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The Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights (ARBOR)

September 2016

The Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights (ARBOR)

Our mayor came to power promising rates rises would be kept to 2.5%. They were not. They increased dramatically as the mayor and his fellow councillors expanded the council’s staff numbers and expanded the role of council into non-core areas.

They used the excuse that Auckland had historically underinvested in infrastructure. This excuse allowed politicians to weasel out of election promises, and allowed bureaucrats to present budgets that massively increased rates. Pledges from campaigns were swiftly forgotten as council demanded more and more money from ratepayers to fund their pet projects.

This election gives ratepayers the chance to enforce fiscal discipline on council. They can vote out the councillors who increased rates. They can vote for candidates who promise to get council spending under control and return council to its core business.

Yet too many politicians make promises at election time that they conveniently explain away when in office. This is why Auckland needs a real documented solution to hold the Mayor and Councillors to sensible spending limits.

Locking In Rates Controls – The ARBOR
As Mayor, an early priority will be to establish an Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights. This will help protect ratepayers and all Aucklanders from future councils who choose to break campaign pledges and increase spending way above the rate of inflation.

Ideally a Ratepayers Bill of Rights should be encompassed in government legislation and I would encourage Central Government to act accordingly. However in the absence of Central Government legislation, Auckland Council can adopt its own Ratepayers Bill of Rights by way of Council Resolution. Any subsequent Council wanting to repeal it could only do so by way of a further Council Resolution, which would of course be open to public scrutiny.

The ARBOR concept has been successfully demonstrated elsewhere. For example voters in Colorado were upset at politicians continually breaking election promises on spending, so forced the adoption of a Taxpayers Bill of Rights. This forced the Colorado State Government to act as a business, controlling spending, prioritising what is important, cutting what is not important and not just passing on the cost of additional state spending to taxpayers.

The Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights
The Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights will do the following:

1. Keep the total rate take to no more than the rate of inflation (but taking into account the increase in the rating base associated with population growth).

2. Return any surplus of rates collected to ratepayers by way of rate reduction or pay down debt rather than spend on fringe “pet projects”

3. Require any proposed Rates Rises above the ARBOR Inflation Limit to be approved by ratepayers in a referendum held at the same time as local government elections.

4. Make any major project with combined spending of over one billion subject to a referendum held at the same time as local government elections.

5. Require all council charges other than rates to be used on the services they are providing, rather than being used for general spending.

6. Introduce a Citizens Decision Review Panel that will allow Aucklanders to appeal against stupid decisions made by Council staff.

For Auckland’s politicians to be credible we need to be sure that they will keep their campaign pledges. The ARBOR forces them to keep their pledge on spending, or run for office on a platform of increasing rates by including a rates rise referendum question on the same ballot paper their name appears on.

The ARBOR is about returning trust to Auckland politics. Since the Super City’s formation we have had a mayor and a council who have believed they can promise one thing at election time and deliver another. The ARBOR will prevent this from happening, as politicians will not be able to lie during an election campaign, and find weasel words to escape their election promises.

John Palino’s Pledges on the Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights
1. Introduce an Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights that includes restricting rates rises to no more than the rate of inflation but taking into account the increase in the rating base associated with population growth.

2. Present a budget that cuts rates by 10% in my first term as Mayor.

3. Spend one quarter of the mayor’s office budget on constant reviews of all council spending, challenging council staff to control costs and drive down rates.


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