with Kaiwaka-Mangawhai Ward Councillor Jonathan Larsen
Consolidated General Bylaw consultation
Submissions close on 19 June 2020 with a hearing scheduled to be held on 30 June 2020.
For further information and to make a submission see Council’s website or phone 0800 727 059 for a hard copy.
With the large demands on public input at present with Mangawhai Central, Bylaw review and general demands on time with the current economic situation, I have asked that consultation not occur straight away to give people time to make proper submissions.
Council will advise when the consultation period starts in due course.
My thoughts on rates
1. Fundamentally I believe that the Council should be run for the benefit of the ratepayers (its “shareholders”).
2. Like any organisation Council needs to operate within the bounds of available revenue. Councils however have unique powers to raise that revenue through rating, and can effectively set the amount of revenue generated at any arbitrary level it chooses. This system fails when rates are set at levels that are unaffordable for ratepayers.
3. The best measure of inflation available for Councils is the Local Government Cost Index (LGCI). This index uses a basket of goods applicable to Council operations and at present is calculated as 2.0 to 2.2 percent.
4. It is often argued that Kaipara is a "growth" Council and therefore must spend more than inflation. The effects of growth however can be mitigated if development contributions and financial contributions are set at appropriate levels. This has not in my opinion previously been happening in Kaipara.
5. Many retired ratepayers with limited incomes have spent their lives providing for a nice place to retire. The rating system for Kaipara is based on land value, and this results in the rates particularly for Eastern properties being disproportionately higher than other locations.
6. My concern is that if Council continues to impose compounding rates increases well above inflation, rates will eventually become the largest component of many retiree’s expenditure. This practice runs the risk of rating them off their properties that they have worked so hard for and deserve to peacefully enjoy. A similar situation applies to many rural property owners. I can accept some margin above LGCI to provide for improvements, but not double LGCI (or more) as has occurred over the past several years.
7. In my experience bureaucracies provided with large budgets are inefficient. It is my preference to keep budgets lean – this motivates staff to find efficiencies and smart solutions to service delivery. Currently one percent of rates is $346,000. When set beside the district plan review Long Term Plan (ten-year) budget of $7.32 million the impact on ratepayers is eye-watering – that’s a pretty hefty price for a book review. When large budgets are provided this often leads to the engagement of consultants – the ratepayer then has to fund both the staff overheads and the consultants.
8. My concerns are of course heightened by the obvious impending hardships of the current and potential upcoming economic conditions post-Covid-19, which further strengthens the case to take a conservative approach.
9. I am not opposed to the use of economic stimulus for the local area. There are many sources of central government funding to the tune of billions of dollars to draw on at present. What I am opposed to in these uncertain times, is rating to generate funds to proceed with "nice to have" projects under the guise of providing local economic stimulus. In many cases this simply imposes further financial burden on local ratepayers through rates, whilst funding consultants and contractors who are often operating businesses based outside of Kaipara.
10. In my opinion now in particular is a time to proceed with caution and live within our means.
§ For Council maintenance or service issues phone 0800 727 059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Any community projects or issues that you would like assistance with contact me on 021 185 8389 or email@example.com.
NOTE: Views expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the consensus position of Council.