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Statement by Grant Morgan, spokesperson for RAM

Statement by Grant Morgan, spokesperson for RAM - Residents Action Movement. (2) Interviews with 15 RAM supporters from Whangaparaoa, Glenfield, Takapuna, Birkdale, Grafton, Avondale, Ellerslie, Penrose, Mangere Bridge, East Tamaki, Manukau and Papakura.

FIRST REPORT

'RAM the ARC !' says political voice of Rates Revolt

Public meetings advertised as "RAM the ARC!" are being held across greater Auckland on the weekend of 27-28 March. (Times and places at end of first report.)

The meetings are being hosted by RAM - Residents Action Movement.

Several days before the meetings, quarter-page advertisements featuring RAM's criticisms of the Auckland Regional Council are appearing in community newspapers (Suburban Newspapers' eight "Metro" papers).

"RAM was set up last October as the political voice of the Rates Revolt," explained RAM spokesperson Grant Morgan.

"RAM grew out of the rates boycott committee, an organiser of homeowners refusing to pay last year's outrageous ARC rate rises. Our members felt there had to be a united electoral challenge to the ARC's ruling faction in this October's council elections, and so RAM was born."

"RAM is standing a full team against the ARC's ten corporate politicians responsible for the rate rises," Mr Morgan confirmed. "Our team will be elected at a RAM Summit in May, when our growing army of supporters across greater Auckland hold a mass conference."

"RAM candidates will stand for the two North Shore ARC seats, the three in Manukau, the ones in Rodney and Franklin-Papakura, and three out of four of the Auckland seats," said Mr Morgan. "We're supporting the three ARC councillors on our side - Sandra Coney and Paul Walbran, who hold Waitakere's two seats, and one Auckland councillor, Mike Lee."

RAM has three core policies, he said.

"First, a RAM-led ARC will reverse last year's rate hikes by restoring the business differential. When ARC chair Gwen Bull and other business politicians axed the differential, they gave Auckland's richest corporations a rates holiday by forcing the burden onto low and modest income homeowners. That grossly unfair policy will be overturned. We will bring economic justice to grassroots people."

"Second, public transport will get a huge boost under a RAM-led ARC. The $4 billion that local body politicians want to waste on the Eastern Motorway is financial and ecological madness, and will worsen traffic congestion. It will pour more cars into central Auckland, pushing traffic jams further across the Harbour Bridge and back into East, South and West Auckland. Half this $4 billion would fund a sustainable public transport alternative that fixes Auckland's car chaos in a fraction of the time it would take to build an unwanted motorway. But the present ARC is sitting on the fence. A RAM-led ARC would lead a political fight against the Eastern Motorway in favour of a sensible public transport strategy."

"Third, there will be a tremendous expansion of grassroots democracy. A RAM-led ARC will form strategic alliances with Greypower, unions, community groups, churches, iwi and ethnic associations and other grassroots organisations that are today sidelined by the powers-that-be. RAM would invite such grassroots organisations to play a central policy role. Whenever a big new decision had to be made, a RAM-led ARC would convene a People's Assembly so that grassroots representatives could debate all the issues. Promoting democracy in such practical ways would stop the ARC being captured by powerful corporate and bureaucratic elites, which is what's happening now."

RAM has well over a thousand supporters across greater Auckland, says Mr Morgan. "The way we're growing, we look likely to gain thousands more before October's election, making RAM the main opponent of the ARC's ruling faction. RAM versus Bull will be the best show in town. We're going to roll the ARC's business politicians and promote economic justice, transport sanity and grassroots democracy in Auckland."

DETAILS OF FOUR RAM PUBLIC MEETINGS The media are invited to attend all meetings.

CENTRAL AUCKLAND 1pm on Saturday 27 March Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, 489 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden (opposite Potters Park)

SOUTH AUCKLAND 3pm on Saturday 27 March PACT Hall, 311 Great South Rd, Papatoetoe (near Hunters Corner)

EAST AUCKLAND 1.30pm on Sunday 28 March Tahapa Crescent Hall, 22 Tahapa Cr, Meadowbank (off Meadowbank Rd)

NORTH SHORE 3pm on Sunday 28 March Sunnynook Community Centre, cnr Sunnynook Rd & Sycamore Dve, Sunnynook (opposite Foodtown)

SPEAKERS Each meeting will feature a range of speakers, including: * Grant Morgan, spokesperson for RAM. * Barry Wilson, president of Auckland Council for Civil Liberties. * Alan McCulloch, president of North Shore Greypower. * Elaine West, chair of Auckland City Residents & Ratepayers Association. * Matt McCarten, secretary of Unite workers union. * Fua Niko, Samoan representative for RAM. * Graeme Easte, Campaign for Better Transport. * Jill Ovens, president of the Alliance. * Peter Cross, longtime unionist. * Percy Allison, chair of Poverty Action Coalition.

For more information, please contact: Grant Morgan 634 4432 (days & evenings) gcm@actrix.gen.nz

SECOND REPORT

The people versus the ARC

"RAM is a diverse bunch of grassroots people of all ages and many different political views, religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds," says Grant Morgan, spokesperson of the Residents Action Movement.

