Rates system unfair
It’s timely to raise the subject of rates. I understand rates in Porirua will probably rise by about 4.3 per cent this year.
Given that the most recent annual inflation figure was 1.7 per cent and by the end of 2015 inflation is expected to be at about 2.5 per cent, the rates rise appears somewhat out of the ballpark, especially since our rates rises have considerably exceeded inflation for years.
How does this affect our people and, in particular, those on lower incomes? According to the city council’s draft annual plan, a property valued at $250,000 will attract rates of $2068 per year or $40 per week, a weekly increase of $1.97.
This might not sound very much, but when your weekly income as a live-alone superannuitant is restricted to $366 and you take off items such as power and GST, $40 represents a considerable sum.
If you are unfortunate enough to own your own home, live alone and have only a job-seeker benefit, $40 from $224 is huge!
Combined these expenses combined push such people to the poverty line. Where do they get the money to live? Can they afford to run a car, for instance?
If not, how are they going to pay for transport? How do they take care of their health, visit the doctor, or pay for their medications?
New Zealand is apparently one of few countries that pays local-body expenses by a single system, namely, property valuation-based taxation.
Other countries have a combination of property valuationbased rates and income-related payments.
It seems a much more equitable system would be for everyone with an income to pay a fixed percentage of that income to a fund earmarked for localbody use.
Some have objected that this is a poll tax, but it does not fit the poll tax criteria because people would be charged only according to their means. Everyone would not be paying the same amount.
If you are thinking of poll taxes, part at least of the current rates breakdown consists of uniform amounts for: water ($353), sewage disposal ($353), kerbside – whatever that may mean when we look after our own berms – ($17), and universal annual general charge ($400).
Does a superannuitant living alone use as much water or sewage disposal as a household of five or more? No, but that person pays the same amount.
So those are poll taxes on the property owner. And they leave the majority of the population paying nothing for the local body services and facilities they receive. How fair is that?
What can we do? The first thing would be to persuade the politicians a change needs to be made. Even Local Government in New Zealand, the body representing mayors from around the country, insists we need change. But successive governments have pushed it into the too-hard basket.
I don’t suppose $40 per week in rates would make much of a dent in their salaries, so why should they worry?
This is election year. Why not lobby the candidates for election and insist on change?
This month we are to hear from Denise Brown from the Public Trust, who will give us information on Powers of Attorney, at the Porirua Club, Lodge Place, Porirua, Tuesday, May 13, 1.30pm. Phone Gloria Hazlewood, 233 0162.