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Southland District Council Country’s Most Affordable

At a cost to ratepayers of $1,669 per year, Southland District Council charges lower average residential rates than any other provincial council in the country, according to Ratepayers' Report, the Taxpayers' Union's online local government league tables, available at www.ratepayersreport.nz .

Garrick Wright-McNaughton, local government researcher for the Taxpayers’ Union, says “Only one council nationwide charges lower average residential rates than Southland District Council: Mackenzie District.”

“Ratepayers in Gore District are paying on average $600 more ($2,286) per year in average residential rates than their neighbours in Southland, while Invercargill City ratepayers pay $2,011 on average”.

“Southland District Council is a prime example of a council focusing on core services and providing value for money to its ratepayers through financial prudence. The Council has the second lowest level of debt per ratepayer, nationwide, almost non-existent financing costs as a result, and doesn’t appear to be overstaffed, employing 7.7 staff members per 1,000 ratepayers. Well done.”

“Council CEO Steve Ruru is running a slick operation, and he doesn’t demand an arm and a leg to do so - his remuneration package is actually below the average for similar provincial councils. Per ratepayer, the Council also has the lowest staffing costs of any provincial council.”

Ratepayers of neighbouring Gore District and Invercargill City Councils should question why their authorities do not appear to be performing as competitively, he said.

“Gore District Council has lower group operating expenses per ratepayer ($3,553 compared to Southland District Council’s $3,800), but its higher financing costs and personnel costs suggest that the money isn’t being used as efficiently”.

“Likewise, Invercargill City Council pays proportionally less staff salaries in excess of $100,000 than SDC (7.6% compared to 15.8%), but it employs 14 staff per 1,000 ratepayers - almost twice as many as SDC.”

When compared to other city councils, ICC often came out as a middle-of-the-road council, he said.

Ratepayers’ Report is available online and free of charge so all Southland ratepayers can judge for themselves the performance of their town hall.”

Other findings related to Southland:
• Southland District Council charges lower average residential rates than any provincial council nationwide ($1,669 per year), with only one council - Mackenzie District - placing a lower financial burden on its ratepayers.
• Invercargill City Council charges average residential rates of $2,011 per year, while Gore District Council charges the highest average residential rates in Southland ($2,286 per year).
• Southland District Council has the third lowest debt per ratepayer, nationwide ($593), while also having more assets per ratepayer than any provincial council ($78,941).
• Southland District Council has the equal lowest financing costs per ratepayer ($1) and lowest personnel costs ($585) of any provincial council.
• Gore District Council has lower total operating costs per ratepayer than any other council in Southland ($3,553), although its relatively higher staffing levels (15.2 staff per 1,000 ratepayers) translates to the eighth highest personnel costs per ratepayer of any rural council ($966).
• ICC has more debt per ratepayer than any other city council ($8,414).*
• Councils considered for this comparison are Gore District Council, Invercargill City Council, and Southland District Council.

*NB: Ratepayers’ Report defines city councils as the six smaller metropolitan councils with populations between 40,000 and 120,000.

A Q & A covering the methodology of Ratepayers' Report is available here.

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