Waipā District Council has announced a series of rates relief measures – including lower penalty charges and changes to penalty remissions - to help ratepayers struggling financially as a result of Covid-19.

At a Council meeting yesterday, councillors voted in favour of lowering rates penalties from 10 per cent to three per cent and extending payment deadlines for penalty remissions for those hardest hit by the crisis.

Waipā District Council mayor Jim Mylchreest said the measures, now in place for rates due in the current financial year, were in line with recommendations from the Government's Covid-19 Response Unit.

"We've been advised by the response unit to continue issuing rates notices for essential services, such as water, recycling and roading. If residents were to stop paying for these services, we would no longer be able to provide them," says Jim.

"What we can do is help those who are struggling financially by significantly reducing our penalty fee's and extending payment deadlines for ratepayers seeking penalty remissions.

"That means residents who qualify will have much longer to pay their rates and won't be charged a penalty."

Jim says the measures could be applied to any current water rates charges and to the fourth quarter rates charges which were due at the end of May.

It is important for residents needing assistance to contact Council and discuss what options were available.

"We need to hear from you if you and your family are under financial pressure and unable to pay for regular Council-operated services. There are many ways we can help but we need to have that discussion first," says Jim.

The penalty fee reduction will be applied to all rate charges. Applications for penalty remission including the extension of the rates payment deadline can be sent to rates@waipadc.govt.nz and will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Jim says Council was also reviewing its 2020-2021 Annual Plan which was currently out for consultation.

"We are taking a steady approach so we can make decisions based on facts and ensure we are doing the best we can for our communities," says Jim.

Submissions on the Annual Plan will be considered by Council's Strategic Planning and Policy Committee on May 26 before being presented to Council for adoption on 30 June, 2020.