Gore ratepayers offered ‘breather’

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Gore district residents who are worried about struggling to make rates payments will be pleased to know they are being offered a “breather”.

Chief executive Stephen Parry said that was necessary to meet challenges caused by the Covid-19 lockdown period.

“We’re in a situation of economic and health crises,” Mr Parry said.

At a meeting of the Gore District Council on Wednesday, councillors unanimously moved to approve a Covid-19 short-term rates deferral policy.

Rates for the fourth quarter of the financial year are due on May 29. However, ratepayers will be able to apply to defer this payment .

If needed they would also be able to defer payment for the next quarter too.

The policy provided for a deferral and not a remission, Mr Parry said.

“It’s important to understand.”

Ratepayers would be able to apply for the deferral online.

The council would work with applicants to make a repayment plan that was “sustainable and acceptable to both parties,” Mr Parry said.

The council “should be able to manage” implementing the policy without further borrowing, he said.

Under the policy, ratepayers could defer making payments until August 31.

During the meeting the council decided to drop the proposed requirement of evidence of hardship.

It would be sufficient for applicants to declare that they were experiencing difficulty.

The change was suggested by councillor Bret Highsted.

“If someone’s prepared to declare that they’ve got financial hardship . . . that’s enough,” Mr Highsted said.

“I think that’s the time we’re in.”

“There are some in our community that are really feeling the pinch financially.”

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said the policy was an empathetic response.

“We know by the phone calls we’ve been getting in the last week that people are worried about their rates,” Mr Hicks said.