Residents encouraged to seek rates help

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Dunedin City Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Dunedin residents who are facing financial hardship are being urged to ask for help with their rates.

Dunedin City Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said on Tuesday that the council had no choice legally but to send out rates payment notices.

While the timing was not ideal, the council had a legal obligation to deliver notices to ratepayers in advance of the published instalment due date in May.

The Council was also aware many people would be facing financial hardship during the unprecedented Covid-19 lockdown, and urged those people to ask for help.

Dr Bidrose said rates remained a crucial source of income for all councils, helping ensure the essential services they provided – from drinking water to rubbish collection – continued during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Please do not just stop paying your rates or cancel your direct debit. If rates are not paid then our recovery will be slower, more painful and more expensive next year,” Dr Bidrose said.

“Anyone experiencing financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown should discuss their situation with the DCC to arrange a payment plan.”

Residents needing help can confidentially register their details using a dedicated form on the DCC website (www.dunedin.govt.nz/rates-payment-request-form), and staff will make contact in the coming weeks.

People who cannot access the online form can phone Customer Services on 477-4000 to register details.

In the meantime, affected ratepayers are asked to pay what they can.

No late payment penalties will be imposed for ratepayers facing financial hardship who follow the recommended steps to agree a payment plan.

Other options for the 2020-21 financial year, including lower rates rises, revised budgets and increased borrowing, will also be discussed by councillors through the upcoming Annual Plan process.

The Government is also providing a large income support package, and people who have lost jobs or are on reduced incomes may qualify for the Accommodation Supplement administered through Work and Income (Ministry of Social Development).

Other support is also on offer, including through banks.

Keep up with the latest council Covid-19 information at www.dunedin.govt.nz/COVID-19.