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Have Your Say On A Policy Aimed At Helping Ratepayers Facing Hardship Due To A Disaster

Horowhenua District Council wants to know if you support a policy that will give affected ratepayers relief during or after an extraordinary or emergency event.

Council has approved consultation on the Draft Rates Postponement Policy. Several councils in Aotearoa have similar policies, and following the international COVID-19 health and economic emergency, Council drafted its policy for consideration.

Mayor Bernie Wanden said the policy aims to give Council a tool to allow it to provide relief to those suffering hardship during uncertain times.

“Living in the Shaky Isles, we’re all well aware of the risks of earthquakes and tsunamis, but we’re also warned to expect more droughts and floods due to climate change. Therefore, we’ve made the draft policy flexible so that it will work for any event and not necessarily a civil defence emergency,” said Mayor Wanden. “The policy can even be used if a home or business is rendered unusable.”

“We now need to hear from residents, businesses and organisations to find out their thoughts on the draft policy so that we can incorporate changes to reflect our communities’ concerns before the policy is adopted.”

Horowhenua District Council Chief Financial Officer Doug Law said if the policy is adopted then before it is enacted, Council will decide if the event is appropriate, specific criteria and the length of time that applications can be made.

He said the policy has some general conditions and requires those applying to seek central government support first.

“The intention is that the policy doesn’t have an overly negative effect on the Council’s income, but allows those experiencing financial difficulty a breathing space in terms of when they pay their rates.”

Mr Law said applicants would have to evidence a certain amount of equity in the property and an administration fee and an annual service fee would apply. Other provisions ensure any money owed is paid back at regular intervals or recovered if a property is sold. And, applicants must have agreement from everyone named on the rating unit, including all trustees of Family Trusts.

Mr Law said under Section 82 of the Local Government Act, Council is able to hold a shorter consultation period than usual. “It is necessary, if the policy is to be applied to the current rates instalment.”

The consultation period runs from Friday 17 July through to 4pm on Friday 31 July and a hearing will be held in Council’s Chambers on 5 August. The final draft policy will be considered for adoption at Council’s 12 August meeting and if adopted the policy will be operative before the first rates instalment is due on 15 September 2020.

The draft Rates Postponement Policy consultation can be found here: horowhenua.govt.nz/ratespostponement

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