What help is there for ratepayers impacted by COVID-19?
The Council has adopted relief measure that allow you to delay payment of your rates for up to six months if you meet eligibility criteria. We are also supporting the delivery of food, water and medicine to people in need as part of Northland’s emergency management response to COVID-19 and the drought. Please note, the assistance we are offering is an interim measure until we have a clearer understanding of COVID-19’s impact on Council finances and the economy. We anticipate further central government direction and support for councils over the coming months. You may also be eligible for an accommodation supplement from Work and Income. This is a non-taxable, weekly payment you can use to pay your rates. You can get more information about this by phoning the Ministry of Social Development on 0800 559 009. Please call us if you would like more information about rates relief. We are here to help.
Why doesn’t the Council waive 2019/20 rates?
We need to ensure that we are able to fund essential services that employ local people and support our communities. If we reduce rates, we put vital services, jobs and our economy at risk. This balancing act is a challenge all councils face. We are collectively looking at funding options with central government through Local Government New Zealand, so we can keep growing our district and serving our communities. It should also be noted that we are bound by legislation and cannot simply waive rates that have already been adopted through a statutory process. We haven’t set rates for 2020/21 yet, but we will consider affordability before we adopt our Annual Plan 2020/21. We know some people are struggling financially and we will do our best to deliver relief.
What impact will COVID-19 have on Council finances?
It is too early to accurately forecast the impact an economic downturn will have on Council finances. A lot will depend on when the lockdown ends, how long strict border controls are in place and the speed of the global economic recovery. That said, the Council anticipates a revenue shortfall in 2020/21. We are already reviewing our operational budgets as a response to this and have asked managers to reduce expenditure. We are also rethinking how we do business more efficiently after the pandemic lockdown. The situation is changing rapidly and all councils are in unchartered territory. Our Crisis Management Team is meeting daily to monitor and plan our response. The Mayor and Councillors are meeting fortnightly and communicating with each other and staff daily, so the Council is able to respond to challenges and opportunities quickly. We are continuously reviewing our budgets and work programmes in the lead-up to adopting our Annual Plan.