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Local bodies sting utility firms for network rates

By Rob Hosking

Friday 14th April 2000

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Telecom has started paying rates on its cables in the street for the first time.

Telcos, electricity and gas companies will all face huge local body rate hikes as the government valuation body, Quotable Valuation, devises a way for local councils to charge utility companies rates for their networks.

One local authority, Auckland City Council, has already imposed rates charges on businesses, including Telecom and the government-owned electricity transmission firm Transpower, for non-building structures such as wires, ducts, manholes, cables and poles.

In the past, rates have not been imposed on such structures, mainly because historically the bodies that owned them were either council- or government-owned agencies.

But with many such entities either fully privatised or being run as state-owned enterprises and with businesses such as Clear Communications, Telstra Saturn, and TransAlta building their own networks, local councils see utility firms as prime targets for further levies.

"Some form of rating system is yet to be imposed but it looks like it will go ahead at some point," Telstra Saturn business development manager Sean Wynne said.

Telecom said it was already paying network rates to the Auckland City Council.

"While we'd obviously like to minimise our costs, we're not taking issue with the levy," Telecom spokesman Angus Barclay said.

He would not say how much Telecom was paying or when it expected to pay similar rates elsewhere.

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