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PM delivers more body blows to ratepayers

Media release 28 July 2008

Statement from founder/organiser David Thornton on Prime Minister’s speech to Local Government Conference in Rotorua today

Prime Minister delivers more body blows to ratepayers

Ratepayers who looked to the Rates Inquiry for some long term relief from crippling rates bills are in for huge disappointment.

The Rates Inquiry gave its report to the Government a year ago and at last we are being told that the Government is offering very little – particularly to the larger urban councils.

Addressing the Rates Inquiry recommendations at today’s Local Government Conference the Prime Minister made it clear she was largely passing the buck to local councils to sort out their own financial problems - and local councils have shown little interest in addressing major funding issues.

On top of that Prime Minister also announced the Government’s decision NOT to establish an independent unit to review the financials decisions of local government.

This sort of unit is exactly what is needed to provide some protection for ratepayers against council’s whose spending goes way beyond the level which many in the community can afford. The Rates Inquiry found that such spending was often ‘gold-plated’.

The prime Minister bragged about the increase in the Rates Rebate Scheme announced in the budget.

The fact is that the measly $30 a year increase in the maximum rebate will nowhere near cover rates increases ranging from 6% up to 29% for individual ratepayers – facing new rates demands ranging from $100 up to several hundred.

The most stupid statement of all is the comment the Prime Minister used that; “The Rates Inquiry concluded that local authority finances were generally healthy”.
“On that basis” the Prime Minister said “we have not been persuaded of the case for generalised central government assistance to local government for infrastructure at this time”

But there was no mention of other comments in the Rate Inquiry report such as “The current rating system will be unsustainable in 10 years for some sections of the community”. And the Inquiry’s findings that councils were taking no account of ability to pay for some groups of ratepayers.

Other comments in the Prime Minister’s speech to the conference make it clear that there will be precious little help for ratepayers from this Government.

It must be remembered that the Rates Inquiry was set up simply because Winston Peters and the New Zealand First party refused to support a Bill in Parliament which would have placed a cap on rates increases.

The Rates Inquiry was offered in place of that proposed cap.

The outcome so far will be a huge disappointment for those ratepayers who made submissions to the Rates Inquiry, had many of those submissions accepted – and now see almost nothing for their efforts.


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