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Business Forum Welcomes Rates Inquiry

29 August 2006

Business Forum Welcomes Rates Inquiry

The business community has welcomed the government’s independent inquiry into local government funding, said Don Nicolson, chair of the Local Government Forum.

“This inquiry presents a meaningful opportunity to take a fresh look at the drivers of council spending growth and rate increases, and to investigate better ways for local government to raise the revenue it needs to do its job,” Mr Nicolson said.

The forum of six leading industry and business groups discussed the inquiry at its most recent quarterly meeting.

Mr Nicolson said the inquiry’s terms of reference must be broad and go beyond narrow interpretations of affordability and sustainability.

“The inquiry must not be constrained by the alternatives it should investigate. It should be able to look at appropriate roles and responsibilities for councils and go into all alternative funding sources. It must start with a blank sheet.

“Another key issue is representation. Ratepayers will not accept the inquiry being another in a long line of cosy dialogues between central and local government with those paying the bills looking in from the outside.

“Ratepayers will expect to take full part in this review and with businesses paying around half of rates nationwide there must be adequate representation of the business community.

“Properly conducted, this inquiry gives a chance to address the rates spiral and the anger it causes. If it fails to do so ratepayer rage will only grow. It is time for a major overhaul,” Mr Nicolson said.

The Local Government Forum was set up in 1994 to promote efficiency in local government. Its members are Business New Zealand, Electricity Networks Association, Federated Farmers of New Zealand, the New Zealand Business Roundtable, the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce, and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association.

ENDS

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