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Bill Modernises Rating Powers

A bill to modernise rating powers has been introduced in Parliament as the second part of a major overhaul of the laws under which local councils operate.

The Local Government (Rating) Bill aims to update and simplify existing rating powers to meet the needs of modern local authorities and follows the Local Electoral Act which came into force earlier this year. A discussion document on a proposal to replace the Local Government Act is presently being circulated throughout New Zealand as part of the consultation process.

"The Government committed itself to these reviews--covering more than 1,000 pages of primary legislation--because of the importance it places on the role of local authorities, " said Local Government Minister Sandra Lee. "Councils need a clear and flexible legal framework that allows them to focus on their communities' objectives, rather than on deciphering complex laws."

The Bill represents the first comprehensive rewriting of rating legislation since at least 1925.

"Rating legislation passed by Parliament in the intervening period--most recently the Rating Powers Act of 1988--has implemented specific policy changes but otherwise has tended to perpetuate not just the concepts but the actual wording of earlier Acts," Ms Lee said.

"The intention of the Bill is to facilitate effective local government by providing legislation that meets the needs of modern local government and is consistent with other Acts that councils work under."

The local government sector had lobbied for a review of the Rating Powers Act since at least 1996 and the previous government began a review, including a public consultation process. The review had been completed under new Terms of Reference issued by the new government after the 1999 election.

Ms Lee said the Local Government (Rating) Bill recognises that rates are coercive taxes and this requires a balance between certainty of process and application on one hand, and opportunities for individual input and redress on the other.


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