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Published: 2010-03-12 00:00:00

Environment Waikato today adopted its 2010/11 Draft Annual Plan based on a rates requirement of $68.83 million, an overall increase of 1.86 per cent to existing ratepayers.

The regional council has been able to constrain the rates increase by proposing to remove the early payment discount which reduces the overall rates requirement by more than $1 million, or 1.54 per cent. 

Chairman Peter Buckley said the council considered it fairer and more transparent to do away with the discount.

“It’s not self-funding and cost ratepayers more than $1 million this financial year,” he said.

“There’s an issue of fairness when you consider the 28 per cent of ratepayers who did not pay early or paid by direct debit instalments ended up subsidising the rest.”

Ratepayers will have an extra six weeks to pay their rates or go on a payment plan, while the penalty for late payment will increase to 10 per cent, with a penalty applied in July for the previous year’s rates and in November for the current year unpaid rates. Ratepayers on a payment plan will not incur penalties.

Cr Buckley said the impact of the rates increase would affect property owners differently depending on where they lived, the services their communities received and whether their properties had been recently revalued.

There are different types of rates – targeted rates which are charged only to specific communities of ratepayers who benefit from Environment Waikato's services, such as drainage or passenger transport, and those that all properties pay. Those that all properties pay include:
- the general rate that funds activities such as coastal, air and water quality work
- the uniform annual general charge that funds civil defence, hazard management, road safety and navigation safety
- the biosecurity rate that funds activities that protect our region from the animal pests and weeds that threaten our economy and native plants and animals
- the natural heritage rate that helps protect ecologically significant places in our region
- Protecting Lake Taupo rate to protect the water quality of this iconic lake for all New Zealanders.

Using the example of a $350,000 property, the changes in these ‘all properties rates’ will range across the region from a 6.3 per cent or $12.35 reduction to an increase of 11.1 per cent or $19.06. These changes are mainly due to a one-off adjustment in the way the differential general rate is calculated.

The council currently calculates the differential general rate using a three-year average. It is now proposing to move to an equalized capital value approach which bases the rates calculations on independent valuation advice about the annual movement of property values in those districts not revalued that year. This aims to smooth the three-yearly spikes in revaluation adjustments and bring Environment Waikato’s rating system more into line with other regional councils.

Cr Buckley said the council looked forward to hearing from Waikato ratepayers and residents about whether the proposed levels of service and associated budgets met community expectations.

The council is seeking feedback on specific questions including:

  • a proposal to inflation-proof the investment fund to maintain its real value over time
  • whether to continue collecting a levy on behalf of the Animal Health Board to fund the region’s $650,000 share of bovine-Tb eradication work
  • a proposal to introduce a proposed new targeted rate for west coast catchment work
  • proposed changes to the rating package aimed at reducing rates overall, simplifying administration and bring the package into line with most other councils, including the removal of the early discount payment
  • whether to increase rates to donate $50,000 to surf lifesaving clubs.

Public consultation on the plan will take place throughout April, with the document available on EW’s website and in hard copy from 1 April. A special issue of Envirocare summarising the Draft Annual Plan will be delivered to every letterbox in the region.