A supercity will mean lower rates – yeah right
So much of the supercity is about money. For some it’s about how much will they make from getting hold of the region’s assets. For others, how much will they save in rates.
But after 1989 and the amalgamation of Auckland’s 29 councils did we get lower rates? Has anyone seen a lowering of rates from any of the cities created?
Some argue it will happen this time because Local Government Minister Rodney Hide and the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association say it will, but the legislation proposes council-owned assets – particularly Watercare, Ports of Auckland and airport shares – be taken out of public control and placed in separate legal entities called council-controlled organisations.
Those come with the normal company trappings – well-paid directors and a profit motive.
Many commentators believe this move is the first step towards selling the region’s assets to private enterprise, which can then gouge money from the asset base and the public.
When that happens there will not only be an increase in the costs of the goods supplied but the savings – such as water at cost, the current system for many council suppliers – will disappear. Profits from the ports, which go to improved public transport, will go into private hands.
That will mean that either the improvements stop or rates will go up to fund them.
More serious is the plan that all water assets be rolled into one body for privatisation.
This most vital of services, lifesaving water, should always be held in public ownership.
If overseas examples of water ownership are anything to go by, we can look forward to higher prices, less efficiency and asset depreciation, rather like the electricity “reforms”.
Allowing private control would, in my view, be economic treachery. But I’m sure that’s not how Sir Roger Douglas and Mr Hide will characterise it.
Part of the smokescreen for this will be arguments that privatisation will provide greater efficiencies, another that to make Auckland a supercity we must sell off assets owned by you and me to pay for the changes needed.
Someone has to pay for this supersized bureaucracy with inflated salaries and the ongoing inefficiencies the organisation will have to deal with under the burden of illconstructed legislation.
Get ready to pay more for many of your current services, more for public transport, and higher rates. You will have to because you will be living in a super-duped region.
Tony Holman has been involved in local government for 21 years, has been Watercare Services chairman of directors and a manager in a number of statutory bodies.