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Hamilton's rating practices fall short

Hamilton's rating practices, annual plan fall short of legal requirements

Hamilton City Council's attitude to its Annual Plan is cavalier to the point it doesn't comply with the Local Government Act 2002, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) told the Hamilton Council Hearings today.

EMA said Hamilton's:

* rates increases total 6.72 %, far ahead of inflation, and higher than can be justified,

* the Plan fails to justify the increase of over 11% in operating costs,

* the public good component of Council's services is overstated,

* virtually all the 'promoting Hamilton' expenditure of $2.8 million is charged against non-residential ratepayers without consultation and ignoring the benefits to all the city's citizens.

* the non-residential differential is 466% more than for residential ratepayers, tantamount to a breach of trust,

* neither the Uniform Annual Charges (UAC's) nor Uniform Annual General Charges (UAGC's) available are utilised.

"We have analysed the annual plans of all the city councils north of Taupo on a consistent basis for the past four years and Hamilton's this year would have to be the worst," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive.

"The city's rates bill to business is far higher than for most other councils," he said.

"In our view Hamilton's Annual Plan is illegal in that it does not comply with the requirements of the Local Government Act 2002, in particular Sections 82, 101 and 102.

"Council is acting with extreme prejudice against its own business ratepayers. Its rating policies are requiring business to subsidise residential property owners in the interests of political expedience, not for Hamilton's development.

"Given the paucity of information in the Plan and its similarity with last years' plan, we also hold reservations that it complies with Sections 76, 77 and 78 of the Local Government Act 2002.

"These are serious issues as they call the integrity of council's decision making processes into question."

Mr Thompson also noted that empire building by council using rate payers' funds is not a proper role for councils, hence non core assets such as housing, the airport, parking buildings, hotel shares and so on should be sold with the funds used to develop the city's infrastructure.

"Hamilton is virtually the last place in New Zealand without a uniform annual general charge as part of its rates structure," he said. "This runs contrary to almost all other councils and contrary to the principle of matching benefits to costs.

"We recommend household refuse be charged on a user pays basis the same as for many other cities, or by a uniform annual charge, with general rates reduced by a corresponding amount."

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