Rates sys­tem un­fair

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

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.

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