Push for full rates relief

Posted 05 Jun 2012 by MediaStuff
This item was posted on the Stuff.co.nz website - click here to view the original

 

Full rates relief for people unable to live in their earthquake-damaged homes would cost $7.3 million and could add another 2 per cent to Christchurch's proposed rates increase.

Some city councillors are pushing ahead with their support of 100 per cent rates relief and believe there are other ways the council could fund the scheme.

Cr Peter Beck said he had asked council staff to come up with other options to cover the $7.3m cost. He said the council should provide the rates relief, but he was not keen on adding 2 per cent to the its proposed 7.47 per cent rates increase for 2012-13. "There must be some other options other than a rates rise."

Councillors voted 10-4 in April against including an option for full rates relief in the draft annual plan.

A plea from affected residents prompted the council to look at the matter again after asking staff to provide more information on the proposal. Councillors will discuss a new report from staff at their meeting on Thursday.

Residential ratepayers with uninhabitable homes receive a 40 per cent rates remission, and homes at risk of rockfall or cliff collapse receive a 100 per cent remission, at a total cost of $4.9m since September 2010.

The report said that if ratepayers were obliged to continue paying rates, they would be paying partial rates only on the property they owned, rather than the one they were temporarily residing in.

Mayor Bob Parker, who voted against the proposal in April, said yesterday he welcomed the new report because he wanted to see if there was a "fair way to proceed". He wanted the council to have a fair rating system, and he understood the stress residents were under. Parker would not say if he would now support full rates remission.

Cr Glenn Livingstone said he supported 100 per cent rates relief, but he would rather the cost was not added to the total rates bill.

He said the council should consider delaying repairs to one of two city parking buildings, which would cover the cost of full rates relief.

The draft annual plan recommends repairing the Lichfield St car park at a cost of $7.6m and the Manchester St car park, which would cost $5.4m.

Livingstone questioned whether there was a need for both to be repaired now.

Cr Claudia Reid said the extent of the hardship being faced by residents unable to occupy their homes was unclear because many were already getting substantial relief.

People needed to remember that the council provided services to ratepayers in addition to the services they received at their homes, she said.

Christchurch Rates Relief Group founder and Redcliffs resident Nigel Salsbury told councillors in April that residents were not asking for special treatment, and people with uninhabitable homes felt "forgotten and vulnerable".Reid said the number of people who could be considered for 100 per cent rates relief could be far wider than the council thought.

Eighty-eight per cent of the 359 Christchurch City and Waimakariri and Selwyn districts residents surveyed in The Press local issues survey believed residents forced out of their red-zoned homes deserved rates relief, but 67 per cent did not want other householders to pay for it.

THE NUMBERS

5491 residential properties have qualified for the 40 per cent rates remission. If the council extends the relief to 100 per cent, it will cost $7.3m.

The total cost of residential rates relief since September 2010 is $4.9m. People are eligible for 40 per cent rates remission if their properties are unable to be occupied and 100 per cent relief if their properties are at risk of rockfall or cliff collapse.

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