The Tararua District Council has sold all 10 plots of abandoned land in an attempt to claw back rating arrears, despite overnight thieves removing a garage on the Dannevirke Hartgill Cres property.
This was phase two of the council's move to sell abandoned land throughout the district and Raj Suppiah, council's chief financial officer, said the offers have all been accepted and now there is a timeframe for purchasers to pay the balance of the amount they owe.
"We're quietly confident we'll settle all the sales as the offers were reasonable," Suppiah told the Dannevirke News. "In the first tender only one purchaser didn't pay, but we sold the land to another person."
Suppiah said those involved in the purchase of this, the second phase land, all appeared "serious purchasers."
However, sale of the Dannevirke Hartgill Cres abandoned section, things didn't go smoothly, with someone stealing the garage on the piece of abandoned land. Council staff had previously cleared the garage of rubbish and beer bottles.
"It was an overnight job," Suppiah said. "Someone came in and just took it, so we had no option but to sell the land as it was. This is a risk for us as we must follow processes and advertise abandoned land for sale. But we'll know for next time and we will be a bit more vigilant."
The council has reported the theft to the Dannevirke Police, but Suppiah said even neighbours were unable to identify the culprits.
In this latest process council sold abandoned land in Eketahuna, Pahiatua and Pongaroa, as well as the one Dannevirke section.
"We've had approximately 19 abandoned land sales to take through the process, but the next group will be the most difficult, as many don't have certificate of titles, so it will be up to us to go through the procedure of acquiring a title," Suppiah said.
Suppiah said there is some anecdotal evidence of a few owners, but council staff will "have to go and find them."
"We are making real progress now," he said. "This had been put into the too hard basket, but we had to make a start and we're pleased with progress.
The district council had collected $535,245 in rates arrears from July 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017, and of the remaining 260 rating units in arrears 40 owed $847,168, made up mainly of abandoned land and the cost of legal processes, council's finance manager, Cameron McKay, told councillors at their March meeting.
Council's hard-core debt arrears have been handed to DMC [Debt Management Central] with orders filed in the district court in February, with the process to advertise and sell the land by tender then getting under way.
McKay told councillors it was important to tackle the properties they could make headway with, as well as working with ratepayers in arrears they were able to deal with, rather than holding up the process.
"Our debtors team continues to work with people who are having difficulty and ensuring plans are in place for [them to] catch up," he said. "We started the year with 1638 ratepayers in arrears and have reduced that to 260."
Suppiah said council's revenue manager Eleanor Roberts and her team were working hard to claw back outstanding rating arrears and she would present a report to district councillors at next month's meeting outlining the results of phase one and two of the abandoned land sales with a recommendation for phase three.