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Ratepayers bite bullet and pay overdue bills

PHOTO/FILE

“A lot” of South Wairarapa ratepayers have bitten the bullet and paid their overdue rates after the November 17 rates remedy decision by council, a senior council staffer said.

Just how many have coughed up remains to be seen in a future report to council.

This was made public at Thursday’s South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] finance, audit, and risk committee meeting.

Anecdotes of financial hardship resulting in people being unable to afford their rates have filtered through community board and council meetings after the controversial overall rates rise of 29 per cent this year.

But council officials say the evidence shows fewer people have outstanding rates than last year – and that number is dropping.

Council senior financial accountant Charly Clarke said there were 301 properties with outstanding rates at the end of September.

This was down by 60 from the same time last year.

The monetary value of outstanding rates however was 80 per cent higher than this time last year.

“This reflects it’s not an increase of the number of people overdue on their rates [this year], it’s that those people have got a higher balance that’s overdue,” Clarke said.

“Anecdotally, since the [rates rise remedy] decision was made on November 17, a lot of people have caught up with their overdues.

“They were not paying or late paying while that decision on whether the rates would be adjusted for the year was being made.”

Council chief executive Harry Wilson asked Clarke whether the next report would show “a different picture”.

“Yes absolutely,” Clarke said.

“She noted the second rates instalment, issued last month, was paid quickly – “much better than the first one”.

“Would it be fair to say that with the arrears, it is people who were already in arrears?,” Wilson asked.

Clarke answered, yes.

“I think this is quite important because there’s a lot of anecdotal information going around in terms of people who can’t afford rates,” Wilson said.

Documents presented to the committee for the period ending September 30 showed there was $345,000 in outstanding rates for the first quarter of this financial year.

This is 80 per cent higher than the same time last year.

Clarke said $40,000 of this was due to direct debit payments.

She also said on October 1, which fell outside the reporting period, a significant payment was made by a Greytown ratepayer of $35k [rates arrears and this 2021/22 rates].

Clarke also said of the people who had approached the council asking for financial assistance, many had opted to spread their rates using direct debit as opposed to needing repayment plans which extend out past when the due date is.

As at the end of September there were 19 ratepayers on repayment plans, compared with 22 in June, and nine last September.

“The repayment plans tend to be because of covid, rather than the 2021/22 rates increase,” Clarke said.

The graph attached to the report dated back to September 2018 and showed the number of properties with outstanding rates reached a peak of more than 1100 at the end of November 2018. It has dropped consistently since then.

At the November 17 SWDC meeting, councillors decided to leave the 29 per cent rates rise for this financial year as it was. — NZLDR

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