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Separate notices for regional ratepayers

Regional ratepayers will be sent a separate notice for Environment Waikato rates from next year.

Currently Regional Council rates are collected on behalf of Environment Waikato by the 12 city or district Councils (territorial authorities) around the Region. In total, Environment Waikato pays territorial authorities nearly one million dollars each year to provide this service.

However a change in the Local Government (Rating) Act means territorial authorities are no longer required to collect rates on behalf of Regional Councils. A number of councils have indicated that they no longer wish to act as a collection agent for Environment Waikato.

Others have indicated they wanted Environment Waikato’s processes to be done separately.

Under the new law next year, all local authorities (including Regional Councils) will be required to provide two key pieces of information to ratepayers; a rating assessment which shows how rates for each property were calculated, and a rating invoice which details how much is owed. Information on arrears, current rates and payment options must be shown separately.

Environment Waikato chief executive Barry Harris said the new system will be much more transparent for ratepayers.

"Previously, rates from the local Council and from Environment Waikato were combined on the same invoice. Although shown separately, it was very confusing for ratepayers," Mr Harris said.

"People will now be able to see exactly what Environment Waikato is charging them - and for what - and that's a good thing. The same goes for all other local authorities including district and city councils – rates will be very transparent."

Mr Harris said the decision by Environment Waikato to manage its own rates collection was only taken after Councillors received assurances that collection costs of around $1.8 million under the new law would not increase.

"Environment Waikato’s costs to manage its own rating collection will be about the same for ratepayers, perhaps slightly less. We have factored in set-up costs of around $200,000, which we signalled in our annual plan process, "he said.

Environment Waikato chairman Neil Clarke welcomed the new transparency the law change would bring. It would be easier for people to know what they were paying for, he said.

"Ninety percent of our 166,000 ratepayers pay less than $250 each year to the Regional Council. We'll be providing detailed information on what that money goes towards, and how the rates for individual properties have been calculated."
Environment Waikato expects its first rating assessments to go out to ratepayers in the 2003/2004 year.

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