Environment Waikato will look into its policies on rate remission for community groups – but no changes can be made for this year.
This week’s Corporate Services Committee meeting heard a report on the existing remission policy, which provides rates relief for groups and individuals. Some community groups had complained that they were now having to pay half their rates when previously they were not required to pay in two of the Region’s territorial authority areas.
Revenue and Finance Manager Julie Clausen said the Council had discussed how to apply remissions to community groups and charitable organisations late last year and early this year. Previously, under the Rating Powers Act, territorial authorities had the discretion to remit rates according to their own policies. Groups were treated differently across the Region by different councils.
The new Local Government (Rating) Act removed the discretionary right and defined the kinds of activities that were non-rateable and 50 percent non-rateable. Environment Waikato rates were based on the premise that all land was covered by its services, so some which used to have a 100 percent remission now incurred a 50 percent charge, she said.
Non-rateable land included national parks and conservation land, local authority land, land used for heritage purposes, education, health, religious institutions, cemeteries, Maori land and transport land. It also includes land used by charitable institutions for ‘people in need’.
Those which were 50 percent rateable include A and P grounds, and land used for sports and arts. It excluded land where clubs operated liquor licenses. The Council had worked with territorial authorities to ensure they applied a consistent rateability status, she said.
A small number of groups had a grievance in being asked to pay what they had not paid before, and the Council was working with them. They had been assured that if they paid their rates over time they would not be penalised this year.
Cr Jim Howland said district and city council philosophy on rating was quite different from the Regional Council, which said that those using these spaces received an environmental benefit.