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Municipal Property Rates Fiscal Benefit

17 Dec 2020 0
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Protected areas, declared on private or communal land, are key to safeguarding South Africa’s incredible biodiversity and the functioning of ecological infrastructure essential to the benefit of its people and its developing economy. Expanding, governing, and managing protected areas is a costly undertaking and limited resources and capacity, as well as other socio-economic constraints, often hinder conservation efforts. Without effective management, protected areas fail to achieve what they were created for, and without viable and sustainable business operations to support management costs, effective management is no longer feasible.

One way in which protected areas are assisted in becoming financially sustainable, is the fact that municipalities are obligated to exclude these areas from paying municipal property rates, with the exception of portions of such protected areas used for commercial, agricultural or residential purposes. However, this national fiscal benefit in the form of the municipal rates exclusion is not applied consistently by local municipalities.

Environmental Tax Services within Innovative Finance at Wilderness Foundation Africa is celebrating success in assisting a client, declared as a Contract National Park (incorporated as part of Garden Route National Park, Tsitsikamma Section) to access this important national fiscal benefit. Appreciation is expressed to the Bitou Local Municipality located within the Garden Route District Municipality, for implementing the fiscal benefit for qualifying landowners.

Municipalities have the opportunity to use their rates policies to achieve and support national policy objectives as well as their own specific objectives related to South Africa’s natural heritage and environmental targets including natural ecosystems. Numerous gains may be made through this such as fire mitigation by encouraging the clearing of alien invasive plants, flood mitigation through maintaining natural ecosystems such as wetlands, and securing biodiversity priority sites on private and communal land. Furthermore, property rates have the potential to significantly affect land use decisions and habitat loss. Property rates provide an opportunity to incentivise sustainable land use, sound land use behaviour, and to encourage ratepayers to formally declare protected areas and conserve biodiversity which underpins human health and well-being as well sustainable economic growth.

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