Six years ago I made the following comments about rates with regards to Waitakere City Council. Not a lot has changed with the advent of the Super City.
There was a time when rates were a charge for services rendered by local Councils to their ratepayers and taxes were the domain of Central Government levied upon all income earners for the benefit of all New Zealanders – whether taxpayers or not.
In recent years there have been a number of moves by Central Government to devolve much of its responsibility to local communities without any appropriate funding. This has forced Councils into increasing expenditure on an increasing number of social services hitherto provided by Central Government.
Councils have choices:
A) Refuse to accept devolution of responsibility.
B) Insist on adequate recompense for
additional responsibilities taken on board.
C) Shrug their shoulders and increase the rates.
D) Find new ways of raising revenue.
With about 60% of all Council revenue coming from rates, the trend in Waitakere City over the last three years has been alarming, with successive rate increases well above inflation. Rates have become TAXES.
Two years ago, when the ARC proposed massive increases, Councillor Battersby announced he would call for a public meeting. Councillor Clews protested that such public meetings only attract “professional agitators” and the idea was canned. Those of us who attended public meetings sponsored by other Councils experienced a groundswell of mood for revolt and despite being told there was nothing we could do, the 140 000 of us who refused to pay our first rates instalments, forced a major rethink upon the ARC in its setting of rates for the following year.
Likewise, in Waitakere City, we have to decide whether we are prepared to sit back year after year and allow our Councillors to rubber stamp excessive rates increases well above inflation or whether we are prepared to be vocal and proactive and insist on the “consultation process” in the form of our annual submissions, being meaningful.