school, and it smells.

“It’s the sacrifice we pay for living in paradise.”

On the other side of Picton, close to Karaka Point, Khalid Suleiman said the rates increase would be hard on ‘Picton vicinity’ residents, including his parents.

“They have to maintain everything on their own and this is very costly,” he said.

“My parents will see a 50 per cent increase in their rates. They’re both retired. Where does that income come from?”

The council did not understand the area, Suleiman said.

“They just look at a couple of large buildings and slap on a price,” he said.

“Most of the homes in the Picton vicinity are holiday homes, so the people who live there aren’t there often enough to use the facilities that they’re being charged for.

“A majority of the places that are lived in all year-round are owned by retired people or people who’ve had their houses in their family for generations.”

The council tried to rezone some regions around Picton, so homeowners paid the same rates as Picton, in 2014 but was unsuccessful.

The council proposed spreading its latest proposed rates increases over three years.

People can make submissions on the council’s long-term plan at www.marlborough.govt.nz until May 14.

Submissions can be made in person from June 5 to 7. If approved, the new rates will be effective from July 1.

View proposed rating changes on specific properties at https://data.marlborough.govt.nz/RateReview/PolicyComparison.

MAIN LONG-TERM PLAN SPENDING:

Roads and footpaths ($148.8m)

Sewerage ($138.2m)

Water supply ($62.9m)

Community facilities ($43.7m)

Flood protection and control works ($29.1m)

Library and art gallery ($20.5m)

Stormwater ($16.4m)

The Marlborough Kaikoura Trail ($2m)

The Link Pathway ($220,000)

REGIONAL RATES (using benchmark properties)

Blenheim residential: 0.72%

Blenheim commercial: -6.94%

Picton residential: -7.43%

Picton commercial: -9.11%

Blenheim vicinity: 8.04%

Renwick residential: 2.69%

Picton vicinity: 69.91%

Ngakuta Bay bach: 78.21%

General rural: 2.61%

Havelock residential: 0.9%

Sounds admin rural farm: -27.69%

Sounds admin rural bach: -18.11%

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