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Rates Postponement Policy Recommended To Aid Those Affected By COVID-19

Horowhenua District Council’s Finance, Audit & Risk (FAR) Committee has recommended the adoption of an interim Rates Postponement Policy to aid ratepayers financially affected by the COVID-19 National Emergency.

The proposed policy is for all extraordinary and emergency events. It also applies to water bills.

Mayor Bernie Wanden said elected members are acutely aware that the impact of COVID-19 for some residents and small businesses will be ongoing.

“We are proposing an interim measure to provide relief for affected ratepayers.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Mayor Bernie. “It will provide those ratepayers with a better footing so they can recover from this national emergency.”

Horowhenua District Council Chief Financial Officer Doug Law said while the policy is new for Horowhenua, several other councils around New Zealand have similar policies.

There are conditions within the draft policy, including that the rateable value of the property must be no greater than $1.5million.

The ratepayer must:

  • be the current owner and have been the owner for 182 days continuously at the time the event is declared
  • not own any other property other than a residential property in the case of a small business owner
  • demonstrate how paying rates would result in financial hardship
  • demonstrate they have taken all steps necessary to claim central government benefits or allowances that they are entitled
  • pay an annual fee to cover administration and financial costs of the policy.

Mr Law said when an application is approved, the ratepayer must make acceptable arrangements for payment of future rates, i.e. by setting up regular payments.

Postponed rates will remain postponed until the ratepayer ceases to be the owner of the property, within a year of Council determining the effects of the emergency are no longer felt in the community, or until a date specified by Council.

The proposed policy, with minor changes directed by the FAR Committee, now moves on to Council, which will consider it for adoption at its meeting on Wednesday 6 May. If adopted, the proposed policy will go out for public consultation to ensure its final form reflects the needs of the community.

The proposed Rates Postponement Policy, including full eligibility conditions and definition of a small business, is available in the agenda for the Financial Audit and Risk Committee meeting on 29 April 2020. You can find a link to the agenda by following this link to our website here

Mr Law said the policy will not be for everyone, and Council will still consider hardship requests on a case-by-case basis. The next rates invoice will be issued in May for payment in June. And, anyone facing hardship is asked to contact Council by emailing rates@horowhenua.govt.nz , or calling 06 366 0999 as soon as possible to discuss payment options.

© Scoop Media

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