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Source: Whangarei District Council

This page contains an update from Mayor Sheryl Mai about what Council can do to ease rates after the COVID-19 disruption.

Updated: 8/04/2020 4:58 p.m.

​Whangarei District Council’s elected members have asked staff to review all budgets to see what savings can be made following the Covid-19 lockdown. This includes identifying innovative ways to reduce the rates burden on ratepayers and to seek targeted ways to assist people in these difficult times.

Coming out of this crisis will be difficult for all of us. Businesses and the public sector face tightened budgets and incomes and changes to the way they need to work.

Your Council’s job is to provide the basics that our community need to survive and the foundation on which to build and hopefully to thrive in the future.

Our responsibilities include the infrastructure for healthy and safe water, sanitation and transport systems, waste management, planning and building environmental protections and much more.

An overlooked but equally important role is providing a system of local government that enables community input in to decision making.  This is done through the people it elects, to understand their needs and wants and to represent them.

Your Council has been very aware of ratepayers’ concerns about rates and projects funded by Council during and after the Covid-19 crisis.

Like every business and household in New Zealand, we are trying to work out how Covid-19 will affect us in the short, medium and long term. Given we are two weeks into lockdown, there are still far more questions than answers. Our first priority is to gather as much information as possible before making any decisions.

We are conscious that those decisions will affect our community – directly through rates, but also how we spend those rates, which go back into our community through the contracts we let, the wages our contractors and suppliers pay to our residents, and what those residents then spend that money on.

We need to strike the right balance between investing in our District to keep things moving and speed our recovery while ensuring people can still afford to pay their rates.

This isn’t just about cutting budgets (although that is definitely a consideration) it’s also about making sure that every dollar we spend will do the most to stimulate our local economy while delivering what our community is asking for. We’ll also make sure we keep doing vital maintenance on our core assets, so we don’t end up with even bigger bills later.

We know that some parts of our community are already hurting financially, and we hear their call for no rates rises. And that is where we need to balance the need for core infrastructure and maintenance.  We are also planning for the future, developing recovery and stimulus packages to ensure the best outcome for our community.

It’s still too soon to say where we will land but you have my word, and the word of all Councillors, that we are working diligently to ensure as positive an outcome as we can.

In the meantime, on a very practical level, if you are having trouble paying your rates right now – please get in touch with us on 09 430 4200.

And, remember the Prime Minister’s advice, stay strong and be kind.