The decision of the Dunedin City council to develop a rates remission policy to take into account the special relationship Maori have with the land is - well – interesting. All DCC ratepayers will I’m sure be sympathetic to the idea that all non-revenue bearing land should be exempt from rates yet intrigued to understand the principle the DCC employ that will allow for rates remission for only Maori freehold land not producing revenue.
It is a policy that will be embraced by most if not all rate payers as it sets a wonderful precedent. Cr Hillary Calvert sensibly noted that DCC staff should develop policy which included non-Maori land as well for consideration.
It won’t take long for most residents of Dunedin to coherently argue that the ‘special relationship’ they have with their land and freehold residential property should also qualify for rate relief as their home and surroundings are unlikely to produce any revenue by which they can pay their rates, yet pay rates they must. Currently most councils are very even handed. Both Maori and non-Maori rate payers are too often denied the opportunity to create some revenue from their property due to planning rules.
Existing residential properties owners have often been refused council permission to gain some revenue thru subdivision because of (say) a beautiful privately owned and nurtured specimen tree growing on their land and is viewed by the council planners as a “public asset”. Little if any consideration is given to the long suffering owner of the tree as to shading, roots blocking drains and lifting concrete. This outstanding proposal of rates remission will surely therefore produce rational claims for rate relief for all property owners and will be extremely popular with property owners and councillors alike - especially as it is an election year for Local Government.
Councillor MacTavish is quoted as saying this (rates remission) is a cultural issue and must be viewed as such. She comments “This is because Maori see themselves as kaitiaki or guardians of the land” unquote - which implies the rest of we property owners don’t. Really Councillor? Try telling farmers they have no cultural attachment to the land despite making a conscious decision to live and work on and with the land.
If the issue is about fairness and justice as Councillor Peat suggests, then perhaps such wonderful concepts must apply beyond one’s ethnicity.
Where is the fairness and justice when Governments force private freehold land to be “laid off” along rivers where no marginal strip applies? Where is the rate relief or compensation when councils identify and “appropriate” valuable significant natural areas (SNAs) on private freehold land which effectively renders such private land - as non-revenue bearing public property. (The words “laid off” and “appropriate” have been skilfully developed to replace the words – ‘stolen’, ‘filched’ and ‘pilfered’ - by Government decree)
The great value of rates on the capital value of land to councils is that it is applied to all privately held land with very few exemptions. Exactly the same principle applies to the successful GST tax. If bread, butter and cheese was to be exempt - how is a hot cheese roll served in a café to be viewed? Or milk being exempt but not a milk shake. The same principle applies to this rate remission proposal.
Many people have developed a strong personal and cultural objection to paying tax and rates as they feel they don’t get value for money yet most recognize that each of us must contribute to the rate-take, based on the value of the land held in private ownership which surely includes the highly successful and extensive Ngai Tahu Holdings, including their land not producing revenue.