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Local Government Bill passes, but funding must be next

30 November 2012

Local Government Bill passes, but funding must be next

Federated Farmers welcomes the passage of the Local Government Act Amendment Bill, but more must be done to contain and reduce the rates burden, Federated Farmers local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“The passage of the Bill is good news for ratepayers. Since 2002 rates have increased an average of 7 percent per year,” Ms Milne says.

“This growth is unsustainable and to rein it in councils and communities need better guidance and clarity on local government spending priorities.

“The Bill does this by changing the purpose of local government away from its activist, open-ended job description towards something more like what most people think local government should focus on: local infrastructure, local public services and local regulation.

“However, the Bill really just tinkers at the margin and will only go part of the way to containing and reducing the rates burden.

“What‘s needed now is funding reform, which so far has been the missing element of the Government’s work.

“It is well known that rates fall heavily and inequitably, with farmers being particularly hard hit. Far too many farmers pay more than $20,000 per year in general rates to fund activities they barely use or benefit from.

“What is perhaps less well understood is that funding policy also affects councils’ regulatory performance, especially when central government makes laws for councils to enforce, but does not provide any resources. The incentives are all wrong.

“We also think limited funding options are a factor in housing affordability, for example when councils impose high development contributions that push up the costs of sections.

“The burden of funding local government must be spread more equitably and that means moving away from the over-reliance on a 17th century system of property value rates and finding new and better tools for councils operating in the 21st century.

“Federated Farmers has always been up for this debate. With growing concern about housing affordability we sense the time is right to make some progress,” Ms Milne says.

ENDS

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