$3.5m owed to QLDC in overdue rates

by Kim Bowden - Jul 17, 2023

An increasing number of people are failing to pay their council rates – and that’s even before the recent significant rates hike hits home. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council ratepayers face an average 14.2 percent rise in rates for the year ahead and as the cost of living crisis really starts to bite some are predicting non-payments will only continue to grow. 

Approximately $3.5 million is missing from the public purse in the Queenstown Lakes District as owners of 449 properties have not stumped up on rates bills.

The amount owed has jumped by more than $800,000 in one year.

The bulk of outstanding rates are from residential properties – 182 home owners owe the council $1.1 million.

Meanwhile, another $600,000 is owed on 98 vacant sections and $500,000 on 30 country dwellings, while 54 accommodation providers owe $300,000.

The figures were presented in a report this month to members of the council’s Audit, Finance and Risk Committee.

QLDC's finance boss Stewart Burns says unpaid rates are 'not particularly concerning'.

At the meeting, the council’s finance, assurance and risk general manager Stewart Burns played down the numbers, saying they were “not particularly concerning” overall.

“In terms of context, we’ve got 449 properties that are in arrears as at the 30th April, and overall we’ve got over 31,000 rateable units, so that’s around 1.4 percent - that’s risen from around one percent.

“So the numbers are relatively small and we’re keeping an eye on it…There’s nothing too alarming at this point.” 

However committee chair Stuart McLauchlan cautioned the upward movement in numbers was noteworthy.

“Even though it’s only gone from one to 1.4, it’s more the trend, and where it’s going to head with mortgages resetting at up to three times what people were paying,” he told the meeting.

“I think it’s going forward that we need to be concerned or there may be some concern.” 

Committee deputy chair and Arrowtown accountant Heath Copland noted bills were also set to rise and that would further hurt some.

“We’re going to see another rates rise in the coming year, so that puts a bit more pressure on.”

QLDC finance manager Paddy Cribb, who presented the debtor numbers to the meeting, said the council had “put a lot of emphasis into collecting debt from non-mortgage holders”, and that had been successful.

In neighbouring Central Otago District, just shy of $900,000 was owed to the council in rates arrears last year dating back to 2017.

The total outstanding figure is a mix of missing rates and as well as revenue from penalties for late payments.

There are an ever-increasing number of CODC property owners getting behind wit rates payments, with more than $215,000 in rates uncollected in 2022, compared with just $42,000 the year before.

Both councils have policies in place to offer rates relief to property owners experiencing extreme financial hardship.


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