Monday, February 26, 2024

No fight too small for Feds

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Feds went to work when a Awhitu Peninsula farming couple were hit with a rogue bill.
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People often think of Federated Farmers when it comes standing up for farmers on the big issues like methane emissions and water quality – but the little stuff matters too. 

When Sue and Ian Chitty, who farm on Awhitu Peninsula near Auckland, were stung with a rogue $240 bill from Auckland Council a few months ago, Federated Farmers Auckland president Alan Cole went to bat for them. 

It started when many Auckland dairy farmers received an unexpected bill from Auckland Council for charges related to effluent compliance monitoring.

“A few years ago, Auckland Council decided they would start fully charging for effluent inspections, but they forgot to tell their invoicing department to send those invoices out,” Cole explains. 

“Then, out of the blue, in early spring this year, farmers got three years’ worth of invoicing in one go.”

Among those farmers to receive a bill dating back to 2020 were the Chittys – but the bill wasn’t even in their name. 

“All of a sudden we get this bill in the name of the farm owner from 20 years ago,” explains Ian. 

“So, we contacted the council to say, ‘Hey, you need to get this right’. We filled in the relevant paperwork to change the name, and then they sent us an account of $240, which must have been for the time they spent processing it.”

Ian and Sue pushed back on the bill but were having no joy until they let Alan Cole know. 

Cole immediately contacted Robert Laulala, Auckland Council’s environmental monitoring manager.

“I said, ‘Mate, this isn’t right. These guys have been trying to get this changed and fix the council’s stuff-up, and now you’re charging them for it?’”

Within the week, Auckland Council emailed Ian and Sue to say the charge had been reversed. 

“A good outcome,” says Ian. “Nothing seemed to be happening, but things definitely moved quickly once Federated Farmers got involved.” 

Cole says he was more than happy to help. 

“It definitely helps having a good working relationship with Auckland Council staff,” he says.

Ian says he and Sue have always found Federated Farmers “bloody good”. 

“Very valuable. Whenever we’ve had labour issues and things like that, before we’ve gone ahead with different sorts of action, we’ve always run it through Federated Farmers. The value we get, and the accuracy of their information, is second-to-none.”

Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.

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