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Royal Commission The Best Option

12 October 2004
Royal Commission The Best Option

The Government should appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the funding of local government after another extremely low turnout in this year’s elections, said Charlie Pedersen, Vice President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

"Many are not voting because they are alienated from their local councils. Some don’t care because they are not paying rates. Many who use council services don’t pay directly and have no idea how much the services cost," Mr Pedersen said.

His comments follow preliminary figures showing an almost five percentage point drop decline from those voting three years ago.

"The archaic system of property-based funding of councils ensures that many in the community do not get to read the rates bill.

“It's unreasonable to expect people to be motivated to vote when the council’s services appear to cost them little or nothing. At the other end of the scale the farming community is deeply cynical about the propensity of councils to raise spending, and dump the cost on the minority by hiking landowner’s rates.

"Under the current system we have indifference from those that pay little or no rates, and cynicism from those that pay too much.’

Mr Pedersen welcomed Local Government Minister Chris Carter’s call for a select committee inquiry into the low turnout, but said a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the funding of local government would be a more effective option for tackling this worsening problem.

"A Royal Commission would allow a proper study of the current rating systems and look at other options for raising revenue. A fairer rating system linking rates paid with council services would see many more people voting," concluded Mr Pedersen.

ENDS

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