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Rates bill in Mackenzie District NZ’s most affordable

Rates bill in Mackenzie District New Zealand’s most affordable - $600 below national average

22 AUGUST 2017 - Average rates bills in the Mackenzie District are the lowest in New Zealand, according to Ratepayers’ Report, the Taxpayers Union’s 2017 local government league tables, published today at www.ratepayersreport.nz. The average annual residential rates charged by Mackenzie District Council, $1,637, is considerably below the national averages for rural councils ($2,132) and all councils across the country ($2,251).

Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union, says, “When we launched our inaugural Ratepayers’ Report in 2014, Mackenzie District Council had the lowest average residential rates of any council. This year’s report appears to confirm that it is committed to providing local ratepayers with good value for money. “

“Waitaki District charges the highest rates in South Canterbury, at $2,258 per year. While high for South Canterbury, this amount is still in-line with the average rates bill, charged by provincial councils throughout New Zealand.”

“As is evident in Waitaki District, a high rates bill doesn’t necessarily mean an inefficient council. Waitaki District has the lowest operating expenses and staff costs per residential ratepayer in the region. This suggests that the Council is not taking money from the community in other ways, such as high rates on commercial properties and user charges.”

“Waitaki also has less debt than any other council in South Canterbury. Nationwide, it is second only to Central Otago District Council, in having the lowest liabilities per ratepayer.”

“Timaru District shoulders more debt per ratepayer than any other council in South Canterbury – $7,230. Debt serving costs now account for $309 per year, per ratepayer. Alarmingly, the Council also has the least value assets per ratepayer in the region.”

“Overall, these league tables suggest that Timaru District ratepayers should be demanding better financial management from their elected officials.”

"Ratepayers' Report is available online and free of charge so all South Canterbury ratepayers can judge for themselves the performance of their local town hall."

Ratepayers’ Report available at www.ratepayersreport.nz

Note: All references to rates in the above comments, refer to residential rates.

Other findings relating to South Canterbury:

• Mackenzie District Council has the lowest average rates of any council nationwide, at $1,637 per residential ratepayer, per year.

• Waitaki District Council charges the highest average rates in South Canterbury, at a cost of $2,258 per residential ratepayer, per year.

• Timaru District Council has fewer assets and more liabilities per ratepayer than any other council in South Canterbury. Nationwide, only three provincial councils have fewer assets per residential ratepayer than Timaru District Council.

• Compared to any council in South Canterbury, Timaru District Council pays proportionally fewer staff a salary in excess of $100,000 with 5.45% of staff receiving such remuneration. Only Central Otago District Council (5.00%) and Napier City Council (4.88%) pay proportionally fewer staff a salary over $100,000.

• Waimate District Council has the second highest ratio of staff to residential ratepayers in New Zealand (one staffer for every 28 ratepayers), and the highest personnel costs per residential ratepayer in South Canterbury ($1,971 per ratepayer, per year).

• Councils considered for this comparison are Ashburton District Council, Mackenzie District Council, Timaru District Council, Waimate District Council, and Waitaki District Council.

Q & A

What is Ratepayers’ Report?

Ratepayers’ Report is interactive local government league tables covering financial position, performance, and governance information for all of New Zealand’s territorial authorities (excluding the Chatham Islands).

What is the purpose of Ratepayers’ Report?

Ratepayers' Report provides accountability and transparency to New Zealand ratepayers by allowing anyone to compare their local territorial authority with others around the country.

Where was the data sourced?

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union working with its sister group, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, compiled the data in Ratepayers' Report after reviewing each council's annual report for the year ending June 30, 2016.

Other figures represent the most up to date figures available and were mostly obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The data has been sent to each individual authority for their review and error checking prior to public launch.

Population data is from Statistics New Zealand.

Where did the group finance figures come from?

They are taken from each Council's annual report. They include council figures, plus any subsidiary council controlled organisations.

Which councils are assessed in Ratepayers' Report?

Of New Zealand's 67 territorial authorities, 66 are examined in Ratepayers' Report. That includes all city, district, and unitary councils, with the exclusion of Chatham Islands Territory Council (due to concerns surrounding that Council's workload pressure and unique position). In future iterations of Ratepayers' Report, we plan to incorporate regional councils into the analysis.

Is this the first Ratepayers' Report?

No. Ratepayers' Report was first published in 2014 jointly by the Taxpayers' Union and Fairfax Media.

How are the councils (territorial authorities) grouped?

Unitary authorities – the 5 territorial authorities which also carry out the functions of a regional authority are grouped.

Metropolitan – the 5 large councils with a population of over 120,000.

City – 6 smaller metropolitan councils with populations between 40,000 and 120,000.

Provincial – the largest group, 27 non-metropolitan councils with a population over 20,000.

Rural – 23 councils with populations less than 20,000.

How was the average residential rate calculated?

Calculating an 'apples to apples' figure for residential rates is difficult because councils use various mixes of rates, levies, and user charges. Our approach is based on work by Napier City Council to find an average residential rate. The methodology councils were asked to use to calculate the figures disclosed in Ratepayers' Report is available here, www.taxpayers.org.nz/rp_methodology.

While we think this approach is useful and fair, the average residential rates figure should be a guide only. It does not, for example, factor in councils' reliance on commercial rates. It also puts unitary authorities at a disadvantage. Unitary authorities (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, Gisborne, Tasman, and Marlborough District Councils, and the Chatham Islands Council) perform the functions of a regional council and therefore can be expected to have higher rates than other territorial authorities.

Were councils consulted in the process?

Yes. Every council was sent a draft version of their respective page to review.


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