Poor take the weight

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Heather McCracken

POORER house­holds will face the big­gest rates hikes un­der a pro­posed rates reshuffl at Auck­land City Coun­cil.

The move would push more of the rates bur­den on to low-in­come ar­eas while ben­e­fit­ing wealthy sub­urbs, op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors say.

A plan to dou­ble the uni­form an­nual gen­eral charge was ap­proved by coun­cil­lors at a 10-year plan meet­ing on Tues­day.

Deputy mayor David Hay said the change was partly a “claw-back of the poor de­ci­sionof the last term”.

He said it was a fairer way of dis­tribut­ing rates and would even out rate swings as a re­sult of val­u­a­tion changes.

Other coun­cils in the Auck­land re­gion also have a higher fixed charge, he said.

The plan would see the flat rate, which is levied on all prop­er­ties re­gard­less of value, soar from $162 to $350.

It would mean lower-value prop­er­ties face higher rates in­creases be­cause less of the to­tal rates bill will be cal­cu­lated on prop­erty value.

A prop­erty owner pay­ing $1000 a year in rates might see a rise of 3 to 4 per­cent above the av­er­age in­crease, said fi­nance gen­eral man­ager An­drew McKen­zie.

Com­bined com­mit­tee chair­man Doug Arm­strong was chal­lenged to jus­tify the $350 rate at Tues­day’s meet­ing.

But he said it would “take such a long time to ex­plain”.

“There’s an ar­gu­ment for equal­ity, fair­ness. There is a set of ra­tio­nale,” he said.

City Vi­sion-Labour leader Richard Northey said the change was wrong and couldn’t be jus­ti­fied.

“The only one I’ve heard is sack the poor,” he said.

Coun­cil­lor Glenda Fryer said the move was pay­back for wealthy sub­urbs who voted for Cit­i­zens & Ratepay­ers.

“It’s ab­so­lutely wrong,” she said.

Ms Fryer said fixed rates at other coun­cils in the

re­gion were lower than Auck­land’s once wa­ter charges were in­cluded in the equa­tion.

Mas­sive cuts to foot­paths, swim­ming pools, stormwa­ter up­grades and traf­fic projects were also detailed at the meet­ing on Tues­day.

The pro­posed changes to the coun­cil’s 10-year plan aim to cap rates in­creases at 5 per­cent.

But the coun­cil will still spend a record $505 mil­lion on cap­i­tal projects in the next fi­nan­cial year, says chief ex­ec­u­tive David Rankin.

“The av­er­age through the 10-year plan is about $370m a year,” he said.

“I think it’s a com­mend­able ef­fort that we’re able to do that whilst at the same time hold­ing rates to the rate of coun­cil’s inflation.”

Mayor John Banks said the coun­cil had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to tighten its belt dur­ing the tough eco­nomic times to come.

“The coun­cil’s re­spon­si­bil­ity is to the peo­ple that elected us, and 12 months ago they said no to out-of-con­trol spending and yes to af­ford­able progress.”

Mr Northey said the coun­cil was be­ing urged to main­tain spending to bol­ster the econ­omy.

“There are se­nior min­is­ters seek­ing our col­lab­o­ra­tion in main­tain­ing and de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture in or­der to main­tain eco­nomic growth.

“The Auck­land econ­omy is vi­tal to the coun­try.”

The coun­cil now sub­mits the draft 10-year­plan to Au­dit NZ for re­view be­fore adopt­ing it for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion in March.

The pub­lic will have a say on the rec­om­men­da­tions from April 17.

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