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Rates remission change will cost some charities  

Jessica Swan
oak development trust
Volunteers at Riccarton Community Day  Oak Development Trust

Proposed rate changes in the council’s long-term plan will cost some charities more than just dollars.

Currently, not-for-profits can qualify for a 50 to 100 percent reduction of their rates to provide support for their community work.

But the amendment to the remission policy means these organisations with high cash balances will no longer be eligible for the reduced fee.

Instead, these charities will only qualify for the remission if they have a financial balance less than 50 times the GST exclusive council rates for that property. This means if their GST exclusive council rates are $5000, their cash and investments can’t exceed $250,000.

For Riccarton Baptist Church, one of the organisations affected by the policy change, they are concerned it will inhibit their ability to provide the full extent of community services they presently offer.


Geoff Ngataierua explains the impact of the changes to the rates remissions policy on his church

Church manager Geoff Ngataierua explains it will add over $2000 to their expenses – which is significant when they run predominantly on donations.

“It will impact us because it means the costs that are involved in running the facility we have here are going to significantly increase. The events we provide are at little or no cost to people, and we want to keep it that way." 

Ngataierua says they’re involved in diverse and important activities impacting the wellbeing of Riccarton. 

Their buildings are used to host: the Oak Development Trust, language classes for the Christchurch Zhonghua Chinese Society and Canterbury Tamil Society, the Korean Cultural Choir, digital literacy classes through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and meetings and events for Appetite for Life, Oranga Tamariki, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Riccarton Social Group.

However, without similar continued financial support from the Government, the prices they charge outside groups will have to increase – and how they go about community work will have to adapt.

To protect these services, Ngataierua is asking for council to look at the benefits their church offers, and reconsider.

“I’d like for the remissions to remain the same, no change for our organisations and for those who are really adding this difference into the community.”

And it’s not just Riccarton Baptist Church that wants things to continue as they are.

Council is processing 51 submissions to their rates proposal, with 45 organisations opposing and six suggesting alternatives.

At the same time, council is requesting financial balances from 426 not-for-profits in Christchurch, to see if they’ll qualify for remission under the new policy.

Based off the 13 percent who have already submitted their cash and investment accounts, it’s apparent around 1 in 4 organisations will no longer receive the same amount of rates reduction.

However, it’s important to note churches are non-rateable, meaning they pay only sewer and water rates, of which they can get a remission of up to 50 percent.

While their non-rateable status is not at risk with the new policy, the impact on churches such as Riccarton Baptist will lie with the lost remission on sewer and water rates.

Riccarton councillor Catherine Chu says council still needs to show support for these not-for-profits as best they can, but it comes with a price tag.  

“Most councillors acknowledge the work they do and want to help as much as we can, but it does have financial implications.”

Chu says rather than voting a simple yes or no on the matter, council needs to explore what options are available.

She recognises it’s already very difficult for these organisations to raise support, and if the policy is implemented, they need to look at the other ways they can assist these groups without becoming a roadblock.

“We don’t want to be a barrier for people doing awesome work in the community.”

Workshops are under way for councillors before they vote on the long-term plan, to help expose them to the various perspectives and options available. If voted for, the remissions policy will be implemented throughout Christchurch in June.