Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Kiwifruit growers look at options on rates ruling

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Lobbying is now the focus for growers after legal avenues exhausted.
NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated CEO Colin Bond says the grower body has several key areas to address in the coming year on behalf of its levy-paying members.
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Kiwifruit growers have had to accept that all legal avenues are exhausted in opposing council efforts to increase rating valuations based on the SunGold licence held by the landowner – but the fight is not over yet.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated CEO Colin Bond said after losing the Court of Appeal effort last week that they had to reluctantly accept all legal pathways had come to an end, and consider other options.

The licence rating decision affects about 7000ha of SunGold orchards, half the total kiwifruit area.

“There are four areas that we are focusing upon,” Bond said.

“Firstly, growers can object to councils about their rates valuation of their property and seek a revaluation of it. Secondly, we will be approaching councils who have the final decision on how they implement this decision. They do have the opportunity to soften the impact upon growers.

“Thirdly, we will be writing to QV [property valuers] to understand better how they intend to implement the ruling fairly and consistently in their valuations.” 

NZKGI has had multiple reports from growers about significant inconsistencies in valuations. 

One grower confirmed a Bay of Plenty council had evaluated their orchard using Google Earth and had determined their avocado orchard was a kiwifruit orchard.

The grower group will also be working with HortNZ to ensure the organisation is aware of the wider consequences of the court decision for other licensed fruit varieties, particularly apples.

“Horticulture in general as an industry is always trying to come up with plant variety rights, and this decision challenges the economics of that.”

Bond confirmed the rates issue has by far been the most contentious in recent years with NZKGI receiving multiple calls from growers concerned about its impact on their livelihoods.

“This really comes at a time when we have had two particularly tough years, with costs continuing to rise, and that is not reflected in the valuations QV use.

“We understand councils are under pressure to access funding, but we would want to see the impact of increased rates falling equally across the rating base.

“It does feel as though they are trying to target those who are perceived to be able to afford it.”

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