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Local Govt: Rural Landowners Left Holding The Bill

1 November 1999

PR116/99

LABOUR'S LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLICY LEAVES RURAL LANDOWNERS HOLDING THE BILL

Federated Farmers said today that the Labour Party's local government policy is a major initiative that would have huge impact on New Zealand if carried through.

Vice-President Tom Lambie said that Labour is proposing to change the entire basis of local government; away from prescribed and limited activities, to a permissive regime that could develop into a much wider range of activities. These could possibly overlap and duplicate central government functions such as social welfare and policing, adding to the overall costs of government.

"While the role of local government should be examined, that examination must be complete. The role can not be considered in isolation; it must include the issues of funding, representation and governance."

"The principle of general competence is very dangerous to apply when issues relating to funding and rating powers, and disproportionate contributions have not been resolved."

"If local government wants a role redistributing income, then it must be funded from income-related taxes. Simply rating land or capital value will not suffice, as the land or capital value is often unrelated to the owner's income."

"The Labour Party policy to fully review local government funding within the first 18 months of government is very good. But its declaration that it will not increase the allowable proportion of funding from Uniform Access Charges totally pre-empts that review, and would cripple any overall reforms."

"Labour must start with a blank sheet of paper if their proposals are to deliver any meaningful and permanent progress. Labour's funding statements compromise that approach."

"Rural ratepayers should be extremely concerned. Already the limiting of uniform access charges to 30 percent of funding severely penalises farmers and landowners. Too frequently, farmers are paying substantial amounts for services that they do not, or are unable to, receive.

"There are farmers who contribute $1,500 to libraries, while urban households living much closer to those libraries contribute far less." Federated Farmers estimates that the average farm subsidises local government activities in urban areas by over $2,000 per year.

"Rural ratepayers need to consider very carefully the implications of this policy," concluded Mr Lambie.

ENDS

For further information: Tom Lambie 026-113-161 Catherine Petrey 04-473-7269


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