"The thing that binds RAM together is our united vision of what needs to be done on the Auckland Regional Council."

To illustrate this "united vision", Mr Morgan put five questions to 15 RAM supporters from Whangaparaoa, Glenfield, Takapuna, Birkdale, Grafton, Avondale, Ellerslie, Penrose, Mangere Bridge, East Tamaki, Manukau and Papakura. Their answers appear below:

QUESTION 1 Why are you upset with the ARC?

Peter Vaughan (Penrose): "Because of the huge increase in rates. The unfairness. The farce of the consultation process. Favouring business by removing the business differential, and loading the burden onto residents at a time when business is doing pretty good."

Tai Chen (East Tamaki): "The ARC serves only the rich."

Pat O'Dea (Papakura): "ARC rate rises have transferred the burden from rich business class people to working people."

Des Tindale (Birkdale): "The ARC favour big business, and are out of touch with the majority of the people."

Aiga Saimasi & Fua Niko (Manukau): "The ARC are running with unfair policies."

Robert Batt (Whangaparaoa): "The residential increase was never near to 34%, contrary to the ARC's assurances. The ARC misled the public, and acts in a manipulative and arrogant way."

Barry Wilson (Takapuna): "The ARC has failed to represent the interests of all ratepayers. It displayed breathtaking arrogance by dumping longstanding business differentials and switching to capital value rating."

Rachel Asher (Grafton): "I'm sick of the hypocrisy of the ARC."

Sara Ualika (Avondale): "The ARC haven't been honest with the people. I pay rates, water and mortgage. I don't need to pay more."

Jenny Brookes (Papakura): "ARC rate increases were supposed to improve public transport. But Papakura is very poorly served for public transport. For instance, there's not enough parking at our railway station."

Percy Allison (Glenfield): "The ARC are willing tools of the corporates. The Poverty Action Coalition also condemns the Local Government Act, which paved the way for their actions."

Tony Haines (Mangere Bridge): "The ARC's business councillors reflect the narrow self-interest of a wealthy minority to the detriment of the majority of the community they're supposed to represent. It's a disgrace."

Barbara Merriman (Glenfield): "We're being asked to pay and pay and pay. I was pretty apathetic and just paid the bills with a grumble, but when I got the ARC rates I realised that something must be said or they will keep wanting more and more."

Len Parker (Ellerslie): "The ARC adopted arrogant and undemocratic methods to remove the business differential and impose huge rate increases onto homeowners. They had no mandate to do so. It's intolerable. For too long the ARC has been dominated by the business sector, the real beneficiaries of these policies."

QUESTION 2 Why do you think it's unfair that the richest corporation pays rates on exactly the same basis as the poorest homeowner?

Barry: "The new system is not, as the ARC maintains, simple and fair. With differentials gone, take the example of a business and a resident both paying ARC rates of $450. For the business ratepayer, after claiming GST and tax allowances, that amount reduces to $267. To put such a business on the same footing as the resident, it should pay $756 in rates."

Aiga & Fua: "The rich get more services than the poor."

Rachel: "By scrapping the business differential, the ARC is making domestic ratepayers pay for lower business rates. I consider this criminal. I'm not surprised that the ARC tried to hide behind the lie that the increased rates are needed for transport. Businesses enjoy many privileges that ordinary workers have no access to. Something like 400,000 New Zealanders earn less than $10 an hour, yet the ARC is threatening ratepayers with the forced sale of their homes if they don't contribute more to business coffers. It's monstrous."

Des: "When the ARC axed the business differential, some corporations last year got back more than $3 million in rate reductions alone. And what can they claim back on GST?"

Percy: "The rich corporates can claim back so much in taxes."

Peter: "Business can claim tax concessions and pass on their costs. Residents can't."

Len: "The business sector gets many hidden perks, like tax rebates, which are unavailable to the ordinary householder. Private landlords will also recover their rate rises by increasing the rents their tenants pay."

Jenny: "Rich corporations are making money, whereas homeowners are just living in their houses."

Barbara: "A lot of people are retired or on low incomes and finding it hard enough to pay their mortgage. It's not fair to load them with more when big business can afford the fees and also get tax relief."

Tony: "Business is well able to pass any costs on, unlike the community at large. Businesses benefit financially from the facilities they say we all share."

Robert: "Business can claim GST back and offset the levy against profit."

Tai: "Business people make money from this system, and the homeowners don't."

Pat: "Businesses make profits out of working people, whereas working people's income goes on keeping their families."

Sara: "The big corporations should stay overseas. They're all dangerous."

QUESTION 3 What do you think of the ARC's ruling faction?

Robert: "They're dangerous bullies with no feel at all for the people at street level."

Peter: "They're too favourable to business. They're out of touch with the average people of this city. They're arrogant. I bet that most of them have business interests of their own or are in close relations with people who are on boards of directors. This old boys network can't be trusted to do their duty honestly, without favouring one group over another."

Des: "They're business politicians who favour the rich, to the detriment of the majority of working class homeowners and lower income citizens and our environment."

Tai: "They're nothing but self-interested people."

