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ARC's 'consultation' erodes democracy

ARC's 'consultation' erodes democracy

"The ARC has structured 'public consultation' on its draft plan to give the answers its ruling faction want to hear," said Grant Morgan, spokesperson for RAM - Residents Action Movement.

"In the ARC newsletter Region Wide, delivered to every home, there are only spaces to tick either the ARC's 'proposed method' of rating, which continues the present rating policy, or else three 'variations', none of which go anywhere near reversing last year's massive residential rate rises."

"The same is true of the ARC 'consultation' website, www.getinvolved.co.nz. Despite its 'Get Involved' tag, people are restricted to the narrow options allowed by the ARC's corporate politicians."

"Nowhere in the ARC's newsletter or website is there an opportunity for people to express their own views about rating policy. This is the 'consultation' you have when you don't have real options. It's 'consultation' that erodes democracy," said Mr Morgan.

Two of the ARC's three "variations" include a busines differential, whose removal last year was the major cause of homeowners' rates going through the roof.

"But these 'variations' set the business differential at such a low rate, just 1.5 times the residential rate, that its pathetic reductions in what homeowners pay actually cement in place last year's unjust rating policy," said Mr Morgan.

In the 2003 draft plan, the ARC rejected a business differential of 2 because, in the words of ARC officials, "a much higher differential (than 2) would be required to have a significant benefit for residential ratepayers, particularly in relation to North Shore residents". (From the ARC research paper "ARC Rating Policy Review, 2003".)

"Yet now the ruling faction is putting up two 'variations' which would include a differential lower than 2 ­ even though their own officials said last year that such a small differential would have no significant benefit for homeowners. So these 'variations' turn out to a fraud on the public," said Mr Morgan.

"The ARC has refused to put the only real alternative in their draft plan ­ a rating U-turn which includes a business differential of more than 5, the figure ARC officials said was needed to reverse homeowners' rate rises."

RAM held an overflow public meeting with ARC councillors on 6th April where a resolution was passed unanimously which supported a business differential of more than 5.

"I have asked the full ARC to add this 'RAM variation', with a differential of more than 5, to the draft plan so that citizens have a real choice," said Mr Morgan. "Will the ARC agree to this democratic proposal?"

While there are legal impediments to altering a draft plan, where there's a will there's a way. The "RAM variation" could, for instance, be publicly acknowledged by the full ARC as the only option that would reverse last year's residential rate hikes. This would open up public debate, instead of censoring the option of a rating U-turn, as the ARC's "consultation" documents now do.

Another resolution passed at the 6th April meeting supported RAM's call for a People's Assembly, embracing a broad range of grassroots organisations, to be convened by the ARC to debate the draft plan before it's voted on by the ARC on 28th July."

"I have sent the request for a People's Assembly to the full ARC. Again, I ask if they will listen to the voice of the people? Or have they learnt nothing from the Rates Revolt?" said Mr Morgan. RAM protests As part of RAM's campaign for real democracy at the ARC, placard protests will be held at the ARC's first two "public consultation" meetings this Tuesday & Wednesday. Details:

TAKAPUNA 6.30pm Tues 13 April at Takapuna War Memorial Hall, The Strand.

CENTRAL CITY 6.30pm Wed 14 April at ARC head office, Vodafone House, 21 Pitt St, Auckland Central.

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