QEII extremely disappointed at Auckland Council rates decision
QEII CEO Mike Jebson says “Given the decision to remove rates remission from privately protected land covenanted forever with the QEII National Trust in Auckland, we are considering all options, including possible legal action and engagement with central government and other stakeholders.”
The Auckland Council has decided its new rates remission and postponement policy which will remove the rates remission for privately protected, or covenanted land, from 1 July 2018.
Mike Jebson says “our members will be deeply disappointed with this outcome. They make a significant contribution to conservation by protecting their land, forever. Auckland Council has its priorities wrong with this new policy and we intend to fight it, and we are leaving all options on the table at this time.”
The decision to remove rates remission ignores submissions on the policy which were overwhelmingly against removing rates remission on QEII covenanted land. Three Local Boards opposed the blanket removal of rates remission from protected land. Mike Jebson says “the process from Auckland Council has been shambolic from the start – we had to lobby to ensure that all affected parties were consulted on this policy, and they made a decision on 31 May, yet only notified affected parties this morning. They asked for submissions but have ignored the majority of submitters who were against the removal of rates remission for protected land.”
“While we appreciate Auckland Council’s commitment to work with us to develop options for a regional scheme for QEII covenanted land for 2019/2020, we maintain that the best approach for encouraging and acknowledging privately protected land and the conservation benefits from that is to give rates remission as well as targeted grants,” says Jebson.
A QEII covenant offers more protection than a National park and deserves automatic recognition in terms of rates. Land owners who protect their land have given away use and development rights in the public interest. This action by the Auckland Council does not support the important work being done by these land owners.
“Our members submitted about the important role they play in private land conservation and biodiversity protection. We maintain that the Council needs to recognise the role and contribution of conservation on privately owned land to the region by agreeing to remit rates over covenanted land.
“We also believe that QEII covenanted land is automatically non-rateable under the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002, and the Council charging rates on land protected with the QEII National Trust is contrary to that Act.”
“Over this period of consultation and consideration by Auckland Council, we have been flooded with calls and emails from our members in the Auckland region who have protected their land and are disappointed to see that the Auckland Council propose this move.”
Jebson says “we always prefer to work with councils, and have had a very productive relationship with Auckland Council on many issues. But this policy decision takes us in the wrong direction. We should be seeing rates remission as well as grants for habitat protection and conservation, not this policy.”
“We don’t have a choice but to fight this policy on behalf of our members and covenantors, recognising the contribution these land owners make is the right thing to do on behalf of all New Zealanders.”