Queenstown council admits major rates cock-up

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Some rates assessments for Queenstown properties in 2012 will be scrapped after a council admission its new system has created “anomalies”.

Homeowners across Queenstown received new council rates bills last week.

The bills included a figure for how much they will pay this year, and an invoice for the first instalment due next month.

Queenstown Lakes District Council acting chief executive Stewart Burns announced this afternoon that annual totals will now be reassessed after some ratepayers’ bills shot up more than 20 per cent while others plummeted.

But ratepayers will still be expected to pay the first instalment invoiced – with future instalments recalculated to account for over or underpayments.

Burns says: “What we didn’t anticipate was the diversity of impact this has had with some ratepayers paying disproportionately more than others and some paying disproportionally less.

“This is not what we had intended.”

Properties most affected include accommodation, such as guest houses and hotels, expensive homes and rural properties.

Ironically, prior to this year’s rates bills the council conducted a rates review with the intention of creating a fairer system.

Mayor Vanessa van Uden says: “Where we have got to was never intended and we are going to fix it.

“Hindsight is a great thing. We can now see that we had two moving targets that did not enable fair distribution. The important thing is we can and will get it sorted.”

Council will start work immediately on an open process to adjust the rates before the second instalment is due in late November.

It will target reductions for properties showing large increases, and increases for properties showing large decreases.

The Rating Act provides the solution in these circumstances. The process over the next two months will include undertaking consultation on a revised rating structure that would address the anomalies and move the rates to a more equitable position overall.

Council will not be seeking any increase in total rates of $48.8 million, rather a fairer redistribution of the same amount.

An extraordinary meeting of the council will be held on Friday.

Burns adds: “We are asking for people to pay instalment one on the basis that we will adjust their rates accordingly for instalment two.

“If this presents a particular difficulty for anyone then we ask them to contact us so we can agree a way through.”

Mountain Scene published concerns last week from a ratepayer and a valuer about increases following the three-year district wide revaluation of property values by Quotable Value NZ Ltd – valuations on which council sets its rates.

Mountain Scene’s article also highlighted the disparity between Quotable Values and actual market values.