Lifestyle

New lending rules threaten to scuttle ‘flagship’ sustainable homes scheme


Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington faces possible censure at the council's meeting on Thursday.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington faces possible censure at the council’s meeting on Thursday.

Waikato residents hoping a new sustainable housing scheme will help them adapt their homes to cope with climate change are threatened by new national lending rules.

And Waikato regional councillors plan to come out all guns blazing to get an exemption from the rules to stop their “flagship” scheme being scuppered.

The scheme, Eco Retrofit, could see the council borrowing as much as $35 million at preferential rates over 10 years to provide up to $15,000 to individual households. Funds would help pay for installing the likes of insulation, double-glazing, energy efficient heating and solar panels.

Repayments would be made through a voluntary targetted rate, making the scheme cost neutral for general ratepayers. The Waikato scheme, similar to a number of others offered by councils nationally, was due to start in the 2022-23 financial year. There was strong community support during the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan process.

READ MORE:
* CCCFA rules are bad, but they’re slowing the ‘abnormal’ increase in home lending, economist says

But councillors at their Wednesday meeting agreed to defer voluntary rating for the scheme till the 2023-24 year. It followed advice on the difficulties of running the scheme under controversial new regulations in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA).

The council will now work actively with others in the local government sector to get such voluntary targetted rate schemes exempted from the CCCFA.

At the council meeting, Cr Denis Tegg described the delay as “really frustrating”. The law change had “thrown a spanner in the works”, he said.

29072021 News Photo: TOM LEE/STUFF - Waikato Regional Council members sitting in the new council chambers. Denis Tegg

Stuff

29072021 News Photo: TOM LEE/STUFF – Waikato Regional Council members sitting in the new council chambers. Denis Tegg

It was “crazy” to have an ongoing roadblock to the scheme but “this hiccup is not fatal to the project as a whole”, Tegg said.

Chairman Russ Rimmington said the act was well-intentioned but “this catch-all of the CCCFA has had unintended consequences”.

Rimmington said the council needed to implement a communications strategy to fight for an exemption, noting that Housing Minister Megan Woods “doesn’t take my calls”.

“We’ve got to politely start banging tables.”

Chief executive’s office manager Karen Bennett said Commerce Minister David Clark had already been written to and approaches to other ministers were being considered.

09122021 News Photo: TOM LEE/STUFF - Waikato Regional Council meeting discussing racist comments made by Chairman Russ Rimmington at a Local Government Newzealand Hui on 3 waters reform

Tom Lee/Stuff

09122021 News Photo: TOM LEE/STUFF – Waikato Regional Council meeting discussing racist comments made by Chairman Russ Rimmington at a Local Government Newzealand Hui on 3 waters reform

Cr Andrew MacPherson said there was lots of “political capital” tied up in the scheme and the council needed to push hard, with letters alone not enough.

“If that means flights to Wellington, I would be encouraging that.”

Chief executive Chris McLay noted a changed political environment meant it was harder to get access to ministers in Wellington.

But, McLay added, staff would seek to arrange face to face meetings in Wellington with politicians or virtual conversations at the least.

Cr Hugh Vercoe was worried lobbying could be futile, suggesting it might be unlikely councils would secure an exemption to the CCCFA. He noted how pervasive its provisions were amongst various sectors.

“I am not comfortable we will get an exemption on this for local government,” Vercoe said.

Bennett said the intention was to ensure that an exemption was definitely going to happen before staff did any more significant work on the scheme.

The council has said no scheme costs will be met by general ratepayers as successful EcoRetrofit applicants would meet all administration and interest charges.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

close