The Central App

Grey Power continues to fight “massive anxiety” rate increases

The Central App

Anna Robb

26 June 2024, 5:45 PM

Grey Power continues to fight “massive anxiety” rate increasesMembers of Grey Power at the CODC meeting, as former ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff arrives. PHOTO: Central App

Retired farmer and former ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff said he would like one or two Central Otago district councillors to resign and he would commend them, for representing the people of the district and the “massive anxiety” surrounding rate increases.

More than 10 members of Grey Power, many armed with placards, attended the Central Otago District Council (CODC) meeting yesterday, on June 26, to support speakers raising concerns about rate increases in the public forum.

Grey Power president Stan Randle and Gerry, who was once an Otago regional councillor, were both given five minutes to sum up their concerns to councillors and CODC staff. 

Stan said the published 18 per cent increase was not correct and it was a 23 per cent plus increase for many.

Gerry Eckhoff talks during yesterday's council meeting, calling for the CODC to reconsider its rates increase. PHOTO: The Central App

“In a way they feel they have been misinformed.”

When his allocated time ran out, Stan said he needed more time to speak on behalf of the attendees of a Grey Power meeting held on Saturday about rates.

“If this is the way the system works this typifies the very essence of the problem that the ratepayers are concerned about. Because they hold these meetings, they go along, they listen and nothing happens.”

Grey Power member Bruce Lietze attended to support Stan and brought protest placards. PHOTO: Central App

Stan asked councillors to look at the implications on several thousand people who cannot afford to pay those rates. 

Mayor Tim said the council had wrestled with the situation, as had many other councils around the country, for the past year.

“We’ve got solo parents, pensioners and renters around this table and we all care.”

Gerry said he was saddened that there wasn't longer, “an hour or three” for people to put their points of view across.

Stan Randle (left) talks during yesterday's meeting, watched on by CODC group manager community vision Dylan Rushbrook (centre) and CODC group manager business support Saskia Righarts . PHOTO: Central App

“I feel some responsibility as I sat on a 2002 local Government bill 20 years ago and I told them then that the system was broken and what you are doing is adding to breaking the system.

“Councillors, you simply cannot be wilfully blind to the harm that you may choose to do with the increases that you are here to discuss and probably pass . . . the 20 per cent increase will be compounded each year. 

“It gets worse and worse and the country’s . . . inability to pay for these things through superannuation and so on is lessened because of our poor productivity.”

Gerry appealed for a councillor to propose an amendment or a reassessment on the rates due to the unaffordability to many people.

“You must accept your responsibility is firstly to the people, not to the council.”

Gerry said the council was in a relatively strong financial position in his view.

“Current debt is around 2.5 per cent, it costs you . . . of your $86 million revenue. It’s not a lot at all, so why the huge increases?

“It’s better to kick the can down the road than ratepayers down the road. Some ratepayers will not be able to afford to live in Central Otago . . . so they have to go elsewhere where housing is cheaper and rates are cheaper.”

Gerry said he found the five minute timeframe “insultingly bad.”

He said he had written 2500 words to Minister of Local Government Simeon Brown about the issues covered in his speech.  

The speaking spots were assured by Mayor Tim Cadogan at a meeting held on Saturday in Alexandra when Grey Power passed a motion that the rate increase should be no more than the rate of inflation (four or five per cent). 

Read more: Central's rates increase set between 18% and 30%

Read more: Strong turnout to Grey Power rates meeting