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Rates relief for worst-hit property owners

Media release 18 November 2010

Rates relief for worst-hit residential and commercial property owners

Christchurch City Council today unanimously agreed on a rates relief package for residential and commercial property owners worst affected by the September 4 earthquake and aftershocks.

The package is aimed at those most adversely affected, particularly those required to vacate their homes during EQC or insurance-related rebuilding and land remediation. The package was determined on the basis of Earthquake Commission (EQC) assessments for residential properties and Council building inspectors' assessment of commercial buildings.

The relief package is as follows:

Residential properties: * Remit 40% of rates for residential properties on land requiring remediation by the EQC from 1 September 2010 until rebuilding has been completed or six months after land remediation has been completed if building has not begun - whichever is earlier; * Remit 40% of rates for residential properties requiring demolition and rebuild by insurance companies, for the period during which the house cannot be occupied; * Remit 40% of rates for three months to those properties that remain unable to connect to the reticulated wastewater network at 31 October 2010.

These terms also apply to churches and non-rateable properties.

Discounts have been set at a level that reflects what it would normally have cost to provide services through the Council's reticulated wastewater network if it had not been damaged by the earthquake.

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Business properties: * Remit 30% of rates for business properties classified by Council as R1 (significant damage repairs strengthening possible) and R2 (severe damage demolition likely) from 1 September 2010 until the property is either rebuilt, strengthened and reoccupied, or revalued to reflect condition; * Remit 30% of rates for business properties classified by Council as R3 (unsafe due to adjacent property) for three months from 1 September 2010; * Remit 30% of rates remission for business properties immediately adjacent to R3 properties where the occupant business has been significantly adversely affected by cordons for three months from 1 September 2010.

The package represents about $1.439 million in lost rates revenue over three years.

Mayor Bob Parker says that although the Council would not normally remit rates on houses severely damaged by an event such as a fire, the earthquake was a significant regional event that justified rates relief for the worst-affected property owners.

"Rates relief recognises the stress many residents are under," he says. "While it doesn't take all the stress or cost away, it may give the worst affected residents a bit of help by easing the monthly bills they will have to pay."

Mayor Parker says the Council also recognises the general hardship suffered by many people and urged them to take up available support. Residents experiencing hardship are encouraged to approach the Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake Commission (www.redcross.org.nz). Businesses can access support through the website www.recovercanterbury.co.nz. Residential and commercial property owners could also contact the Council about rates payment options.

Background

Rates make up over 50 percent of Council revenue and are used as a funding source for most of Council's operating activities as well as funding the renewal and replacement of fixed assets. Specific targeted rates collect revenue for water, wastewater, waterways and land drainage, and organics and recyclables collection, while the General Rate and Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) funds activities such as Streets and Transport, Regulatory Services, Parks, Libraries, and Recreation and Sports Services. Christchurch City Council does not normally waive or remit rates payable on properties damaged during a rating year, such as by fire. This practice is based on the fact that rates are legally payable and that insurance cover provides alternative accommodation for the owners/occupiers of that property.

Only a small proportion of Council's services are delivered directly to a property. Water, wastewater, refuse collection and, to an extent, land drainage services are provided directly to properties. Residents and ratepayers access all other Council services such as libraries, recreational facilities and roading remotely from their properties. These are funded through the General Rate and UAGC.

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