Meridian rates cut unlikely this time

Meridian Energy is unlikely to get its rates bill cut by the Waitaki District Council for the next financial year, despite a plea from the company for a reduction of about 50%.

Meridian calculated its rates bill for 2015-16 under the council's long-term plan (LTP) would be $937,000 for its five Waitaki hydro generation stations in the Waitaki district, and wanted that reduced by up to $500,000.

When it made submissions to the council on the 2015-25 LTP, it questioned why it should be paying so much for lakes camping sites, roading and civil defence and wanted those contributions reduced.

Meridian said it would prefer to settle any dispute over rates by discussion and not litigation, when it asked for the reduction.

Tomorrow, the council will make final decisions on its LTP and revenue and financing policy, which sets out how rates are collected.

But, it appears Meridian can expect a bill for $937,000.

The council's chief financial officer, Paul Hope, said no change was recommended for this coming year, to allow staff to further investigate Meridian's request and its impact.

Any changes to the rates system would affect all ratepayers, none of whom had had any opportunity to comment.

Mr Hope said changes would vary and some of the effects on other ratepayers could be significant, so it was important consultation took place.

In addition, council officers were still researching the basis and agreements in relation to rates paid by Meridian.

That included an agreement in the early 1990s between the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand and the Waitaki council.

That information was needed before any decisions were made.

Recommendations have been made to Wednesday's meeting which give a commitment to review issues raised by Meridian.

In its submission, Meridian said its rates had increased 16% above the average Waitaki rate rises for the past five years.

It wanted more than $330,000 cut from its $413,000 roading rate, to stop paying $151,309 in its lakes camping rate and the 25% share of the total civil defence rate, amounting to $37,000 a year, reduced to 11% or less.

david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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