Poor take the weight
POORER households will face the biggest rates hikes under a proposed rates reshuffle 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 decision-making of 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.