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Published: 2003-08-06 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s rating team is taking dozens of calls as the first direct rate from the Regional Council hits letterboxes around the Region this week – but the majority of the calls are asking about how to pay.

Many also didn’t realise they only receive one account for the whole year, and thought they might have to pay the same amount quarterly or even monthly.

Hamilton ratepayers are looking for more information about the increased cost of the city’s separate Passenger Transport Rate, which has increased from last year’s $19 per $100,000 of capital value to $36 per $100,000 to pay for more frequent services.

Environment Waikato has increased services to half hourly on most services from July 1 – which has already led to an eight percent overall increase in bus use in the city. It has also extended evening services on weekdays.

Environment Waikato surveyed city households and called for submissions to its Draft Annual Plan before making the decision to increase services. Almost 55 percent of respondents wanted improved services and were prepared to pay for them, while 41 percent wanted to keep current levels. Increased frequency is designed to encourage more people to use public transport, easing congestion and providing additional funding to improve services.

An electronic swipe card has also been introduced which makes fares cheaper, can be topped up with cash or on credit cards and can be used on all bus routes.

Regional ratepayers used to receive their Environment Waikato account as part of their city or district council invoice, but changes to the Local Government (Rating) Act mean territorial authorities are no longer required to collect rates on behalf of Regional Councils.

Ratepayers are getting information about how their rates are used with their invoice, and Hamilton City residents receive a return bus ticket to encourage them to make use of the city’s passenger transport service. More than 6000 people have used the Council’s website to find out more about the rate.

Most calls to the rating team so far have been questions about how to pay, to arrange paying by instalments or arrange a direct debit. Some ratepayers have elected to pay in a lump sum when they find out the modest amount of their invoice.

Others have been concerned that the amount they pay to their district or city council is still the same as last year’s but that Environment Waikato’s rate is no longer included in the total. They had expected their district or city rate to be lower.

The due date for payment is September 20 to get a 2.5 percent discount, but ratepayers can also elect to pay by direct debit instalments.