Auckland churches hit with biblical rates' rises

5:59 pm on 25 August 2018

Auckland Council will urgently review the rates' bills of the city's churches after hundreds were issued huge rises - one of 6900 percent.

A man with a calculator inspects a line of houses stacked on top of gold coins.

Photo: 123RF

The council issued new rates' bills, without consultation, to hundreds of churches earlier this month, claiming many were using all or parts of their property for business, not religious purposes.

One church in central Auckland, which asked not to be named, received an increase of 6900 percent, from $400 to $28,000.

Acting chair of the council's Finance and Performance Committee, and Orakei ward councillor, Desley Simpson, said churches did not have to pay the new rates' bills until councillors and the mayor could reach agreement.

"There's been no actual political oversight about really where council sits in regard to the church property; there's been no political decision making on that.

"I've asked the finance team to contact the churches who have had rates' rises and give them the opportunity to defer that payment, not pay the first quarter [due this Friday], until a full report has come."

A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, Lyndsay Freer, said if the church had to pay the new rates bills it would have a "huge impact".

"It's a lot of money we're talking about, and for us there's a considerable lack of clarity.

"We understand that the rates are for premises on our properties that are not used specifically for the purposes or worship, but we do have many buildings and facilities that are used for pastoral and not-for-profit work.

"There really does need to be clarification around what would qualify and what wouldn't."

Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor Daniel Newman said churches in his community would have to cut services they provided rates bills stood.

"And these are services that are absolutely intrinsic and crucial for the wellbeing of the communities that they serve.

"The cost to the churches and the consequential cost to the community affected by these charges will be horrendous and I don't think it will be sustainable, certainly not in the community I represent in South Auckland."