• Patrick McBride

Westland announces proposed rates freeze

Westland District Council has proposed to freeze its rates at current levels for the 2020/21 year to help ratepayers manage their costs as they work through the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their homes, jobs and businesses.

2019 Fox River landfill clean up.

PHOTO: Patrick McBride

“Keeping rates affordable in these uncertain times has been Council’s biggest concern in developing the Draft Annual Plan 2020/21,” says Mayor Bruce Smith. “Council decided that freezing rates was the best way to give people certainty. Very few people will see changes in their rates bill this year.”

The Mayor noted that for those people who do see changes in their rates bill, it will be because they have added a council service, such as a water connection during the year, or changed to a different rate type as a result of closing a business.

Chief Executive, Simon Bastion advises that Council has taken a number of steps to freeze rates at the same rate factor as in 2019/20, including cancelling the planned Emergency Contingency Fund Rate, deferring previous year’s capital expenditure loan payments and reducing operating expenditure in areas such as staff training and new hires.

“Reduced rates will not be sustainable over the long term,” warned Mr Bastion.

“Council will have to make some difficult decisions about rates in the next Long Term Plan to meet our obligations to maintain and improve our levels of service, and increase resilience against natural hazards and for our infrastructure network. Council is also clear that if the community asks for additional funding in this financial year they will have to pay for it in the next financial year, from 1 July 2021.”

While Council plans a zero rate increase, there are still a number of topics that it is seeking the community’s views on through the Draft Annual Plan Consultation Document. These are capital projects that will not impact on the 2020/21 rates and requests from community groups.

The Consultation Document and Draft Annual Plan are now available on the Council’s website for public feedback. Consultation will run from 8am, Thursday 7 May to 5pm, Sunday 7 June 2020. A hearing for those who would like to speak to their submissions will be held on Thursday 16 June 2020, and Friday 17 June if there are a large number of speakers.