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2019 Ratepayers’ Report released, methodology explained

18 SEPTEMBER 2019


The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union, in partnership with the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, has today published this year's Ratepayers' Report – online local government league tables – at www.ratepayersreport.nz.

With these league tables, New Zealanders can easily compare their local council performance and financial position for 2017/18 against similar-sized councils and types.

Setting out more than two thousand data points, the Ratepayers' Report provides transparency, and per-household figures ensure fair comparisons between councils. The league tables rank Councils on metrics including average residential rates, staffing costs, and Council liabilities among others. A full Q&A on the Report's methodology is available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/ratepayers_report_2019.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Some councils do very well in the league tables, some far less so. All figures were sent to councils twice to double check before release.”

“Rates are still on the rise. On average, councils have increased their rates by $90, with the highest rates increase coming from Manawatu District Council which increased rates by $364, or 14%.”

“The data suggests Auckland ratepayers in particular have cause for concern, with the highest average rates in the country, and council liabilities of $21,941 per household. Auckland Council’s liabilities are second only to earthquake-affected Christchurch, and over three times the national average.”

“Every dollar spent by a Council was earned by a hard-working ratepayer. Ratepayers' Report allows ratepayers to understand if they could be getting a better deal.”

Notable Findings:

• Christchurch City Council continues to have the highest liabilities per household compared to any other council ($25,402). Auckland Council follows in second place, with liabilities per household of $21,941. "That alone is an incredible figure," says Mr Williams. "Think about every letterbox in Auckland having a $21,941 credit card bill in it thanks to Len Brown and Phil Goff."

• The average liabilities per household of all councils is $6,197.

• Auckland Council ranks highest for average residential rates at $3,387. There are 2,473 staff paid salaries greater than $100,000 at Auckland Council and its CCOs.

• The lowest average residential rates in New Zealand are levied by the Southland District Council ($1,737).

• The least efficient council in terms of staffing is Westland District Council, with a staff member for every 19 households. The most efficient is Tararua District Council, with a staff member for every 117 households.

• Only five Councils meet the full criteria for prudent Audit and Risk Committees. Two Councils, Palmerston North City Council and Waimakariri District Council, fail to meet any of the recommended oversight policies. Western Bay of Plenty fails to even have a separate Audit and Risk Committee, which is considered basic financial prudence.

Further press releases:

Highest and lowest average rates
Highest and lowest liabilities
Auckland highlights
Wellington highlights
Canterbury highlights

Editors' notes:

Data for the report was compiled by the Taxpayers' Union and was supplied to all councils for review prior to publication.

Ratepayers' Report facilitates straightforward comparison of average residential rates via a formula first used by Napier City Council which allows for an 'apples to apples' comparison of average residential rates and charges, based on each council’s definition of a residential rating unit. Only Westland, Buller, and Waikato district councils were unwilling to provide the Taxpayers' Union with the necessary rates information.

For non-rates figures (i.e. liabilities, personnel costs) we have this year assessed council data using Stats NZ’s 2018 household estimates, with some councils opting to replace this estimate with an exact figure. We have done this because councils have different definitions of what constitutes a residential ratepayer or ‘rating unit’.

Queenstown-Lakes, Taupo, and Thames-Coromandel District Councils objected to the use of Stats NZ’s household figures, as these tend to exclude properties left empty, i.e. baches. As a result, per-household figures for these districts may be somewhat inflated.

ENDS


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