Auckland churches are getting a one-year breather before Auckland Council brings in higher rates on facilities not used for religious purposes.
Three months ago the council contacted hundreds of churches telling them to ignore big rates increases, which came into effect this financial year without political input.
Many churches were shocked to receive big rates rises, including the Birkenhead Baptist Church which received a bill of $1080 after previously only paying a waste management charge of about $150. Other churches received increases of up to $20,000.
After council officers reviewed the new policy, councillors have adopted a revised policy to reduce the overall rates bill for churches.
Councillors have also accepted a recommendation from officers not to introduce the new rates until the next financial year, starting in July 2019.
Several church leaders told today's finance committee that rate exemptions should be applied to religious and connected activities, given the role of churches today was broader than simply religious worship.
There was criticism at how the council had introduced the policy and the council has apologised and promised better engagement in future.
Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman said the council was wrong in its initial approach and welcomed a change in policy direction to treat the majority of church property categories as non-rateable.
"The reality of Christian worship is seen in the way churches honour and serve other people. Contributing to the wellbeing of the community is about serving other people, including serving those who are not members of the church.
"Concessions agreed by Auckland Council will go a long way to preserving the mission of churches to enable services such as grief counselling, not-for-profit childcare, foodbanks and support to assist the settlement of refugees," Newman said.