6 April 2020
Business sector groups will play a key role in developing initiatives to boost the local economy as part of Rotorua’s Build Back Better economic recovery plan.
The framework for the plan was approved by 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.
Also approved on Friday was a rates deferral option for the May 2020 rates instalment as part of immediate action to cushion the impact of COVID-19. It will be targeted at residential ratepayers and businesses most affected and who meet the criteria.
“Our Build Back Better plan includes immediate and longer term actions and takes a view that we’re not just trying to recover but also to build more resilience,” Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says.
“Most elected members agree now is not a time to retrench as that would only make the situation worse. To recover we need to rebuild confidence in our community and economy.
“We are already talking with business leaders, iwi and Government and its agencies and they have expressed support for our approach,” the mayor says.
The plan is based on six key strategies:
- Build on Rotorua’s unique strengths as outlined in the 2017 refresh of the 2030 vision The Rotorua Way (Active environment - He Marae Areare; Strong Culture - He Puna Ahurea; Easy Lifestyle – Rotorua Mauritau; Diverse opportunities – Rotorua Ararau);
- 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.
“Initial actions, to cushion the immediate impact, will include the rates deferral option. Detail and criteria for that are now being worked on and we’ll get more information out about this within the next couple of weeks.
“Council will also prepare for rapid re-start of existing projects to keep businesses in work and people in jobs,” Mayor Chadwick says.
“In terms of positioning for recovery we will identify capital projects we could accelerate and will partner with Government to identify investment options, and our CCO Rotorua Economic Development will work with businesses to set up a steering group and sector groups to drive strategy development.
“We’ll need to revise Council’s financial strategy to take into account cost implications and funding requirements for the next financial year – which will be part of the annual plan process – and we will also need to discuss what we could slow or phase differently,” the Mayor says.
“There is more detail to put on the plan but I think we have a very good, solid framework to move us forward.”
Rates deferral option
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.
“Everyone will be affected to some degree but for this immediate assistance we have focused on those likely to be most significantly impacted,” Mayor Chadwick says.
“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 Council to discuss their situation, as they have always been able to do, and the Rates Rebate Scheme also continues to be available.
Mayor Chadwick says rating decisions for the next financial year will be made alongside the 2020/21 Annual Plan with work on a draft plan underway.
Further details of the recovery plan as it was presented to elected members last week, can be found HERE
What will the criteria for accessing rates deferral be?
Work to develop criteria and other detail relating to the rates deferral option is now underway and the plan is to include this information in the May rates instalment invoice due to be mailed out later this month.
What help can I get if I don’t qualify for the rates deferral option?
As has always been the case, Council is happy to discuss your situation and see if a rates payment arrangement is an option for you. Call our Customer Centre on 07 3484199 to make an appointment.
The national Rates Rebate Scheme is available for low income homeowners. This is administered by the Department of Internal Affairs but councils process applications. You can find out more on Council’s website HERE
When will we know about next year’s rates?
Decisions about rates beyond the May 2020 instalment will be considered as part of development of the 2020/21 Annual Plan.
Work on a draft annual plan is underway and the public will have the opportunity to provide feedback ahead of the plan being finalised and adopted by Council.
Setting of the rates will occur when the annual plan is adopted. That usually happens at the end of June although the Government has, in light of COVID-19, allowed for an extension of that deadline if it is needed.