Council views ability to pay rates by area

An assessment of the affordability of Southern district rates has highlighted some areas where people are struggling, a Southland District Councillor says.

The comment followed a report being presented to a full Southland District Council [SDC] meeting yesterday. It included figures on overall rates for the Southern district and the distribution of rates among communities.

Data was intended to indicate circumstances about the ability to pay rates and where those issues were more likely.

Cr Karyn Owen said the report reflected her conversations with some Southlanders who were not coping with the expense.

"I think it’s responsible of us to have a go at doing that work and looking at those other options."

Finance development co-ordinator Nicole Taylor said while the overall affordability level was below the 5% threshold set by council, it was clear some townships with low incomes were paying unaffordably high rates.

Townships identified as having low incomes and high rates included Ohai, Nightcaps, Riverton, Otautau, Tuatapere, Wyndham and Lumsden.

Some factors contributing to the high rates included low incomes and high service charges, she said.

Options for council to consider when addressing the issue included changing the rating system, shifting the "burden" of rates to other sectors, or reviewing council’s budget in the long-term plan 2018-28.

Mrs Taylor acknowledged the report was "not perfect", as the data was based on the 2018 census and it was difficult to get access to certain information.

Chief executive Steve Ruru agreed there was "no perfect model" but the Government "complements" the data through its rates rebates scheme and welfare support.

The only statutory requirement the council had was to consider the impact of the overall wellbeing of the community, he said.

abbey.palmer@odt.co.nz

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