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Let The Public Have Their Say On Rates

Let The Public Have Their Say On Rates

Heather Roy Wednesday, 23 August 2006 Speeches - Local Government

Speech on the Local Government (Rating Cap) Amendment Bill.

Good afternoon

Rodney Hide's Local Government (Rating Cap) Amendment Bill would end the unsustainable cycle of crippling rates hikes kiwi ratepayers are currently experiencing.

The House of Parliament is safe, but in their own houses, Kiwis are feeling the pain of rate hikes now. Today, the House of Parliament has an opportunity to invite the public to give us an alternative. Local government can come to parliament too, and give us their views. That would be democracy in action.

Thousands of people have written, called and emailed ACT encouraging us to continue with this issue, and the media have run many stories about the struggles ratepayers are facing.

There is Plimmerton pensioner Roger Beauchamp who was told to sell his family home by the Porirua City Council if he couldn't afford his rates bill. There is the 79 year old widow who is going without her electric blanket to make ends meet along and the pensioner couple who are faced with paying their increased rates bill by cancelling their house and contents insurance after 32 years.

Whether Kiwis are denied an opportunity to have their say this afternoon will be the choice of New Zealand First.

We have heard New Zealand First's concern that charging rates on the basis of property value is unfair, and their call for an inquiry into the whole way local government is funded.

An inquiry will explore these issues, but will take time. Ratepayers are feeling the pain of rates hikes now. Rodney Hide's Bill gives us the opportunity to act today. Capping rates will put ratepayers in charge of councils - a reverse of what we have now, where councils are in charge of ratepayers.

When we walk into Parliament's debating chamber, New Zealanders want us to be bigger than our personal differences, to grow beyond our party politics, and to vote in the interest of Kiwis and their families.

If we did, this Bill would go to Select Committee.

ACT does not believe that any government is important enough to push people out of their family homes. We do not believe that Kiwis should have to go without, to pay for government - central or local they neither need nor want.

Capping rates, as this bill proposes, would make councils budget and prioritise. It would make them live within their means - just like kiwi families do.

It would stop people in this chamber from imposing more duties, responsibilities and costs onto councils. It would let councillors focus on their local communities.

By allowing for inflation, not one dollar will need to be cut from council spending. Roading, water and other infrastructure can still be developed, with exemptions to the cap if necessary. Rodney Hide has already signalled that he will move an amendment so that ratepayers will get to choose which projects go ahead. This is only fair as it is ratepayers who are expected to pay for them.

Passed into law, rates caps would change the relationship between ratepayers and councils. Spending decisions would have to be made transparently, instead of by committees behind closed doors. Control over spending would be held by the people, rather than the politicians.

This Bill is not perfect, and it is not the only answer. But it would bring an end to unsustainable rates hikes, and it provides an opportunity - today - to let the people come to this House and have their say.

ENDS

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