Smith to hit councils with late fees

BY COLIN ESPINER
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2010

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Regional councils charging late fees for rates payments are about to get some of their own medicine.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has outlined details of "financial incentives" for councils who fail to process resource consent applications within the statutory 20 days.

Under the changes, which the Government wants in place by July, councils that are up to a week late in processing a resource consent must provide a discount of 25 per cent of their fee. A further 5 per cent discount will be added for every week the consent is delayed, up to a maximum of 80 per cent.

Draft regulations already sent out to councils set out procedures for determining fault.

"It has long been councils' policy that a penalty is loaded on ratepayers for failing to pay rates on time. If it's good enough for the goose, it's good enough for the gander," Dr Smith said. The rules were only minimum discounts, and councils wishing to offer free consents for late processing could still do so.

"This new policy is about recognising that time is money. New Zealand's economic recovery cannot be held back by inefficient and costly red tape." Dr Smith said there had been a growth in late consents (more than 20 working days) from 21 per cent in 2000 to 59 per cent in 2008.

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