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Government needs to act to control councils

Crisis time for ratepayers – Government needs to act to control councils.

Ratepayers in New Zealand’s two biggest cities are facing substantial rates increases over the next few years.

Christchurch’s problems arise mostly from the earthquakes of three years ago, while Auckland’s problems are self-inflicted by the council’s spending decisions.

The councils of both cities have made it clear that rates increases are inevitable unless ‘alternative funding sources’ are found.

Councils and central Government have made similar noises over the seven years since the Independent Rates Inquiry of 2007, but no solutions are in sight.

A few weeks ago Local Government New Zealand announced it was to investigate additional funding sources for councils, but not alternative funding sources.

Both Christchurch and Auckland are demanding more funding from central Government and it now seems inevitable that the funding of local councils will become a political football in election year.

It is almost universally accepted that the current rating system is unfair and inequitable, but councils and central Government are reluctant to make changes because rates are ‘easy to collect and almost impossible to avoid’.

The need for change is now reaching a crisis level as councils’ debt levels rise, and interest on that debt is forming an increasing percentage of rates collected.

Until solutions to these problems are found there is one clear cut option open to all councils - reduce expenditure on non-essential services and projects which are funded from rates.

Central Government is ultimately responsible for local government and must use its powers to bring local councils to heel and bring financial relief to ratepayers.

ends

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Gordon Campbell:
On First Time Voting (Centre Right)

For the next two days, I’m turning my column over to two guest columnists who are first time voters. I’ve asked them to explain why they were voting, for whom and what role they thought their parental upbringing had played in shaping their political beliefs ; and at the end, to choose a piece of music.

One guest columnist will be from the centre right, one from the centre left. Today’s column is from the centre right – by James Penn:

As someone who likes to consider himself, in admittedly vainglorious fashion, a considered and rational actor, the act of voting for the first time is a somewhat confusing one. I know that my vote has a close to zero chance of actually influencing the outcome of Parliament. The chance I will cast the marginal vote that adds to National or Act’s number of seats in Parliament is miniscule. The chance, even if I did, that doing so would affect the government makes voting on a strictly practical level even more spurious as a worthwhile exercise.

But somehow I have spent a large amount of time (perhaps detrimentally so, depending on the outcome of my upcoming exams) agonising over how to cast my first vote in a national election. More>>

 

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