Ratepayers join revolt

At least 40 Dunedin ratepayers have joined a rates revolt to protest against the Dunedin City Council's financial support for the proposed Otago Stadium.

The revolt was being promoted by the Stop the Stadium protest group, but president Bev Butler said yesterday she was not one of the protesters.

By the close of business yesterday, three people had written letters to the council saying they would not pay their rates, and a further 37 had cancelled their direct debit authorisations, council financial controller Maree Clarke said.

The number cancelling their direct debits could be higher, she said, as council staff would not know if ratepayers had dealt directly with their banks. The council has four rating areas.

Quarterly rates installments were due yesterday for two areas.

Mrs Clarke said she would know by early next week how many direct debits had been cancelled, and how many people had not paid their rates.

A 10% penalty would be applied immediately to the portion of a rates demand which remained unpaid, she said.

If ratepayers were still in arrears at the end of the financial year - June 30 - they would receive a notice of impending action to recover the unpaid amount.

Under Section 62 of the Local Government (Rating) Act, 2002, the council had three options - to demand payment from the property mortgagee (usually a bank), to refer the debt to a debt collector or to take legal action.

Asked how she felt about ratepayers withholding rates payments as a protest, Mrs Clarke said she was reluctant to express a personal opinion.

Ms Butler said yesterday cancelling direct debits was "just the start" of the campaign and she was pleased people were responding.

She said she had not cancelled her personal direct debit authorisation as she did not pay her rates that way, and was not one of the three who had written to the council declining to pay their rates.

"Phase two" of the rates campaign would be announced at a public meeting next month, she said.


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