Forest industry unable to overturn rates increase

Friday 13 May 2022

In New Zealand, a small district in a high deprivation area has won a major victory over the forestry sector, with a judge agreeing a council had the right to increase rates on forestry land due to “negative community wellbeing”. NZ Forest Owners Association Inc has been unsuccessful in its application for a High Court judicial review of Wairoa District Council’s decision to increase rates on forestry land.

The association was representing seven substantial forestry companies that had about 52,000 hectares in the district. The council, which has a small rating base of about 8300, overhauled its system to make rates more affordable for residents and small commercial properties. The changes increased rates for high value properties, although it did not result in the council collecting more in rates.

Forestry was most impacted, with 115 ratepayers in the forestry sector paying NZ$334,000 more. The increase came about from additional costs for roading maintenance and an “increase to reflect the negative community wellbeing impacts of the industry on the district”.

The review was heard by Justice Christine Grice in the High Court at Gisborne in February. The association argued the rating decision was “unfair and unreasonable and in particular improperly targeted forestry because they were wealthy”. It said the council failed to take into account environmental wellbeing and climate change, and wrongly assumed that forestry was the cause of negative wellbeing.

It also said the council was using the Rating Act as a means of discouraging the conversion of productive land to forestry “because it had no powers to regulate against conversion of farmland for forestry use”.

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Source: Stuff, NZ Herald

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