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Comparing the rates increases – from 0.45% to 7.31%

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Mayor Wade-Brown’s use of the word “austerity” in her announcement of Wellington’s seemingly-inevitable annual rates increase didn’t refer to her council’s spending plans. It referred only to a small package of savings worth around a million dollars – not much in comparison with the $153million of capital expenditure which was also summarised in her statement.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, is having no problems in talking about his government’s plans for an austerity budget this year. If only our councils could get the same message. But they’re all spending more and putting up the rates.

If there was a prize for restraint, it would go to the Regional Council, which plans to increase homeowners’ rates in Wellington by only 0.45 per cent, compared with the city council’s 6.5 per cent. The Regional Council even says that some of its rates may actually be decreasing. Which is not a claim that any other of our local bodies is able to make.

Hutt City is trying hard – its rates are going up by only 2 per cent, and Mayor Wallace says there’s a commitment to keep rates as low as possible.

Kapiti takes the prize for the year’s highest rates increase – an average 7.31 per cent, compared to Wellington’s average of 4.3 per cent.

Porirua’s decision on rates was announced yesterday morning – an average increase of 5.7 per cent. One of the city’s challenges is to stop raw sewage being discharged into Porirua Harbour.

But it’s hard to make comparisons. Some of the announcements refer only to averages, while others are more specific. None of the press releases gives enough information for anyone to make an informed judgement. For that, you need to plough through the immensely detailed documents that all our elected representatives are studying on our behalf. Here, for example, are all the papers that were discussed by the Wellington City Council last night, as they voted to increase our rates once again.

8 comments:

  1. Bryan Pepperell, 27. March 2011, 21:34

    On Friday, Council voted on the Draft Annual Plan, which is the first cut before a period of consultation and hearing submissions on the draft. Council will then vote on the final cut and the draft plan will be set as the Annual Plan.
    Start making your thoughts and opinions known to your councillors now. Also remember that any comparisons with other local authorities bare little relevance to Wellington with its big central business district.
    Many people come to Wellington each working day and use our services and work in the city along with tourists and visitors. When comparing charges and rates this has to be considered. Who should carry this cost? Who is best able to pass on such costs and how do ends users cope when they cannot pass on these imposts?
    Wellington also carries large Government sector and NGOs along with the education sector and many churches.
    Over the last eleven years, your elected representatives have been shifting the burden of running the city from business onto the residents’ rates bill. That has been a political judgment and needs to be reflected on. Is it fair? We also have a uniform annual charge on all residents regardless of their ability to pay. That’s a poll tax. Is it fair?
    In the end your elected representatives will be making some subjective and political judgments. They need your help in striking the right balance. Now is the time to speak up and be fearless, democracy demands it.
    Bryan Pepperell
    Wellington City

     
  2. Newtownite, 28. March 2011, 17:05

    Bryan, you appear to be making a special effort to obtain comments from the residents of Wellington City. Similar comments have been heard before. Is it worth it? If we go on the decisions of past Councils, whatever residents say will be ignored by Councillors and Council – after all, Councillors have spent a lot of time as you say “voted on the Draft Annual Plan, which is the first cut “.

    If we go by past years, there may be some trimming of the edges, but as for a major shift, forget it. It just won’t happen. Councillors and Council staff have their pet projects and they will be lining up for a share of the rates; the bottomless pit of Zealandia for example chasing yet another $750,000 to cover the poor performance, poor decisions that Wellingtonians have ploughed money into with gay abandon.

    Can the public of Wellington be assured that the consultation on the Draft Annual Plan will be meaningful? Can the public of Wellington be assured that their comments will be heard? Can the public of Wellington be assured that Councillors and Council staff have an open mind to really listen to the wishes of the people? Otherwise it will be the same process as previous years, a waste of time and effort.

     
  3. Bernie Harris, 28. March 2011, 22:18

    Newtownite expresses concern that the consultation process for the Draft Annual Plan will be a waste of time and effort. Yet this can only be correct if we measure the city council on its performance of previous years when it was exactly that, a waste of time. Past years were when profligacy was rampant and now is when we are all learning the consequences.

