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Waitaki district councillors have unanimously agreed to work towards a 0% rates rise in the 2020-21 financial year.

An emergency council meeting was held on Friday to shift the council’s focus from business-as-usual to essential services to support Waitaki communities through the next four weeks and beyond.

“The increasing call from the community and different organisations is that we should be looking at as close to zero as we can be,” Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said.

Options for the move would likely be presented to councillors in May and confirmed in June.

“There are not really any easy savings, but we’ll look at that,” Mr Kircher said.

“The other option is doing what we were going to do and loan fund.”

Friday’s decision and the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown meant there would be no consultation on the annual plan.

The council would not collect any more money in the 2020-21 year, but rates for individual households could change slightly

“Because you pay depending on what things are being done in your area,” Mr Kircher said.

On March 18, councillors earmarked up to $2million from the council’s disaster fund for a stimulus and support package.

At yesterday’s meeting it was agreed funds would be distributed through the council’s existing channels, including the mayoral relief fund, the grants and awards committee, and the economic development grant, to help individuals and families, community organisations and businesses.

The most immediate action would be removing penalties for late payment of the next installment of rates, and waiving parking fees and credit card fees for payments to the council.

Councillors also approved an emergency delegations committee to allow swift decision-making if quorum could not be reached due to illness or technological issues during the lockdown.

It would comprise Mr Kircher, deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale and one other councillor whose portfolio aligned to the matter.

Until further notice, Waitaki District Council meetings will be held virtually as amendments made to the Local Government Act this week allow a quorum to be filled remotely.