A criteria-based rates deferral option for businesses has been approved for Rotorua businesses in a bid to save the city's economy.

The framework for Rotorua's Build Back Better economic recovery plan was approved by Rotorua Lakes Council on Friday, following a previous decision to align its Covid-19 response to the Government's approach to fight the virus, cushion the impact and position for recovery.

The council also approved a rates deferral option for the May 2020 rates installment as part of immediate action to cushion the impact of Covid-19.

This will be targetted at residential ratepayers and businesses most affected and who meet the criteria.
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The option for deferral of payments for up to 12 months for those who meet the criteria will primarily target the tourism, hospitality, commercial accommodation and retail sectors.

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Details on the criteria for a rates deferral option is currently being developed and this information is hoped to be available in the May rates installment invoice later month.

"Everyone will be affected to some degree but for this immediate assistance we have focused on those likely to be most significantly impacted," Chadwick said.

Business sector groups will play a key role in developing initiatives to boost the local economy as part of the plan.

"We already know that tourism will take some time to be up and running again and hospitality relies heavily on tourism. Many accommodation providers have no or very low occupancy and retail for discretionary spend will likely struggle for some time."

Combined, the sectors being targeted employ about 40 per cent of the local workforce so the rates deferral option will also be available to homeowners who have worked in these sectors and meet the criteria.

Others can contact the council to discuss their situation and the Rates Rebate Scheme continues to be available.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says the immediate assistance is focused on those likely to be most impacted. Photo / File
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says the immediate assistance is focused on those likely to be most impacted. Photo / File

Chadwick said rating decisions for the next financial year would be made alongside the 2020/21 annual plan with work on a draft plan underway.

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the immediate and longer term actions in the plan was to build more resilience as well as recover.

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Most elected members agreed retrenching at this time would make the situation worse.

Talks were underway with business leaders, iwi and Government and its agencies who Chadwick said supported the approach.

The council is also preparing for "rapid re-start" of existing projects to keep businesses in work and people in jobs, Chadwick said.

Capital projects able to be accelerated will be identified and the council will partner with central government to identify investment options.

Council-controlled organisations Rotorua economic development will work with businesses to set up a steering group and sector groups to drive strategy development.

The council would revise its financial strategy to take into account cost implications and funding requirements for the next financial year, looking to what could be slowed or phase differently.

More detail would be added to the plan.

Build Back Better key strategies:
• Build on Rotorua's strengths as outlined in the 2017 refresh of the 2030 vision The Rotorua Way.

• Create a confident business environment that encourages investment and the emergence of new sectors

• Work with business leaders to craft innovative strategies for impacted sectors.

• Position Rotorua as leading the resurgence of tourism and wood processing.

• Leverage central and local Government investment to drive employment in both the short and longer-term.

• Implement locality plans (identified in the district Spatial Plan and part of the housing plan) to connect our communities and transform our city.