Tony: "They're a self-serving bunch, whose arrogance makes obvious their utter contempt for the grassroots of society."

Pat: "They serve the interests of the rich, and that includes themselves."

Jenny: "They're extremely arrogant, and are unable to see other people's viewpoints."

Barry: "Even today, despite an apparent change by some ARC officials in their attitude to rating, the ruling faction still displays the same arrogance. It recently voted stubbornly to keep the same rating basis."

Aiga & Fua: "It's not fair how they rule the ARC."

Sara: "We need to sack them in the October election."

Rachel: "It's time the ARC represented the interests of the people who really are this city."

Len: "A majority of ordinary ratepayers feel increasingly distanced from the centres of power, and therefore increasingly disinclined to vote. This has allowed councillors sympathetic to business interests to dominate the ARC."

Percy: "They're stooges for the corporates."

Barbara: "At the time the ARC fees were set, people in Riverhead had two buses a day. They now have only one, yet pay the same as the rest of us. The scale is so unfair. The ARC's ruling faction seems so out of touch with the common people, and don't seem to care. It annoys me that all we get are threatening letters from them."

QUESTION 4 What do you want to see done on the ARC?

Des: "I want to see all those ARC councillors who pushed for the rate rises and the axing of the business differential to be replaced by representatives of the common people, who aren't there merely for greed and profit."

Pat: "I want the business differential brought back. I want ARC rates for ordinary people lowered. I want to see a halt to the Eastern Motorway - it's a waste of money and harmful to the environment."

Sara: "The ARC shouldn't ask homeowners for more money."

Jenny: "Get rid of the ruling faction, and move the ARC back down to earth,"

Robert: "Throw out those who voted for the capital value rating system and the abolition of the business differential."

Percy: "Get in a team dedicated to reversing the capital value rating system on residential properties."

Tai: "Bull & Co should be replaced."

Barry: "The legal powers of the ARC give them immense power over the lives of Aucklanders. The present councillors - with three notable exceptions - have consistently shown that they're quite prepared to disregard the wishes of most Aucklanders. That must change."

Rachel: "We need to get rid of the ARC's ruling business faction this year."

Aiga & Fua: "We want to see Bull & Co all gone."

Peter: "The present mob have shown their true colours. They need to go. Get some capable people on the ARC who don't have ulterior motives and do their civic duty fairly and with integrity."

Tony: "I want to see the removal of all ten worthless ARC councillors. I want them replaced by RAM councillors who represent, and answer to, a broad grassroots movement."

Len: "There needs to be more real democracy, transparency and accountability to ordinary ratepayers within the ARC. We have to remove the ten business councillors who voted to increase rates and remove the business differential. Those policies must be reversed, and legal actions dropped against those refusing to pay the rate rises. There should be an immediate termination of the absurd motorway schemes, and part of the money saved go to a comprehensive and free bus service. That would go a long way to clearing up pollution and congestion."

Barbara: "I'd like to see the government have more control of the roads and transport."

QUESTION 5 Why are you supporting RAM?

Sara: "Because everyone feels enough is enough. RAM is helping people stand and be strong."

Jenny: "RAM is supporting what ordinary homeowners, renters and workers want."

Rachel: "I'm renting, and I know who's going to pay my landlord's rate increase. I support RAM because I'm excited by its broad-based focus on ordinary people. It's truly representative of ordinary people because it's driven by ordinary people. I've been to RAM meetings attended by people from all walks of life who've made links with each other because they recognise how much they have in common. It's so inspiring to watch defeat and powerlessness turn into a resolve to fight the ARC. That belief comes out of a sense of solidarity. RAM is about what we've got in common, not about differences, and that's why the ARC should be very afraid. We can have affordable rates. We can have a decent public transport system, we can say no to more motorways and gridlock and toll roads. We just have to stand up and insist on our right to representation."

Tai: "RAM speaks for the people - simple as that!"

Pat: "RAM is a genuine movement that supports working families and ordinary ratepayers. Because RAM is a grassroots movement, it can be trusted to keep its promises."

Robert: "Our politicians aren't interested. They talk and talk and do nothing to help. RAM is trying to do something about this disgraceful bunch at the ARC."

Barry: "RAM is a grassroots group. Its manifesto is based on public service and public ownership of assets. It will make sure the ARC is governed in the interests of the vast majority of Aucklanders."

Len: "I'm supporting RAM because it's people-based and mounting a serious challenge to the business-dominated ARC."

Barbara: "I decided that people did need to make a stand, and RAM was the one chance I had to do something that might actually bring positive action."

Aiga & Fua: "RAM is the only way we can get our voice into the ARC."

Peter: "RAM is the only organisation to take a stand against the ARC and commit to a new way of doing things."

Percy: "Providing RAM stays with rate reductions and improving public transport, the Poverty Action Coalition will work hard with them to get a successful outcome."

Tony: "Right from the start, RAM has been based on grassroots participation. Under its manifesto, RAM councillors will be held accountable by those they represent. It's a big move away from decades of empty promises that are broken at the first opportunity. RAM is the only means of promoting and protecting the interests of the majority of the community."

Des: "I support RAM because it's leading the charge for justice."

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