Posted on June 29, 2015
Much of the debate around the Mayor’s one vote budget win last week was on the level of rate increases, and the headline 9.9% average residential increase. It’s reasonable that media and other commentators focus on this as consumer inflation (currently virtually zero) is only forecast to be 1.6% next year. Although Council’s rate of inflation is higher (because of the different mix of goods and services it buys), council hasn’t explained this to ratepayers.
Instead, budget supporters are relying on the “we-have-to-do-something” argument to justify the increase. But this has been the infamous battle-cry of many great campaign failures over the centuries.
Supporters of the budget are at pains to point out that at average rate-paying levels, this 9.9% average increase amounts to an extra $214 per year.
But I have previously referred to the recent two yearly NZ Society survey undertaken by Stats NZ which showed that 40% of Aucklanders do not have enough money to meet everyday needs or only just do. The total average rates bill in Auckland will now climb to nearly $60 per week, and the point has been missed that a small increase for some ratepayers may be very significant for others.
As the Herald’s local board impact graphic to the right shows, this impact will be most keenly felt in some of the communities of Auckland that can least afford it: Mangere-Otahuhu up 16.9%; Otara-Papatoetoe up 12.2% and Manurewa up 9.5%.
The dollar amount is one thing, but the current NZ Herald poll which followed the budget debate indicates what is the bigger issue and why ‘we have to do something’ is unlikely to succeed. Auckland ratepayers don’t value a lot of what council does.
I appreciate NZ Herald online poll respondent’s won’t be typical of all Aucklanders, but the results are still significant. 78% of people think their rates are high enough anyway.
This speaks to a much wider skepticism problem with much of what council does. Local Government New Zealand put this in sharp focus when it released a nationwide survey showing only 29% had a positive perception of local government.
Len Brown has made this challenge harder to turn around by ignoring much of the Long Term Plan submission feedback, but there is a great opportunity now for a new leader for Auckland.