Northland councils are looking closely at how to proceed with their rates notices amidst increasing economic and social impacts from the Covid-19 lockdown.
Final rates payments for the current 2019/2020 financial year are due in six weeks (by May 20), the rates demands for these ordinarily due before the end of April.
Northland Mayoral Forum chairman Jason Smith said Northland councils were duty-bound to be sending out rates payment requests for the last part of this financial year.
"The final quarter rates notifications are expected to be going out soon," he said.
"But we are mindful there's a health emergency going on with great concern in our Northland communities in these unprecedented times.
"Northland councils all have provisions and processes in place for assisting people in hardship," Smith said when asked about rates payment.
He said Far North District Council (FNDC), Kaipara District Council (KDC), Whangarei District Council (WDC) and Northland Regional Council (NRC) were all currently looking at how to address rates payments for the tail end of this current 2019/2020 financial year - which finishes on June 30.
"It's a fast moving situation," Smith said.
They were also working on rates matters going into the new 2020/2021 financial year – which starts of July 1.
Potential 2020/2021 rates rises, initially indicated as recently as two weeks ago in councils' draft annual plan preparation for the coming year, were now being potentially reconsidered among a range of options.
"Former projections, plus many other options, are all on the table for councils to get the best outcomes for our communities in these unparalleled times," Smith said.
KDC's initial draft 2020/2021 annual plan proposed an average 5.49 per cent rates increase. WDC and FNDC did not provide information on their draft annual plans' equivalent figures.
The public consultation period for some councils' draft 2020/2021 annual plans has already closed - as is the case for NRC. FNDC's annual plan consultation closes on April 17.
Smith said rates funded, in large part, critical Northland infrastructure including rubbish collection, drinking water, wastewater, sewage and local roads.
It was important for Northland's wellbeing to, as much as possible, have a business as usual approach to these.
He would not be drawn on whether Northland councils would be offering any respite such as rates postponement, holidays or freezes.
"We're working very hard to get the best solutions for the community."
Smith said the recent Taxpayers Union call for a 12-month rates freeze did not offer the best way forward for Northland.
Perceived potential short-term gain from such an action would create potential long-term pain for Northlanders.
"That sort of thinking is very much in primary colours when the situation's so much more complex than that," he said.
Smith said councils were, under the Local Government Act, duty bound to work towards the ratepayer-funded costs of things such as critical infrastructure being borne by those who used it now rather than shifting the payment debt for this on to future generations.
He said rates were at present the "top of mind" issue for all Northland councils.
Councils had to balance considerations around rates with ensuring they were positioned to play their role as critical regional recovery catalysts in the journey out of Covid-19.
Smith recently launched the Kaipara Mayor's Taskforce for Economic Support and Recovery with this purpose in mind, to focus on economic support and recovery for businesses and residents.