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Benefits for ratepayers in local govt legislation

22 June 2006

Benefits for ratepayers and councils in new local government legislation

Streamlined powers and processes to help councils deliver cost-effective results would be delivered by new local government legislation, the Minister of Local Government Mark Burton said today.

"The Local Government Law Reform Act 2006, passed today, bundles up technical changes to eight different pieces of local government-related legislation that refined and clarified the law while improving the effectiveness of regulatory tools", he said.

Key changes include:

- Ensuring more people are eligible to receive more rates relief from 1 July 2006, through the Rates Rebate Scheme;

- Allowing councils to donate money and resources outside their district or region, for instance during emergencies;

- Putting disability assist and companion dogs on an equal footing with other types of assistance dogs that have wider access to public places, aeroplanes and restaurants;

- Increasing the penalties for people who deliberately litter;

- Simplifying processes and reducing costs for councils to deal with abandoned cars;

- Introducing a range of tools and enforcement mechanisms for improved dog control and greater public safety around dogs.

"The Government has made it a priority to provide a robust and effective framework within which local councils and communities can operate," Mark Burton said. "This new Act rounds out the legislative reforms of the past five years, giving councils the administrative powers they need to do their job well, and at a minimum cost.

"In addition to improvements in the framework under which Councils operate, there will be a significant increase in the number of people eligible for assistance to pay their rates from 1 July.

"In most cases the income threshold under which people will be eligible for a full rebate is to increase from $7,400 to $20,000. For incomes above $20,000 the rebate is progressively abated meaning a couple receiving only government superannuation as their income will in many cases still qualify for a rebate.

"In addition there will be increases in the maximum rebate from $200 to $500 and in the additional income allowance for each dependent from $156 to $500.

"Whereas in the 2004/05 rating year less than 4000 people actually received a rebate, up to 300,000 New Zealanders will be eligible for a rates rebate as a result of the changes. These changes will have a positive impact on many New Zealanders, particularly older people and others on low incomes," Mark Burton said.

He said the importance placed on local government by local communities was reflected in the large number of submissions received on the bill. "This signals that the level of informed debate on local government matters that this Labour-led government has been promoting is actually taking place.

"Many of the changes introduced by the Act are the result of consultation with the local government sector. I believe this will help ensure the legislative framework within which councils and communities work is clearer, more certain and reflects Government policy for effective local government."

ENDS

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