Informal Workshop Notes
Rates Remission – Long Term Plan 2024-2034
Held: 1:00 pm, Thursday 25 May 2023, Council Chambers, Regional House, 1 Elizabeth Street, Tauranga and via Zoom (Audio Visual Meeting)
Deputy Chairperson: Deputy Chairperson Jane Nees – Acting Chair for this Workshop
Present: Cr Malcolm Campbell
Cr Matemoana McDonald
Cr Kat Macmillan
Cr Ron Scott
Cr Ken Shirley
Cr Paula Thompson
Cr Lyall Thurston
Cr Andrew von Dadelszen
Cr Te Taru White
Cr Kevin Winters
In Attendance: Mat Taylor – General Manager, Corporate; Kumaren Perumal - Chief Financial Officer; Olive McVicker – Corporate Performance Team Lead; Gillian Payne – Principal Advisor; Mark Le Comte - Principal Advisor Finance (via Zoom); Jo Pellew – Rates Manager; Charlie Roddick - Kaitohutohu Matua, Whenua Māori (Rates Specialist); Steve Groom – Governance Manager; Merinda Pansegrouw – Committee Advisor.
Review of Rates Remission and Postponement Policy - Principles and Objectives
· Sought direction from Councillors on the following:
o Principles and objectives to enable staff to develop working draft for Rates Remission Policy
o Consideration of areas where there would be a big impact when the interim policy expired
o Approach to financial hardship
o Opportunities for new remissions to be investigated
· Next steps would include engagement with Māori landowners/occupiers; identification/engagement with targeted general land owners/explore policy options.
1. Implied principles and objectives
Derived Principles (Attachment 1, Table 1)
· Principles as extracted from the existing Rates Remission and Postponement Policy – June 2022 (RRPP):
Potential new principles (Attachment 1, Table 2)
· Included additional principles and objectives identified as part of the policy analysis process
· Was in response to feedback received at a Council Workshop held in September 2021: to keep the policy clean and simple, to consider incentives to be linked to the core business of Council/opportunities in flood prone land management, but not to contradict or override incentives given by other territorial local authorities or other policies and grants offered by BOPRC Toi Moana:
2. Areas where there will be a big impact when the interim policy expires (Attachment 2, Item 1, Section 4.1)
2.1 Key Direction 1
Which is more important for BOPRC’s policy - Regional consistency or inter-council consistency?
· This was mainly considering trade-offs between whether Council wanted to have policies that applied to the whole region uniformly or whether there were instances where Council believed that it should closely follow what the TLAs were doing
· Emphasised that this was not an “all or nothing” choice
· Councillors may want to identify areas of the policy that should be regionally consistent, and areas that would be clearer to ratepayers if this was consistent with TLA policies
· As an additional dimension to consider, the policies, as applied by the various TLAs, could differ quite extensively, from generous to limited.
· Supported BOPRC Toi Moana’s sovereignty in determining its own rates across the region, supported regional consistency
· Supported Option 1A: “BOPRC will endeavour to treat similar properties and ratepayers across the Bay of Plenty in a similar way”.
2.2 Key Direction 2:
Which is more important for BOPRC’s policy – predictability of the outcome of an application (i.e., if policy criteria are met there is an entitlement) or flexibility for staff to make judgements based on knowledge gained in applications (no automatic entitlement, but considerations clear in the policy.)
Key Points :
· Pointed out that policies could be written to provide strong predictability of decisions by reading the policy (having tight criteria to establish eligibility may imply automatic entitlement if criteria met)
· Alternatively, policies could be worded so judgement was applied on a case by case basis (more enabling criteria, drawing guidance from principles/less predictable results for ratepayer applicants/less transparent, unless decisions were well documented; regular oversight to assure consistent decision-making).
· Guidelines needed to be clear/transparent; fair/concise
· Needed to minimise grey areas
· Preferred option: Flexibility for staff to make judgements based on knowledge gained in applications (no automatic entitlement, but considerations clear in the policy.)
3. Sports Clubs and Recreation Land
Key Points :
· Legislation treated similar land uses/facilities differently, depending on ownership and who was running the facility
· Legislation reflected particular views on racing and liquor licences
· TLAs had different policies that expressed their own views of public benefit and fairness
· Councillors may want to consider community organisations separately from sports and recreation, or together
· Provided an overview of the current rates remissions as applied by the various TLAs’ policies
· Noted that golf clubs/courses; and sports clubs were treated differently across the region.
· Requested financial modelling and implications analysis for a scenario where a “legislated route” be followed, region wide
· Principles to be applied: simplicity/transparency/consistency
· Requested that further investigation be undertaken and that financial modelling be done based on the legislated route to demonstrate the impact across the region
· Needed to understand why the TLAs had applied specific policies in their regions
· Could consider a transition period to implement new policy
· Directed staff not to proceed with any signalling to sports clubs of the possibility that remissions may end or change/seek views from affected organisations as yet, as further investigation was required.
4. Community Organisations
· Remissions covered halls, charities, social organisations, arts, community facilities and showgrounds.
· Staff to obtain further information from the various TLAs as to why particular policies had been applied in their areas to enable a better understanding of current arrangements
· Staff to undertake further analysis: requested that financial modelling, based on legislative requirements (i.e. the status quo, and the option with a 100% scenario, along with any anomalies) be provided at a future workshop.
· Noted that in terms of legislation, all three criteria needed to be met by general land owners in order for properties to be treated as one
· Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne District Councils had some variations in their respective policies
· Tauranga and Rotorua did not have specific policies dealing with contiguous properties, but had other policies under which exceptions could be made.
· Supported the principle that the legislative minimum requirements as prescribed by the Local Government Rating Act 2002 (Section 20) be applied
· Requested staff to provide further information relating to any outliers and discrepancies.
6. Approach to Financial Hardship
· Currently there were very few remissions given by BOPRC for financial hardship
· Given that the TLAs’ policies were variable, BOPRC’s approach was not consistent across the region
· Criteria in the current Council policy was two-fold; required:
o eligibility for central government’s rates rebate scheme (means tested) and
o that the applicant was getting a remission/postponement from their TLA for financial hardship
· Noted that there were two aspects that needed to be considered: policy setting and the administrative support required to implement the policy.
· Supported the application of a region-wide policy in the approach to financial hardship
· Noted that the criteria in the current Council policy allowed for applicants who were getting a remission or postponement from their TLA for financial hardship. However, should this be a new applicant applying afresh, the criteria should be extended: that the applicant be deemed “eligible”.
7. Ideas for new remissions (Section 5)
· Supported staff to undertake further analysis, pursue ideas and provide Councillors with further information
· Staff to provide an estimate on the implications of the proposed ideas for remissions/provide an idea of the scale involved/full cost implications to the community/potential rates that would be foregone.
Key Point – Members:
· Thanked staff for the excellent report and acknowledged the huge amount of work that has gone into the preparation of the workshop pack.
· As directed, staff to undertake further analysis and prepare contents for consideration at a future Long Term Plan 2024-2034 Workshop
· The Māori Rates Remission Engagement Plan on Māori Freehold Land included for consideration at the Komiti Māori meeting scheduled for 20 June 2023.
2.40 pm – The workshop closed.