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Far North takes softly approach to ghost rates

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Far North mayor John Carter says the $20 million bill for unpaid rates in his district isn't real, and the council is trying to work with Māori landowners on how they can get their land productive enough to start paying rates.

A hui was held in Kaitaia this week to voice concern at the issuing of the annual demand for rates arrears and penalties.

Mr Carter says the council isn't counting on getting much of that money, but has to go through the process because of the laws around rating.

The demands can't be enforced because the council can't force the sale of multiply-owned Māori land, but it may be able to help owners get more benefit from their whenua so they can start paying rates.

"And we've got some success. We're just starting quietly. We've been working on it for some time now. We've got a group of people in our council who go and talk with the landowners and we are making very slow but some steady progress as we sit and talk rationally and sensibly about how we might make this positive for all of us," Mr Carter says.

He says the government needs to address issues around rating Māori land, but that work was put on hold at the election.

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