Taxpayer Union figures misleading
Waitomo District mayor Brian Hanna has disputed Taxpayer Union (TU) claims about his Council published in last week’s Waipa¯ Post, labelling their analysis “misleading”.
Each year the TU compares information from councils and publishes league tables.
But Brian said the TU takes “wildly different apples and pears” and “shouts about the differences without understanding the numbers”.
“Waitomo provided information across all of our operations including, as requested, our construction company, Inframax, which is a completely separate legal entity,” he said.
“But instead of taking Inframax out of the mix to compare apples with apples — which I’d be happy with — they’ve left Inframax in. Then they’ve compared Waitomo to neighbouring councils which don’t have stand-alone companies. It’s wrong.”
Brian said the claim Waitomo employs 30.1 staff per 1000 ratepayers — more than any other Council in the country — was “dreamland stuff”.
Claims that staff cost $1922 per ratepayer were wrong.
“Again, comparing apples with apples, Waitomo District Council directly employs 10.7 staff per 1000 ratepayers, 68 full-time equivalents.
“Council’s costs per ratepayer are $730 per annum, lower than all other rural councils and nothing like the $1922 claimed.”
He acknowledges Waitomo has significant debt at $46 million, but slammed TU claims about that debt.
“Take Inframax out of the mix to compare us directly to other councils and our debt is $6651 per ratepayer, not $9283 as reported,” he said.
“Here’s the reality. Waitomo has fewer than 10,000 ratepayers over a huge area.
“Nearly 50 per cent of our district is non-rate payable. We have a big and costly roading network and fewer ratepayers to cover these costs.
“On top of that, and unlike a lot of other councils, we’ve actually faced reality and stepped up. We’ve made the hard calls to take on debt and upgrade core infrastructure like water and wastewater,” Brian said.
“We’re now at the end of the cycle whereas some councils still have it in front of them. We have modest rate increases forecast for the next decade — around 2.4 per cent per year — and Council debt will reduce from $46.8 to $24 million,” he said.
“Under the TU’s bizarre philosophy it’s the councils that do nothing and have not invested in core assets to keep rates as low as possible that are better performers. That’s ludicrous.
“These councils now have a huge reality check in front of them because they will be forced to do upgrades that have been deferred for years to keep rates down. I know where I’d rather be.”
Brian said he was not averse to councils being compared as long as the comparison was fair.
“What I mind is this apples versus pears comparison and the lack of any decent analysis. Let’s drive efficiencies — sure.
“But these simplistic tables help no-one.”
Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna.