Wellington councillors vote for six months rates holiday

7:29 pm on 9 April 2020

Wellington councillors have voted to allow some residents a six months rates holiday.

An overview of Wellington city during the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown.

An overview of Wellington city during the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

In an extraordinary council meeting this afternoon over online video conferencing, councillors agreed to let some businesses and residents apply to defer their June rate payment to the end of the year.

It won't apply to property owned or occupied by central government agencies, and for businesses to qualify they will have to have successfully applied for Covid-19 related support from the government.

There will be rent relief for council tenants, and hospitality businesses will only be charged a nominal fee for inspections and alcohol licences.

Councillors carried an amendment from Jenny Condie to start charging for parking and enforcing fines two weeks after the city returned to Covid-19 alert level three. The council's pandemic plan had initially proposed keeping free parking in place in the city until the end of June.

Up to $1 million raised from parking - topped up with an additional $500,000 - is to be allocated in community grants.

Councillors also voted for officials to prepare a draft annual plan with the option of a 4.95 percent rates increase or 2.15 percent to go for public consultation.

The council expects to lose about $70m because of loss of revenue due to Covid-19.

Before the pandemic, the council had intended to boost rates 7 percent each year for the next four years.

Mayor Andy Foster said the council needed to weigh up looking after the community by not hiking rates, while not lowering them so much as to cripple the council financially and hollow out the services it could provide.

Councillors also agreed to establish a city recovery fund of about $8m from its existing budget to support initiatives that will drive economic recovery after Covid-19, and set up an advisory panel for the council, businesses and government agencies to work together on recovery issues.

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