Special Rates and Charges Scheme

Sometimes Council will levy special rates or special charges. These are different from general rates and charges because they are levied for particular works or services and they are levied on a limited number of ratepayers.

The Local Government Act enables councils to levy a special rate, a special charge (or a combination of these) to help pay for any council service or activity that will be of special benefit to a particular group of property owners. A "special benefit" is a benefit that is additional to, or greater than, the benefit generally available to other people.

Common examples of special rates or charges include schemes for constructing footpaths, roads, kerbs and channels or drains; and arrangements for providing services like promotion, marketing or economic development (eg for commercial businesses).

While a council may set a special rate or charge for almost any type of activity that the council undertakes, it is limited by provisions of the Act which require special rates and charges to be levied in proportion to special benefits. Before a council proposes a special rate or charge, it must estimate the proportion of the benefits of the proposed works or services that will be of benefit to the people who are liable to pay.

For example, before a council proposes a special charge for a road construction scheme it will calculate what share of the benefits of the road construction will provide for the adjoining properties (improved drainage, reduced dust, better access, etc) compared with general benefits to other people (eg other drivers using the road). The council will limit the total proportion of costs to be paid by all the property owners to their combined share of the benefits.

The Council will also set criteria to determine how the rate or charge will be apportioned between the affected ratepayers. Understanding the way a special rate or special charge is apportioned can be complicated. Refer to Council's Policy for more detail.

The main provision allowing councils to levy special rates and charges is in Section 163 of the Local Government Act 1989.