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The amount owed to the West Coast Regional Council in overdue rates has almost doubled, compared to a year ago.
Corporate services manager Robert Mallinson said unpaid rates amounted to $1,041,755 as of May 6, an increase of $494,000 on May 2019.
The council had announced before the lockdown that it would not be imposing any penalties on instalments due on April 20, Mr Mallinson said.
But people had still turned up at the closed council offices in Paroa during the lockdown, wanting to hand over a rates cheque or pay by eftpos.
Mr Mallinson said he would be looking closely at the incidence of ratepayers with otherwise impeccable payment records who were now in arrears.
The council's existing rates remissions and postponement policy was of limited value in the post-Covid situation, he said.
"The policy never envisaged a pandemic-type situation and really focused on general economic hardship due to other factors.
"It also required the district council to have agreed to postpone payment before the regional council would consider it."
The council could give immediate relief to suffering and stressed ratepayers by writing to those who had not paid their April instalment, Mr Mallinson said.
If they declared their income had dropped by at least 20%, or in the case of businesses by 30%, the council would agree to defer their rates for six months.
The council would also waive all penalties on the April instalment, whether late payment was related to Covid or not, Mr Mallinson said.
Councillors voted unanimously to accept his recommendations.
- Lois Williams