COVID-19 appears to have had little impact on property owners’ ability to pay their rates, with the three Eastern Bay district councils collecting a similar percentage as last year.

There had been discussion around the Opotiki, Kawerau and Whakatane council tables that the Covid-19 economic downturn might result in councils collecting less rates as people struggle with their finances.

Although the final rates take for the 2019-20 financial year was good, council staff speculate the worst is yet to come.

Opotiki District Council received 88 percent of the rates payable for last quarter and Kawerau District Council received 97.1 percent.

Whakatane District Council did not provide figures for the quarter but said it had received 87.38 percent of its rates payable for the last financial year.

Opotiki council finance and corporate services group manager Bevan Gray said the final rate take was consistent with previous years.

The Opotiki council had been encouraging ratepayers to get in touch with the council directly to work on payment plans or talk through their issues.

He said there had been only one request for rates postponement since lockdown, but the council expected the full financial impacts of Covid-19 to be felt in the community in the next financial year.

“That is why council’s planning is focused on getting further traction with existing projects and new initiatives with long-term economic benefits and sustainable employment for the community,” he said.

“Opotiki council is taking a long-term view of the Covid-19 crisis and the impact it will have on ratepayers – this isn’t about just a single quarterly payment; it is about long-term economic recovery in the district.

“Long-term trends may be a more useful metric as many in the community have had continued income through the level three and four national rahui through the wage subsidy scheme.

“So, this quarter, rates invoices can be paid as any other household cost. However, for households that have lost jobs or faced reduced wages, it is likely to be a longer-term matter. It makes our role in recovery and the development of strong resilient industries and new infrastructure in the district and the jobs that go with that increasingly important,” he said.

Mr Gray said whatever the circum-stances, talking the matter through with council in the first instance was always preferable.