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Rates Should Become A General Election Issue

Media Release
21 July 2003

Rates Should Become A General Election Issue

The Mayor of Rodney District, John Law, says the regional rates problem should be placed before the entire national electorate in the next general election.

“For over 18 months I have been warning my community and in particular the Combined Ratepayer Association (representing 26 associations) that this year they will experience unprecedented ARC rate increases. These increases were predicted due to the ever escalating cost of rail, buses and transportation in general.”

“Now that reality has struck, the Auckland region is experiencing civil unrest, disbelief and apprehension about the future increases. The ARC has had to rate residents to receive an extra $35 million to meet their ever increasing costs. Certainly, the change from land value to capital value has had an unpalatable impact on ratepayers. But, regardless of the formula they still needed an extra $35 million.”

“People who know Gwen Bull, chairperson of the ARC, will agree that she is a lovely person working hard for the Auckland region who would not really want to hurt people through the rating process. Gwen is caught in the statutory framework that only allows the ARC to gather the necessary income through rates (they have no other avenue available other than bus and train fares), Mr Law says.

The Mayor says he disagrees with the way the ARC implemented the capital value system and in particular the transport levy and submitted personally to their annual plan on that basis.

“They should return to the land value system or stage the effects of a capital
based system. But, New Zealand’s MPs must understand that the recent uprising against the ARC has a much deeper implication than the introduction of capital value rates. The fact is that ratepayers have simply had enough of being targeted to fund infrastructure, transport and roading. Enough is enough !”

“Local and Regional Government should not have to tax ratepayers for roading and transport. Ratepayers are not the only users of roads, buses and trains. Users of the service should be paying through petrol tax, tolls, fares and/or other initiatives,” Mr Law says.

The Mayor says central government must introduce new statutory policies to remove the burden from ratepayers.

“If roading was removed from rates the average Rodney ratepayer’s bill would drop by 31%. Then ratepayers would be on the same basis as other road users and pay, say, petrol tax (a few cents per litre would probably fix the problem). The general population, overseas tourists, temporary residents, local visitors and tourists should all be contributing to roads and transport through petrol tax not just ratepayers”.

“I am not advocating the ill fated poll tax that they tried to introduce in Britain. I predict that if central government does not totally overhaul the funding of local government then the ARC will be forced to introduce even higher rate increases. Patronage shortfall for rail and buses (the difference between running costs and income derived from fares) will run into hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years.

The Mayor believes that regardless of transport subsidy, if there is not a statutory change, ARC will have to inflict extremely heavy rate increases to meet the ever burgeoning cost escalations.

“In Rodney, as part of the Auckland region, we are particularly upset because the ARC intend to rate residents even though they have received no increase in service levels as a result of the rail and bus initiatives in Metropolitan Auckland.”

“Come on politicians, change the policy and stop forcing ratepayers to meet the costs. If not, further civil unrest will be experienced. Develop and announce policy for the next general election. Ratepayers will applaud, residents will understand, fear and apprehension of ratepayers will be alleviated and Gwen Bull will continue to enjoy her important role,” the Mayor said.

(ends)

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