The Clutha District Council has moved to loosen its rates payment regulations for residents who might be experiencing unexpected financial hardship during the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.
On Thursday, councillors voted unanimously to broaden access to rates payment programmes and defer non-payment penalties until the Covid-19 crisis is resolved.
Penalties for instalment 4 would not be charged, and additional payment plan options would be offered to ratepayers “when financial hardship [was] experienced”.
Cr Stewart Cowie expressed concern assessing hardship could lead to an unnecessary invasion of applicant privacy.
“How does somebody prove hardship, and how do we measure that?”
Council chief executive Steve Hill said staff already applied discretion and “a personal, case-by-case approach” that had proved successful to date.
Cr Alison Ludemann requested staff received clear guidelines in anticipation of an increase in applicants.
Although he had received requests to freeze rates increases, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan signalled this was unlikely at this stage.
On March 27 Waitaki District Council said it would work towards a 0% rates rise in 2020-21.
“Every day right now, I’m getting requests to drop rates to zero,” Mr Cadogan said.
“This has included property owners’ associations, whose hypocrisy in putting rentals up by 100% then asking for relief is staggering.
“That aside there’s a need for compassion to be shown at present.”
A decision on further rates relief would be made during annual plan deliberations taking place soon.
Otago Daily Times