Environment Waikato plans to cancel rates next year for some community groups, sports clubs and charities.
A number of other Waikato landowners are also likely to benefit from changes planned to the Council’s remissions policy. The plans will be up for public debate in the Council’s draft Long-Term Council Community Plan, due for publication in March.
The Council’s Corporate Services Committee meeting heard that while the Council reviewed its approach to rates remission for clubs after complaints last year, some anomalies had arisen and more consistent remissions could be made under a new policy.
Full remission could be given to organisations allowing open public access to their land for community or school activities, sports clubs except for areas with a liquor licence and charitable organisations with land in excess of 1.5 hectares providing “free maintenance and relief of persons in need”.
No changes are proposed to existing policies for remission of targeted rates for urban land in areas classified as rural, commercial or industrial areas remission of penalties and remission of the Biosecurity targeted rate on fenced indigenous bush and wetland areas.
The Council has also joined a consortium of local authorities developing a rates postponement policy for ratepayers in financial hardship. It would give ratepayers a choice between paying rates now or later, as long as the ratepayer met full cost of postponement. Indefinite postponement could apply if the ratepayer was over 65, or up to 15 years in other cases.
The policy would not affect the Council’s finances as the consortium was developing an arrangement with a bank that would “lend” the postponed rates to the ratepayer, and the loan would be repaid when the property was sold.
The Council is also looking at giving non-rateable status to private land with QEII Trust covenants, after finding that the new rating Act did not include them when they were included in the previous rating Act. There are about 10,000 covenanted hectares in the Waikato, and most district councils remitted their rates.
Lake Taupo lakeshore reserves are also likely to treated in a consistent manner. Taupo District Council previously remitted Environment Waikato rates for reserve land as they were set aside for protecting the Lake. A number of owners had asked for a remission which Environment Waikato was not legally able to give.