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Motels v. B & Bs - an LTP Anomaly!

Bill Muir of Kuaotunu Bay Lodge has raised a very interesting issue concerning the intention outlined in the LTP to change the classification of four-bed-roomed (or more!) B & Bs to align them with motels that are paying a pan tax and commercial & industrial rates. A charge of $200 was also proposed in regard to homes that are being let out intermittently through Rent-a-Bach etc. This latter charge is a separate issue that is being fought tooth & nail by owners, but I don’t have much sympathy for them. They do need to be contributing more to the rating pool when their homes are often occupied by large numbers of people.

But the B & B issue is quite different, and although I was initially in favour of this move having long had the perception that B & Bs were substantially advantaged over motels, I have had to revise my thinking when presented with Bill’s arguments – not something that council bureaucrats are prepared to do unfortunately.

I expect therefore that the original proposal will be adopted at the deliberations this week, though David Hammond expressed a load of poppycock in replying to Bill’s submission on 4 May about his ability to access the “the full public scrutiny that forms part of a transparent and democratic decision-making process.” From long experience, I know exactly how “transparent and democratic” that decision making process is when the bureaucrats have made up their mind, and guide new rating proposals through Council.

Mayor Leach came well prepared to a public consultation at Whitianga, but as is often the case, ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story.’ On this occasion he used a three unit motel v. four bed-room B & B (precisely Bill’s situation) as his example to prove the inequity of the current rating. Unfortunately for Leach, there is no three unit motel anywhere, so the comparison failed at the first step. Staff confirmed later in writing that it was the Shearwater, but subsequently withdrew (it is five, and can accommodate 20!), and Hammond indicated in his 4 May letter that “a completely fictitious example would have been more appropriate to illustrate (the point).” 

Regardless, the issue that Bill was trying to highlight, and which both Leach and Hammond (and Baker, in writing) stubbornly refused to acknowledge is that a 4 bedroom B & B normally accommodates eight people max. while a 4 bed-room motel often accommodates up to 16, - 20 in the case of Shearwater. (we are talking peak times here, in the main) So as Bill postulates – “what is the beef about B & Bs, and why should they be categorised in this manner along with motels?”

The point can be made equally regardless of the number of rooms – it is the principle of categorizing the two as similar that is wrong when you think about it. By all means apply the $200, or even a $100 ‘fee’ per room over and above rates as a pan-charge, but to apply all the commercial and industrial conditions to B & Bs of this size is unconscionable. Can I also point out that the original proposal made by Baker and Ruru, and supported by the 2007 Council was for six bed-room plus B & Bs.

I have examined all the correspondence on the matter with Muir, and I cannot find a single redeeming argument for the four bed-room proposal. I have no doubt that it will be adopted this week by Council, but it is not too late for fair-minded councillors to sit back and have another think about this - there is no reason for them to get caught up in what may be characterised as nothing more than a private vendetta.



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