Auckland region alone in big rating spend

Auckland Regional Council looks set to be the only council splashing out in a big way on rates collection because of the impending Local Government Rating Act.

Auckland Regional Council looks set to be the only council splashing out in a big way on rates collection because of the impending Local Government Rating Act.

A Computerworld survey of the other regional councils reveals only Otago may take on a new system, along with Environment Waikato at a later date.

Others will mainly carry on as now, either collecting the money themselves or continuing to have their territorial authorities acting as agents.

Otago regional council finance manager Stuart Lanham says two of its five territorial councils act as collection agents, but it is likely they won’t want to next year, forcing Otago to collect all the money itself.

Otago uses an in-house developed rating system which it was looking to replace anyway, but having to collect from all the districts will make change “more imperative,” he says.

Lanham says the council “is aware” of the Accent Computer system used by other South Island councils and will have a look at using that, or Otago could further develop its own system.

“But an off-the-shelf package may be more safer, more robust,” he says.

A decision is expected early next year.

Environment Waikato is to collect its own rates after some of its 12 territorial councils decided they did not want to collect revenue for it. The regional council presently pays these councils $1 million a year and expects the new system will cost around $1.8 million a year.

The council will use internal systems already in place — a customised land management system and an Oracle financial management package as a “short term” solution for the next two years, says rates and revenue manager Julie Clausen.

“After then, we will see what is in the marketplace, see how other councils are doing, and what has happened to the Rating Bill,” Clausen says.

Environment Canterbury says the nine territorial authorities in its region have agreed “in principle” to continue collecting the rates for it.

Finance head Neil Mayo says negotiations with the councils are underway and he hopes to have them concluded by March.

Most of the councils in the area use systems by GEAC or Napier Computer Systems.

“They are all having them adjusted as we speak. It’s all in progress at the moment,” Mayo says.

But, he added, it was too soon to say what this might cost the councils overall.

Wellington Regional Council will have its territorial councils collecting the money, as now; the only change being the regional council gaining online access to the systems of the other councils, says spokesman Andrew Cutler.

Hawkes Bay Regional Council already sends out bills direct to properties, using software from Napier Computer Systems. The new act will mean mailing an additional 40,000 bills, but the council says no new software will be needed.

Horizons-Manawatu collects some rates itself, with the bulk collected by its territorial authorities. The council has decided to collect all the money itself from next year, and hopes to decide how later this month.

Environment Southland also collects its own rates, using Accent. The software will be upgraded, but little change is likely.

West Coast Regional Council in Greymouth will continue collecting its own rates, also using Accent.

Taranaki region’s three district councils will continue collecting the rates as now.

Environment Bay of Plenty hopes a similar arrangement will continue with its territorial councils.

The territorial authorities collect for Northland Regional Council and will do so next year.

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