    However, last Thursday with the Secretary of the Federation of Wellington Progressive and Residents Assn (Tom Law) I attended the council’s meeting as a member of the public (something that we are all able to do). One thing that came through clearly, and a majority of councillors mentioned it in the debate, was their desire to enable the residents of Wellington to decide what might be included in the Annual Plan. To us, it was a real breath of fresh air that they wanted to hear what ratepayers wanted, rather than to tell us what they had decided we would get from their use of our hard earned, tax paid, money.

    This display of unprecedented enthusiasm by councillors to involve the public is a most welcome change from the past. Newtownite has challenged councillors, but the real challenge now is for the residents, and those who work in Wellington, to get involved and make their wants and needs known before the final draft of the Annual Plan. In that way councillors and council staff might finally demonstrate their sincerity by responding to how the community thinks.

    It may have been political rhetoric but we, nevertheless, felt that the statements made by councillors were genuine. I have confidence that Wellingtonians are not frivolous with their money and only want what is good for the whole community. Most importantly, they deserve to be heard, not just listened to. The Federation joins with that call from the councillors and recommends that all Wellingtonians obtain a copy of the Draft Annual plan from local libraries, from the Council (499 4444), or online at http://www.wellington.govt.nz/; and that they read, question, and make submissions to let Councillors know what they need before final decisions are made.

     
  4. The City is Ours, 28. March 2011, 22:52

    No matter what we the ratepayers say, projects go ahead whether we want them or not after Officers have put our submissions through their wringer to spin things in such a way they always come out on top.

    Recommendations by Officers asked Councillors to ignore a petition with 1919 signatures saying “Manners Mall will be protected saying NO to revocation”. In report 2 point 5.5 in the summary, officers advised about the petition “This input has not been included in the analysis of submissions but is acknowledged for the Councillors’ information.”

     
  5. Bryan Pepperell, 30. March 2011, 9:43

    Submit on the Wellington City Council Community Draft Annual Plan now. Don’t dither!
    Democracy only works when we all participate. With low turnouts at election time and poor participation rates in the Council Community Annual and Long Term Council Community Plans, outcomes can get distorted. If you don’t vote and participate in the process then you shouldn’t complain about the outcome. You can also write letters to the media and your Councillors. Ask your friends if they have been involved in the submission process. Some may need help. The wheel that squeaks usually gets some oil. Apathy and ignorance is your worst enemy. Here is the submissions link at Wellington City Council – http://www.wellington.govt.nz/haveyoursay/publicinput/index.html

     
  6. The City is Ours, 30. March 2011, 13:27

    Thank you Councillor Pepperell. Your analysis regarding participatory democracy is sound and should be in mainstream media to reach the masses we rely upon to make it work. From a submitter’s perspective, getting your submission in is half the job done and a key to providing you with a platform to address matters of concern that affect you even just stating the basics. You can opt to speak to the committee and elaborate your views, giving councillors an opportunity to ask questions.

    http://www.wellington.govt.nz/plans/dap/pdfs/dap2010-hys.pdf

     
  7. Cr Daran Ponter, 31. March 2011, 0:24

    For those of you interested in the Regional Council’s proposed Annual Plan there are two presentation and discussion sessions scheduled for Wellington, both at the Regional Council’s offices in Wakefield St:
    7pm, Monday 4 April; and
    11am, Wednesday 13 April.
    Copies of the proposed annual plan and a summary of the plan are available at:
    http://www.gw.govt.nz/proposed-annual-plan-2011-2/

    cheers
    Daran Ponter
    Regional Councillor

     
  8. Mark, 13. April 2011, 16:24

    I would like to see a “total revenue take” figure that takes into account not only rates increases (themselves subject to media fog), but the slight of hand fee increases across a number of other services (eg, parking, library charges, pool charges, rubbish charges, park levies, etc). I’m sure this figure would be startling for many ratepayers, and no doubt well into double digits. Its time we saw the real tax take from our local economy. Especially as more and more services are being shifted from rates to user charging to hide the real increases to ratepayers.