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Len Brown plan for rates reform looks like a road to nowhere

MEDIA RELEASE

17th March 2014

[Statement from David Thornton]

Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s plan for rates reform looks like a road to nowhere.

Auckland needs to find a solution to its own funding problems.

Interviewed on TVNZ’s Q& A on Sunday Mr Brown proposal consisted of asking Local Government New Zealand [LGNZ]to carry out a review of local authority funding throughout the country, together with his suggestion of a ‘city tax’ without any detail of what that meant.

I understand that Mr Brown has not discussed this proposal with his Council and that there has been no debate on Council’s attitude to his proposal.

While NoMoreRates has consistently called for reform of the rating system, and welcomed the Mayor’s initial announcement of a funding review, his proposal to ask LGNZ to carry out a review is a road to nowhere.

Local Government New Zealand has a non-existent record of achievement other than as a generator of talk-fests.

Mr Brown is correct when he highlights problems with the current rating system, but rather than launch yet another nationwide review he should concentrate on finding solutions to Auckland’s problems.

After more than three years of effort the Mayor and his budget office have failed to find a solution for funding his favourite project the City Rail Link.

In that time rates have climbed to almost 25 cents in every rates dollar on the back of huge increases in debt.

As the first SuperCity in the country the Auckland Council has vast borrowing powers compared to any other city, and the Council needs to sort out its own funding problems rather that getting involved in some nationwide talk-fest through Local Government New Zealand.

The Mayor should ask the Council to set up its own review panel including representation from the three rating sectors, residential, business and rural.

The panel should use Council’s research and communication facilities to prepare funding options and seek Aucklanders responses and ideas.

A purely local review is likely to complete a funding plan far more quickly than going through Local Government New Zealand with its mixture of councils each with their own special problems.

Auckland’s needs are urgent.

The Mayor needs to talk to his Council and get on with that job.

Ends

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