Rates tipped to rise 5.2 per cent

A report to councillors at last Tuesday’s special council meeting said proposed differential rates and minimum rate payments would deliver this overall rates rise.

Figures were in line with feedback from budget workshops attended by councillors and executive staff.

However, the council must consider any public submissions on the proposals before finalising its budget, the report said.

Corporate services director Mike Tidy said recommended differential rates/minimum payments ensured a shared rate burden between residential, commercial and industrial properties, both developed and vacant.

Mr Tidy said the council’s differential between improved and vacant land encouraged development of vacant blocks.

‘In respect to (undeveloped land), a higher differential rate imposed on vacant land than the rate applicable for improved land acts as an inducement to develop vacant land,’ he said.

South-East ward councillor John Chester opposed differential rating, particularly for unimproved residential properties where owners might be saving to build a home.

‘I do not believe a lot of people are necessarily (holding on to vacant land) for speculation,’ he said.

‘I think it is a case of undeveloped residential properties being an easy target.’

Mayor Troy Pickard said there were about 1000 undeveloped lots in the city. He said it was important that local authorities ensured release of vacant land to achieve a maximum population to benefit schools and businesses.

‘This sends an important message to those that want to sit on land,’ he said of the differential rating, which the council introduced five years ago.

The meeting agreed to apply differential rates to its 2013-2014 draft budget, and to advertise the proposal before considering a further report.