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Northlanders urged to pay rates as usual to help maintain essential services and economic recovery



jasonNorthland councils are encouraging ratepayers experiencing financial hardship to contact them if they are unable to pay rates invoices being sent to property owners over the coming week.

The Far North District Council, Kaipara District Council, Whangarei District Council and Northland Regional Council acknowledge that the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and response will make it difficult for some to pay their full instalment at this time.

Because of this, the region’s four local authorities are urging people who may have difficulty paying their rates on time to call their local council early to discuss options.

In addition to the support central government and banks have already provided, councils are following guidance from Local Government New Zealand and working with their elected members to review rates relief options, and arrangements for paying rates for those who normally pay by EFTPOS or cash.

While the country has been in lockdown, the council crucial functions have been continuing behind the scenes, keeping essential services going for their local communities. This includes keeping drinking water treatment systems, wastewater systems, rubbish collection, cemeteries and the roading network operational.

Councils are asking people to pay their rates as usual to enable these critical services to keep going. Rates are used to pay for services that are so much a part of our daily lives they are often taken for granted.

District councils also collect rates on behalf of the Northland Regional Council, whose ongoing work includes critical environmental monitoring essential for the health and wellbeing of Northland communities, ensuring maritime navigation remains safe, monitoring and managing drought and flooding responses, and supporting regionwide Civil Defence work.

A core team of essential Northland Civil Defence staff – jointly funded and staffed by the region’s four local authorities – is working to support the regional response to Covid-19. That work includes working regionally and

nationally to ensure key infrastructure like telecommunications, electricity and fuel supply and distribution is maintained.

All councils have also established teams of staff who are caring for their communities, helping to distribute food and medication to those who need it.

Councils are also preparing for projects that will support the recovery of their communities and the region. With central government support, they will lead projects to create employment opportunities and boost future business or tourism opportunities.

Annual plans are being reviewed, exploring options to reduce the rates burden, while also ensuring the economic recovery is not delayed.

The timing and level of the current rates invoices was set in June last year, when Councils adopted their annual plans and rates resolutions.

Council to confirm 2020-21 Annual Plan

Elected members from Kaipara District Council will make decisions relating to their response to Covid-19 at their upcoming meeting on 29 April.

The agenda will include introducing a support package, as well as a range of options around rates for next year’s Annual Plan.

Council chief executive, Louise Miller, said a key focus had been on ensuring the Council operates as efficiently as possible.

“The services we provide are essential for people to live here. It’s important we invest in making sure they are reliable. At the same time, we have a duty to make sure we are efficient so we’ve been through our operations with a fine tooth comb to make sure everything we’re doing is absolutely necessary.”

The pandemic has also highlighted the role the Council plays in caring for the community.

“A key focus has been to make sure we make support available for those who need it.”

The council has developed a range of options to provide support to different sectors of the community that elected members will be discussing.

Mayor Dr Jason Smith says elected members are very aware of their dual role in minimising any impacts on services that the community expects and needs, and in leading economic activity so Kaipara moves forward as quickly as possible.

“We have a very difficult balancing act ahead of us. I expect there will be a range of views about how much Council should achieve in the coming year but I am confident we will decide on a way forward to help the District rise strong,” says Mayor Smith.

Decisions made about the Annual Plan will determine what rates people pay in the 12 months from July 2020.

The Council e-meeting will be broadcast live on the Council’s Facebook page from 9.30am and members of the public are invited to watch. Attendees can watch without having to sign up for Facebook. The meeting will also be recorded so those who are not able to watch it live can see it later. The meeting agenda is now available on the Council’s website kaipara.govt.nz.

Dr Jason Smith

“We have a very difficult balancing act ahead of us… but I am confident we will decide on a way forward.

Kaipara mayor, Dr Jason Smith

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