Rate relief on the way for businesses suffering under light rail construction

The construction of light rail on Hunter Street has created financial pressure for many small to medium businesses operating in the CBD.
The construction of light rail on Hunter Street has created financial pressure for many small to medium businesses operating in the CBD.

NEWCASTLE City Council hopes to alleviate some of the financial pressure small to medium businesses are feeling due to current light rail works in the CBD.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of savings would be passed on to businesses across Newcastle's city centre under a draft Newcastle City Council rate assistance plan.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes has drafted an amendment to the council's 2018-2019 Budget.

It is designed to assist with the financial pressure some businesses are feeling due to the current light rail works in the CBD.

"Rate relief is one way we can help. The NSW government can also provide support to match councils proposal,” Cr Nelmes said. 

"Property owners have been largely protected from the financial impact of light rail, given struggling small businesses have continued to pay their rent while suffering income declines of more than 25 per cent in many cases.

"Furthermore, landlords are already benefiting from surging property values courtesy of the $650 million being invested in the construction of a light rail."

Currently, Newcastle City Council collects more than $850,000 a year through a special rate applied to commercial property owners in Newcastle across four precincts; Civic Precinct, Darby Street, East End and West End.

These funds are then dispersed for business improvement and promoting businesses throughout the CBD.

Under the Lord Mayor's proposal, the council would offer commercial property owners assistance of up to 50 per cent of the special rate if they committed in writing to pass the saving on to small businesses operating on their premises.

"The exact amount depends on the special rate calculated for each property - it varies depending on the property's value," Cr Nelmes said. 

In some cases, savings to small businesses could be up to $2000.

"If 100 per cent of properties were to seek the full 50 per cent rebate, that would amount to a total $429,000 in rate relief passed on to the CBD's small businesses," Cr Nelmes said.

"This is a one-off measure that would take effect when property owners are levied the special rate in July.