While Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) will put a freeze on a proposed rate increase in its next annual plan, other councils may be looking at an increase to help recover from the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.
HBRC chairman Rex Graham says his council’s is responding to the financial pain being felt across the region due to Covid19, the drought and Bovine TB. “We want to postpone our planned rate increase and need to find ways to do this and still deliver on our 2020-21 Annual Plan.”
He says his council is committed to doing everything in its power to get the region through the crisis. “This is just a beginning of initiatives that we are developing.”
Central Hawke’s Bay District Council (CHBDC) is currently considering its options. It remains “pragmatic” recognising the need to be in a position to deliver core and essential services, a formal report on the Annual Plan 2020/2021 on Thursday this week ( 9 April).
CHBDC will be evaluating the rating issue as part of its economic recovery plan which is also on the table.
Meanwhile Hastings and Napier councils are each considering whether such a move is necessary and tending to highlight ways people can pay off their rates, rather than put them on hold.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst deflected the idea of a rate freeze, suggesting the opposite might be the case. “It’s too early to say what level of rate increases, if any, will be required for us to deliver our services and priorities to the community for next year.”
She says the council is aware many are experiencing financial hardship and “our staff are working with residents and businesses to make an appropriate payment plan for their rates.”
Napier mayor Kirstin Wise was equally non-committal, stating there are multiple options for taxpayer relief if they’re experiencing difficulties, including the Government’s accommodation supplement which can provide assistance for homeowners seeking help with rates payments.
“People do not need to receive a main benefit to be eligible for the Accommodation Supplement, but homeowners must occupy the house that they are paying accommodation costs for as their own home.”
Other options, she says are rates remission and rates postponement, for which ratepayers must apply to their local authority.
All the region’s councils are part of an Economic Response Unit considering options for the region’s businesses, but haven’t yet worked up details of what the various responses might be.