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Let's Give Ratepayers A Real Say

Let's Give Ratepayers A Real Say - Harford's Direct Democracy Initiative

"Public consultation by the Council is largely a sham, and it is time to improve how Council communicates with ratepayers," says Greg Harford, Affordable Kapiti candidate for the Kapiti Coast District Council.

"Councils around the country, including the Kapiti Coast's, spend a fortune on so-called consultations that permit groups with vested interests to lobby for their favourite platforms. Sadly, the ordinary, hard-working ratepayer is not usually aware of the consultation exercise or its financial implications, and does not participate.

"My priority as a potential councillor is to scrutinise Council spending so that only those projects that ratepayers are really prepared to pay for actually proceed. The best way to do this is to ask them directly.

"Annual rates assessments should be accompanied by a ballot paper explicitly asking ratepayers whether or not they support planned Council expenditure on specific projects, along with details of what each decision will mean for rates. The exercise would be low-cost, because rates bills are sent out every year anyway.

"Councillors often take silence to mean consent, but this is not the case. People are busy with their lives and do not have the time to focus on what local authorities are trying to do. Here in Kapiti, Council has agreed to rates rise of over 70 per cent - but most ratepayers didn't know the consultation was happening until after decisions were made - notwithstanding the fact that Council spent a fortune trying to promote it.

"I want to introduce this policy on the Kapiti Coast, and I have written to the Minister of Local Government asking for his support. I hope that he will respond positively to the idea, and consider passing legislation to make this kind of consultation mandatory for councils."

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