Councillor Karyn Owen has called on the Southland District Council to investigate a low income household rate relief policy.
A Southland District councillor says people are struggling to pay rates and the responsible thing to do is investigate a rate relief policy.
Cr Karyn Owen made the comments at a meeting on Wednesday, where councillors requested staff to investigate the feasibility of a rate remission or postponement policy for low income households.
A detailed report on rates affordability across the Southland district was tabled at the meeting.
Owen said the report highlighted that some people in Southland were struggling.
* Southland District Council looks at rates affordability
* Southland District Council approve rate amid deficit budget
* Southland District Council vision/mission statements called ‘wishy-washy’
District rates were not going to go down in years to come and staff needed to look at a policy, she said.
There were issues in the areas with higher percentages of rate arrears, Owen said.
The areas with the highest percentages of rate arrears were Ohai, Nightcaps, Tuatapere, Wyndham, Otautau, Lumsden and Wallacetown.
Finance development coordinator Nicole Taylor wrote the report, which says 11 areas [of 31] in Southland are paying more than 5 per cent of household income on rates, which is above councilâs own affordability threshold.
Those areas were Wairio, Ohai, Kaweku, Riverton East, Nightcaps, Riverton West, Tuatapere, Manapouri, Wyndham, Fairfax, Otautau and Lumsden.
Council chief executive Steve Ruru said some information in the report was census data and was âaverages, on averages, on averagesâ.
There was no perfect model for a rates remission or postponement policy, Ruru said.
Taylorâs report also outlined what percentage of the population in an area received government accommodation supplement payments. The areas receiving the highest percentage of accommodation supplements were similar to those areas with higher percentages of arrears.
Taylor said there was a wider debate about whether it was central government or councilsâ role to address social issues.
In May, mayor Gary Tong backed his council’s one-on-one approach to rate relief, where a struggling ratepayer could contact council for help if they needed it, rather than a blanket deferral policy or rate freeze.
At the time, he said that applying criteria for rate relief made people fit into a box.
After some councillors raised concerns about the rate increase proposed at that time, councillors have since ratified a 2.31 per cent rise.