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Up, up and away (again)

by Lindsay Shelton
My annual rates bill has reached a new high – I’m now paying over $4000 a year.

Ten years ago, when we bought the house, the rates bill was $2600 a year. So I can’t complain that the rates have doubled. Not yet. But here’s a forecast from Island Bay economist Keith Johnson. He wrote in April that

In 2001-02, the average household ratepayer paid $1,053 per year. This rose to $1,884 in 2012-13. By 2021-22, the figure is likely to stand at $2,250 per household ratepayer.

For anyone whose income is falling, annually-increasing rates bills are a worry. Income tax goes down when you’re earning less. But the rates just keep going up, regardless.

Does Mayor Celia Wade-Brown have any recognition of the issue? She has said that many people can’t afford more rates, but she made that statement at the same time as she was announcing another rates increase. In March her council said it was cutting expenditure – but this was also (you guessed it) part of an announcement about increasing the rates. And in July last year, the mayor was explaining why she opposed a proposal to cap rates increases.

Perhaps she’d assessed the mood of Wellington. The rates didn’t seem to be an issue in the elections. Malcolm Aitken campaigned for a review of rates policies. He said households were struggling. But he didn’t get enough votes to be elected. I would have voted for him, if I’d been in his ward.

Neil Douglas, analysing our escalating rates bills last month, wrote that

the folk of Porirua and Wellington should thank their incumbent councillors for imposing lower rates increases (of 2.7% and 2.8% a year) than the national average of 4.1% a year. Nevertheless, the increase is still higher than retail prices (CPI) which averaged 2.5% p.a.

That doesn’t make me any happier. I’m more aligned with the poll in February last year which told the city council that 55% of ratepayers don’t want any more rates increases. The poll was, of course, ignored.

Even the Employers Chamber of Commerce is concerned. In December 2011 it asked for a “reallocation of existing funds rather than rates increases.” But the rates have kept on going up. If an influential lobby group can’t get the council to change, there’s no hope for the rest of us.

8 comments:

  1. Elaine Hampton, 7. November 2013, 13:22

    Certainly a bundle of money could have been saved on many wasteful items, such as CCOs for instance, and that awful new logo whose cost is still unknown

     
  2. FH, 7. November 2013, 15:32

    I just read your article on rates increases.
    That’s why I sold my house and left Wellington.

     
  3. Dave, 7. November 2013, 19:00

    It seems right around our nation that Mayors, Councillors and CEOs are out of control and way out of touch with ratepayers. Rates are killing us, time for this spiralling rate increase to stop.

     
  4. anon, 8. November 2013, 3:33

    Baby boomers rattling about in huge expensive houses not being able to afford rates should simply sell and free up family homes for younger people who have actual families.

    No sympathy for the greediest generation unfortunately, just as they have no sympathy for us.

     
  5. Nora, 8. November 2013, 8:38

    Agree with Elaine. Let’s not forget that the previous council voted 11-2 to advance $1m as a 50% share of the cost of preparing a Resource Consent application for Wellington airport to extend the runway 300m north into Evans Bay.

    There is also a further $300m quoted at the construction stage, where once again ratepayers will be sharing….If the Airport, Chamber of Commerce, etc feel this is necessary let them pay. But before this commitment, surely a guarantee is needed from the airlines that they will support, or once again we ratepayers will be fleeced.

    As a ratepayer I expect my streets to be cleaned; after the recent storms, footpaths and gutters are blocked with branches, leaves etc and grass banks and verges in our hilly suburbs are feet high in weeds and grass which perhaps should be included on the “logo”.

     
  6. Inner City Suburbanite, 8. November 2013, 13:08

    My rates went down, significantly. So what’s all the fuss about?

    … let’s not talk about insurance bills though

     
  7. Elaine Hampton, 12. November 2013, 11:27

    The burden of tax has been shifted. From high wage earners to low wage earners, rates go up – and families at the most expensive time of life and old people who have a family home full of memories suffer. GST is universal on even essentials (other governments are more compassionate). The top rate tax is 33%. And the rates go up and up. Needs a big picture view

     
  8. Esjay, 14. November 2013, 19:42

    A few years ago Councils were devoted to ‘Core” fundamentals, now it seems that economic benefits complete with re-branding are the priorities. Affordability by the ratepayers it seems is not a consideration.