Board Member Damian Light represented UnitedFuture at a public meeting on Auckland rates rises on 10 June.
As Councils around NZ set their budgets rates are set to rise again.
The Auckland example is a little more complex than simply driven by house prices. The feedback from Aucklanders during budget consultation was that they wanted more money spent on transport but so far the government has refused to co-operate with requests for a motorway toll or fuel tax. To bridge the gap the council added an additional levy. The end result of this (plus a promise to reduce debt) is a significant rates rise for most Aucklanders.
UnitedFuture was invited to talk at a public meeting and I represented the party. I spoke to the need for investment but the unfairness of the current rates system. We definitely stood out as the only one talking about the cause of the issue (the system) rather than just demanding the rates drop. I was told afterwards that it was “refreshing” to see focus on the real problem.
It’s been UnitedFuture policy for some time to completely review the purpose and funding of local government. We need to ensure that accountability and authority has been granted to the right level. We’re strong believers in localism – giving more decision making to local communities.
Part of this is reviewing the rates system to try and reduce the burden on ratepayers. The current system assumes that because someone owns a property that’s worth a significant amount of money they must have the funds to pay significant rates. The truth is that most peoples properties were worth less when they brought them and the value is tied up in the asset itself (not accessible until it’s sold).
Put simply, the current system isn’t sustainable or fair. It’s interesting to note that Mayor Len Brown made similar comments shortly afterwards.
A good place to start is the Local Government NZ discussion paper on funding which explores some options including what is happening around the globe.
We’re still working through the details of what a new system might look like but at this stage the key is to have the discussion. If you’re interested or have some ideas, let me know!
See NZ Herald article: www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11462989
Damian Light, Executive Board and Auckland Branch Member.