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Rates Relief Package For Waikato Regional Council Ratepayers

Waikato Regional Council ratepayers struggling to pay their rates on time will get relief from a range of measures backed by councillors last week.

A rates relief package totalling $400,000 had been approved through the 2020/21 annual plan budget in May, but councillors asked staff to come back with more detail on how this assistance could work.

The council’s strategy and policy committee considered a range of staff recommended options on Wednesday, 17 June, before unanimously approving new criteria for additional rates remissions, as well as further promotion of the flexible payment options available which help to ease the financial burden to ratepayers.

The approved criteria will allow for an additional remission of 10 per cent of rates payable for ratepayers who qualify for the Department of Internal Affairs’ rates rebate scheme.

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington said councillors felt it was important to encourage struggling ratepayers to talk to council staff about repayment options or rates remissions.

“Ratepayers have a range of repayment options available to them, but most still choose to pay their rates bill annually. There are other arrangements ratepayers could choose to smooth the cost over the year,” Cr Rimmington said.

“Staff are keen to be able to work with ratepayers to put in place a payment arrangement that can be tailored to them. Having these agreed arrangements in place also avoids incurring any penalties,” he said.

He added that Waikato Regional Council had already responded decisively to the unique circumstances by delivering a “trailblazing” net zero per cent rates revenue increase this year to provide short term relief to Waikato people.

Committee chair Pamela Storey said councillors recognised some Waikato people were struggling and supported the package to help ratepayers deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

“This package is designed to assist ratepayers who may be facing financial hardship in these tough times and we’re committed to providing an overall package to suit everyone,” Cr Storey said.

An existing rates postponement policy allows those aged over 65 years to postpone rates payments in relation to their principle place of residence. Those under 65 are also able to postpone their rates for up to 15 years.

Cr Storey said the changes approved allow support to be put in place over the coming 12 months, noting that a comprehensive review of the council’s rates remission and postponement policies will be undertaken as part of the development of the council’s 10-year plan. Any further changes will be subject to formal public consultation in accordance with the Local Government Act 2002.

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