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Thursday
Jul272017

Rest-Home Resident Rate-Rebate 'Killed-Off'

This bill has been before Parliament for some months, with apparent bi-partisan support, but has now has been literally killed off by National, who have suddenly got 'cold feet' with its return from the Local Government Select Committee. This was achieved by our one and only esteemed local member - Scott Simpson, who happened to be Chair of that Committee at the time, but who has now been promoted to the Executive.

Simpson asked for another two month delay which the originator of the private Bill, Ruth Dyson was unwilling to grant - she knew that this was simply a tactic to delay it until after the Election, and she had left Parliament, so that it could be killed off once and for all, without blame being ascribed to National. 

The matter was debated in the Chamber last evening, and never have I heard such a bunch of cant and hypocrisy from the Government benches -well, maybe that is an exaggeration. The new Chair, Andrew Bailey from Hunua, in a stumbling, bumbling speech, explained the "complications and administrative difficulties associated with implementing the proposal" - difficulties that both the Local Government Association, and Rest Homes Federation had told the Committee were no difficulty at all.

"It is not a matter of the money" ($5m odd!) - it is the principle of fairness and administration." - this wan and pathetic excuse for a Chairman intoned, and laughter engulfed the House as he explained - "and licence holders may be concerned about privacy in their relationship with the village owner." Have you ever heard such rubbish? It is $640 max. for those who qualify for God's sake - who the Hell is going to be concerned about privacy? If they are, they do not have to apply - simple!

There are about 40,000 single retirees living with 'licences to occupy' who are estimated may stand to benefit to some degree from this Bill by way of equivalent rebates to those enjoyed by property owners. Note that the two pensions of a couple living in the same abode would well exceed the threshold of around $25k. The licences by the way, now constitute 80% of the 'arrangements entered into between retirees and the villages. It has been a irritation for years that access to the government-funded rebate has been denied these people, because of course as things stand, the village owners are quite unable to access the rebates on their behalf, except in the case of exceptions outlined below where councils have ignored the Government's parsimony.

The Bill removes this impediment, and would have allowed the rebates to be direct credited to the licence holders through the annual fees charged by the village owners - no complication, just fairness for all, but somehow, Nationa, aided and abetted by Treasury, managed to get their tight little hands around the throat of the Bill, and kill it off. They said that it may have "unintended consequences" - what utter balderdash!

I hope that come the Election, that every single affected retiree remembers this abject piece of political vindictiveness, and mean spiritedness, but because it will likely receive little publicity, and most may not even be aware of what has happened this late in the piece, the perpetrators may avoid the consequences.

To make matters worse, the Government has conveniently overlooked the fact that Auckland, Kapiti and Thames Coromandel Councils (there may be others in addition!) have taken matters into their own hands and already enacted the changes sought in Ms Dyson' Bill. Here is an extract from the TCDC Rates Remission Policy adopted in 2015:

2.17. Remission for residents of licence to occupy retirement villages 

2.17.1. Objective This remission scheme allows Council to remit rates for residents of retirement village residents who would otherwise qualify for central government’s rate rebate scheme, except they occupy their property under a licence to occupy agreement. The quantum of remission to the retirement village resident will be equal to the equivalent of the government's rates rebate scheme. The remission will be applied to the rates of the retirement village in which the applicant resides, where an agreement exists between the village operator and Council (see more below). The benefit of the rates remission will be passed to the resident.
 
2.17.2. Policy Statement To be eligible for the top-up remission, the applicant must meet the following criteria: 1. The retirement village must be a registered retirement village under the Retirement Villages Act 2003. 2. be a resident of a retirement village under a licence to occupy agreement 3. reside in a unit or apartment that is identified by Council as a separately used or inhabited part of the retirement village to which a separate uniform annual general charge is applied  4. reside in a retirement village that has entered into an agreement with Council to:  a. identify the rates liability for applicants to the scheme b. pass the full benefit of any rates remission granted under this scheme to the successful applicant 5. have resided on the property at the beginning of the rating year (1 July) 6. be an individual, rather than an organisation or trust 7. only one application per unit or apartment will be accepted.
 
Granting of a remission will depend on: 1. the applicant’s gross household income, including any overseas income 2. the share of Council rates payable by the applicant to the retirement village in which the applicant resides  3. the maximum rebate and threshold limits set by central government under its rebate scheme.
 
Central government updates thresholds for its rates rebate scheme each year. The council’s remission for residents of a “license to occupy” within a retirement village is automatically updated for the new thresholds.

The only problem with this Policy, (and as for Auckland & Kapiti) is that the rebate (remission) is a charge that will need to be covered by other rate-payers rather than by the Government as would have been the case had Ruth Dyson's Bill gone through last last evening. It will come back up on the next Members Day, but nothing will happen because its financial implications mean that it will need Government support, which will not be forthcoming as things stand.   

 

 

 

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