Kiwifruit growers are suing Gisborne District Council in the High Court for including the license to cultivate the gold variety in the valuation of land valuations.
The national producer body, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI), has filed for judicial review of the decision in the High Court, and is supporting a grower on Bushmere Road, who filed an objection to the assessment of their property before the Land Valuation Tribunal.
Gisborne was the first region to adjust land valuation methods to include the value of the gold kiwifruit cultivation license, known as the G3 license, over the assessed value of the property.
The move resulted in a rate hike that producers in Gisborne described as “absurd” and unfair, with reports of rates tripling for some.
NZ Kiwifruit Growers Managing Director Colin Bond has said he will be a strong advocate for Gisborne growers and has recognized the importance of the “precedent-setting” legal proceedings.
Following a preliminary hearing on August 23, Judge Francis Cooke ruled to stay the judicial review process until the court issues its decision.
The court hearing is expected to take place at the end of November.
In his judgment, Justice Cooke said it would be advantageous to allow the specialized tribunal that included valuation expertise to proceed first.
His decision to delay the judicial review process was taken on the basis that the court’s appeals reach the High Court where they are heard by a judge alongside a valuation expert.
This is not the case with the judicial review procedure.
There are 49 growers on the G3 permit in Gisborne district with over 63 orchards.
The median price of new gold kiwifruit licenses this year was $ 550,000 per hectare, up from $ 400,000 last year.
NZKGI claims the licenses are not part of the land value and alleges that natural justice was violated, according to Cooke’s ruling.
Producers argue they should have been given the opportunity to be heard before the board passed the policy.
The change in evaluation methods at Gisborne follows a meeting between the Evaluator General and the Evaluators in August of last year.
According to the ruling, the board adopted the policy following a statement issued by the assessor general in January “to the effect” that the value of G3 licenses should be included in rating assessments.
Gisborne producer and NZKGI representative Tim Tietjen said they believed the decision to include the license was wrong because the license was not tied to the land.
“The producers of NZKGI and Gisborne did everything they could to resolve the issue before taking legal action.
“Gold producers will be required to pay much higher tariffs because of the increase in valuations. In some cases, prices have tripled.
“The rates will be significantly higher than neighboring seasonal crops, which receive the same service.”
In submitting to long-term plan council hearings earlier this year, NZ Kiwifruit Growers set the example of a Thompson Horticulture kiwifruit property on Tiniroto Road that was valued at $ 4.485 million in 2017. A revaluation of the property in 2020, which included licensed cultivation, put the property at $ 13.31 million. The proposed rates for this property in 2021-2022, including a horticultural rebate, are $ 20,000 – an additional $ 7,700.
Council CFO Pauline Foreman said it would be inappropriate for the Council to comment while the matter was in court.
The council still had a rate rebate policy for horticultural properties with permanent crops, despite a proposal to remove the rebate earlier this year.
As a result of the long-term plan process, the rebate policy has been changed so that any rebate for the capital value of the permanent crop must be greater than $ 100 but not greater than $ 7,000 for a property.
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