Council feeling pressure on rates

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Christchurch's city councillors have a moral duty to provide full rates relief to the worst-hit residents in the city, a councillor says.

The issue is among several hot-button topics that will be debated when councillors spend three days finalising their 2012-13 annual plan, starting today.

Quake-hit residents forced out of their homes have made repeated pleas to the council for full rates relief.

Mayor Bob Parker has recommended that residents with uninhabitable homes be rated only for the value of their bare land, which would generally mean a 50 per cent rebate – an improvement on the council's previous stance of a 40 per cent remission, but still short of full relief.

Cr Glenn Livingstone said the issue of rates relief was a "moral question" which councillors needed to consider carefully.

"How will the council be able to look residents in the eye if it approves the most expensive projects, but doesn't approve this?"

Livingstone said the council had set a precedent by granting full relief to rockfall-affected residents with section 124 notices, which it needed to extend to all people with uninhabitable homes.

"They have suffered for a sustained period of time and you have to look at it through their eyes."

He was concerned that some residents could leave the city if they were not granted full relief, while others might consider withholding some of their rates.

Christchurch Rates Relief group spokesman Nigel Salisbury said the proposed rates relief was a step in the right direction, but did not go as far as residents would have liked.

"They're acknowledging what we're saying, giving us a bit of a biscuit and saying: `Go away and be happy'."

Salisbury said he did not understand why the council had made a distinction between residents forced out of their homes by rockfall risk and those whose homes were structurally unsafe.

"At the end of the day, we cannot live in our house because it's structurally unsafe. What's the difference between a rock falling on your head and the roof falling on your head?"

He did not want to encourage withholding rates, due to the legal risks.

The group would not rule out legal action if it could find a law firm willing to provide its services pro bono.

Residents were still dealing with insurance issues related to their homes and did not have the time or money for a lengthy battle, Salisbury said.

Parker said the bare-land proposal would bring some relief. "It's an affordable policy, and it should give some more relief to people."

While providing full relief to rockfall-affected residents "didn't look as fair on the surface", there were differences in access. He said the council could postpone rates for people who were facing financial hardship.

Discussion