LAND in Gunnedah has gone under the hammer to help recover outstanding rates and charges.
Fifteen properties were auctioned off on behalf of Gunnedah Shire Council which accumulated more than $165,000.
Gunnedah Shire Council manager of finance Kalana Tennakoon said it was the first time in 10 years debt recovery auctions, which were are considered a "last resort", had been carried out.
Occupied land with rates and charges that had remained unpaid for more than five years and vacant land with missed payments of more than one year, were deemed suitable to go to auction.
"This obviously isn't something that council takes lightly," Mr Tennakoon said.
"We look at all other avenues to recover the money."
Before the properties went to auction there were efforts to locate owners, contact neighbours, engage debt recovery agencies, implement payment plans and advertise in the newspaper for payments to be submitted.
All 15 properties were sold on the day of auction, resulting in a revenue of $420,000. But anything that exceeds the $166,541 of outstanding rates will be held in a trust account for six years and then transferred into state revenue.
The properties that went to auction were located in Tambar Springs, Breeza, Curlewis and Gunnedah. One property was removed for auction when charges were paid in full and a number of others were auctioned together as parcels of land.
All 15 properties were vacant at the time of auction, with one being used by squatters who were not the titled land owners.
Mr Tennakoon said there was a diverse range of bidders at the auction, with a mix of local buyers and investors from out of town.
Recovering these unpaid rates and charges is said to help create a more "equitable" situation for residents who pay their rates on time.
Mr Tennakoon said regional councils were also given a key performance indicator (KPI) to keep outstanding rates and annual charges to less than 10 per cent.
"These auctions will help bring that KPI to a more reasonable and better figure," he said.
"Everything we got will go back towards the community for better services and better infrastructure."
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