Forget the ‘vision thing’ … it’s rates that matter to ratepayers. At least that’s the starting point.

Here’s the lead from an article in today’s DomPost:

“Many Wellingtonians would support a super city if they could save $2 per week.

“Survey results show that a $100 saving on their annual rates bill would be enough to persuade the 59 per cent of Wellington residents who opposed amalgamation to change their minds. And for 31 per cent it would take a saving of only 20c a week, or $10 a year.”

Could amalgamation in Hawke’s Bay produce $100 savings per ratepayer? Absolutely. Recall the savings from Auckland reorg we wrote about last week.

There’s no question that matters of the wallet strongly influence most ratepayers. But savings aside, many in the community who think seriously about the region’s future and work constantly to achieve better outcomes, also see enormous benefits in unified strategic planning and investment. The ‘vision thing’ has its place as well in the case for reorganisation.

That point is made strongly by Kerry Prendergast, Wellington’s last mayor, in this opinion piece, Wellington is lacking focus.

Tom Belford

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5 Comments

  1. Tom, I am sure that based on the huge savings evidenced by the successful Auckland amalgamation the savings would be substantial for all Hawke's Bay residents.

    The naysayers and negative spin artists currently sucking from the ratepayers teat have yet to answer the question, why does little Hawke's Bay, with stagnant growth require 5 of everthing when a booming Auckland with a population 10 times that of the Bay has only 1 ?

    The savings will be well in excess of $100 per annum per ratepayer when all 5 councils are rolled into one cohesive authority.

    I challenge one of their many spokespeople to provide evidence that this would not be the case.

  2. Savings on rates are a very complicated thing to understand and to articulate.

    Most people think savings on future rates (such as those mentioned in the article on Auckland) equates to a smaller rates bill than they receive today….that simply isn't the case.

    In most areas of Auckland rates under the supercity have once again gone up. Now I don't begrudge this one bit as costs and ratepayer expectations both increase over time. The savings outlined in the article simply mean the increase is rates just isn't as big as it could have been. The problem being, that when you look forward ten years at a time many of the elements are entirely hypothetical.

    I'm an amalgamation supporter and believe that it can create greater cohesiveness, efficiency and potentially long term savings. I'm just wary that people will think that "savings" means less rates than they currently pay….it won't.

    While in some areas of Auckland rates have gone down (I own a rental property in the old Waitakere City and my rates have gone down by circa 10%) in other areas (such as Mt Eden where my main dwelling is) have gone up 30% or more. However this is more a function of revised property valuations and in some cases a transition from rates being based on land value only to capital value.

    So despite the Auckland Council delivering "significant long term savings" many Mt Eden residents are less than happy.

    Lets be honest, very few people will ever be entirely happy with their Council and probably even fewer will be happy with paying rates, whatever level they may be set at.

  3. Paul, it is the total rates over the unified council that have import.

    It is an unassailable fact that the rate of increase OVERALL is lower than that projected by the previous 8 councils.

    True, as a result of a change in Len Brown's system of rating some have gone up significantly while some fortunate people ( such as yourself) are enjoying a substantial drop in rates.

    It is the overall picture to focus on, not the disparity between Remuera and Mt Eden etc.

    How an individual council imposes the rating system is up to them. The fact is the unified authority has resulted in tremendous savings ( despite Len Brown ) which are to the benefit of all ratepayers.

    If they are unhappy as to how the rates have been imposed then he will be unemployed next year.

  4. The premise of this whole post is flawed (but no surprises that Tom has chosen to spin this as he has).

    The promise of cheaper rates may well hoodwink many into thinking amalgamation is worthy of support, but what happens if the amalgamationistas get their misguided way and we all live under one monopoly authority?

    At least now a Hastings rates payer can vote with their feet. If they don't want to pay Hastings rates for Hastings services, they can move to Napier.

    Is this drive for amalgamation actually about improving the region (which could be done without merging the representational aspects) or is it about something else?

    For more on this, check out The Great Amalgamation Scam at Recess Monkey (http://www.recessmonkey.org.nz/amalgamationscam01/)

  5. In general, any comparisons to Auckland are misleading in an HB context – even if (which personally I seriously doubt) the supercity really will produce savings … because they have a seriously stressed and outdated infrastructure that needs huge money to fix.

    In contrast, HB generally has reasonable infrastructure in good condition, so we wouldn't face the same impacts – overall. But parts of the system do need big money… and in general those parts are the rural backblocks where you get very little bang for your buck. A responsible (underlined) amalgamated council would find itself having to spend a larger slice of its budget on services for the small minority at the larger (urban) majority's cost.

    While the current HDC has to a large extent already incorporated these costs, residents of Napier and the smaller centres (eg, Wairoa, Waipawa, etc) would find themselves facing significant increases once rates were "levelled" over the whole. This direct cost impact is the real financial argument, not the level of debt.

    However personally I find the debate over rates facetious; it is the level of SERVICE you get for them that is the primary issue. And in my not-inconsiderable experience – which includes going through an amalgamation – you can get better service levels by co-operation rather than amalgamation.

    Then you also save local democracy, instead of putting it to the sword.

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