Reprieve for business from 82% fee increase

Businesses have been given a reprieve from a rise of up to 82% in environmental health fees by the Waitaki District Council.

Instead, fees will rise by 10% across the board while the council develops a fee regime that reflects future regulation requirements.

The fees are paid by businesses such as cafes, restaurants, hairdressers, takeaway food shops, supermarkets, dairies and camping grounds to ensure operations comply with legislation such as the Food Act, and minimise any risks to the community.

But the proposal to recover more of the cost of administering the regulations from business, and less from ratepayers, could have had a major effect on some small businesses and threaten their viability.

The council's long-term plan (LTP) proposed 70% of the cost should be paid by businesses and 30% by ratepayers. At present, the ratio is 43% and 53% respectively.

Submissions on the 10-year plan suggested the fees increase was too much, particularly when compared with other local authorities.

The council made the decision on Wednesday during its deliberations on the long-term plan.

Regulatory services manager Lichelle Guyan told councillors feedback from submitters was the fee rise was too high, some questioned what they got for their money and the fairness of all businesses paying the same amount when requirements differed.

''An across-the-board increase [of 82%] assumes all businesses get the same services from council,'' she said.

Some businesses may be inspected each year, others may not be inspected unless there was a complaint.

This was not equitable.

Increasing fees by 10% gave staff time to look at the whole fees structure, including what businesses received from the council, she said.

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