Tararua District Council staff have slashed overdue rates, which are now down to $800,000 from $1.6 million.

"We're down to half of what was owed, but the rest of it is going to get harder," Raj Suppiah, the council's chief financial officer said.

In July last year 1402 bad debtors owned the council $1,658,859, while the balance at March 14 this year was $823,742, which was owed by 355 debtors.

"We've made significant progress, but the remaining $800,000 is higher risk and we'll be actively managing and monitoring payment plans," Mr Suppiah said.

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Mr Suppiah told district councillors a lot of effort has gone into managing and reducing the amount owed.

"There are tough economic times out there, but getting our rates arrears down to half of what they were is significant."

Council staff will focus on the abandoned land debtors this year, as well as working hard to recover money owing from a group of bad debtors who have not made payments so far or have failed to enter an agreement with council, as well as those who have left the district.

Twenty-six owners of abandoned land owe $401,285 - $33,191 of that in penalties.