Rate rises no longer ig­nored

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

I have a sense of fury and pow­er­less­ness at the speed my rates have been ris­ing.

Home­own­ers didn’t seem to care much about rates in the past.

The an­nual rises al­ways seemed small com­pared with the rise in the value of their homes. But rates are be­gin­ning to hurt. Mine rose to just un­der $3600 this year.

I phoned Auck­land Coun­cil to see how much they’d gone up in 10 years.

The call cen­tre wouldn’t tell me, say­ing as I hadn’t owned the house that long, it would breach the pri­vacy of the peo­ple who used to live there.

I laughed (po­litely) and pointed out that any­one could check my cur­rent rates on the coun­cil’s on­line rates cal­cu­la­tor with no ap­par­ent pro­tec­tion of my pri­vacy. My ap­peal fell on deaf ears. I had to put in a Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion and Meet­ings Act re­quest.

When it came back I found the rates on my house in 2005/06 had been $1748.33.

The Re­serve Bank’s in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tor sug­gested my rates would have been around $2170 had they risen in line with in­fla­tion.

In­fla­tion was up around 25 per cent, my rates more than 100 per cent.

I wasn’t sur­prised. I had seen this chart pre­pared for the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter.

What are peo­ple’s op­tions for deal­ing with ris­ing rates?

They can economise (spend less at cafes, pay the mort­gage off more slowly, have big­ger in­sur­ance ex­cesses, save less into Ki­wiSaver, etc). Or they can earn more. They can work more hours.

If a per­son is re­tired, they could go back to work or take out an ex­pen­sive re­verse eq­uity mort­gage to pay the rates, clear­ing their debt when they sell their home or die.

The coun­cil has a rates post­pone­ment scheme that works like a re­verse mort­gage.

The fees and in­ter­est charged are not on the coun­cil’s web­site and the call cen­tre didn’t know but the press of­fice says there are one-off fees for land reg­is­tra­tion and ti­tle searches of $85, an an­nual fee of $50 and in­ter­est was charged at 3.5 per cent but could change. There’s also a rates re­bate scheme for poorer folk but it’s not very gen­er­ous.

Then there are more ex­treme re­sponses, like stom­ach­ing the real es­tate fees and mov­ing to a cheaper sub­urb or mov­ing in with the kids.

Or you could use your vote to force the coun­cil to live within your means.

Grey Power, for ex­am­ple, is call­ing for a rates pol­icy where rates are capped at no more than 8 per cent of a house­hold’s in­come. Many be­lieve rate rises must be capped to in­fla­tion. Only 36-odd per cent of us voted in the last Auck­land Coun­cil elec­tions. Amaz­ing, given it’s our money that’s be­ing spent.

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