Tax­payer Union fig­ures mis­lead­ing

Waipa Post - - News -

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.”

Photo / Brett Phibbs

Wait­omo mayor Brian Hanna.

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