I will always fight for local ratepayers and have argued and voted against every Annual Plan budget that’s included much high rates for the Orakei ward.
Nearly half of Orakei ward residents will be paying another 10% more in rates for the coming 2013/14 year, according to official council figures I sought recently.
Auckland Council’s finance department has confirmed that 47.1% of Orakei residential ratepayers, or 13,918 households, are set to pay the full 10% rates cap. Over two thirds of Orakei ratepayers face an increase of at least more than five percent, with the average residential rate increase 5.7%.
The local average increase of 5.7% is nearly twice as much as the regional average of 2.9% that Auckland Mayor Len Brown is keen to promote this election year.
In dollar terms, the average annual residential rates bill for the Orakei ward is now $3,456 compared to the regional average of $2,241, with the average Orakei residential ratepayer set to pay $186 more in rates than last year. The average Orakei ratepayer pays over 54% more than the average ratepayer in the Auckland region.
Local businesses don’t fare any better with the average increase for business ratepayers up 5.2% or $691 more for 2013/14, with 27.6% of local businesses up for an increase more than 10%. The average annual business rate for businesses in the Orakei ward will be $13,948.
The total rates take from the Orakei ward is up $6m to over $115m on the previous financial year.
Given the huge amount the eastern suburbs pay to the wider region, the Orakei Local Board and I will continue to fight for a greater return on the ratepayers’ investment.
Rest assured it’s by no means wealthy Aucklanders that are being hit with biggest rates increases.
The empirical data and anecdotal examples show that many everyday Aucklanders in everyday homes are the ones being hit the hardest. That’s not making for a more liveable city. This relentless rates pounding is only pricing our young people, families, and elderly out of the market, out of their homes, or out of Auckland.
This is not acceptable. I will keep fighting for local ratepayers.
I will also continue to push for a higher Uniform Annual General Charge which is the fixed charge component of your rates. A higher UAGC would help many struggling in higher valued properties. It would more fairly spread the load of rates across the region to better reflect that regardless of property value, Aucklanders generally enjoy equal access to the council’s amenities, activities and services.
As well as fighting rates increases, I’ll continue to push for greater financial accountability and transparency as well as lower council costs and debt levels.
Over the past three years I have publicly exposed a lot of council waste and carried the torch for this council to step up and deliver on the many economic promises of municipal amalgamation – which so far have been few and far between.
Too many staff are earning six figure salaries – in fact 1,165 at the last count, with 123 of them earning over $200,000. Our staff numbers have also increased from 7,000 FTEs to over 8,000 in the 2011/12 financial year alone.
Staggeringly, we have 143 in-house staff employed in the wider field of communications, marketing and PR. Not to mention all dozens and dozens of external advertising agencies and marketing consultants engaged. In less than three years, we’ve also spent over $5m on private pollsters. It’s time to stop spinning and get back to the basics of providing good quality public services at the least possible cost to ratepayers.
I will continue to push for a much tighter rein on our seven council-controlled organisations – or CCOs. The likes of Auckland Transport, ATEED, and Waterfront Auckland need to be stood on and held to great accountability. The decision to run empty trams around and around Wynyard Quarter on a daily basis, at huge expense, is a classic example of where the council needs to exercise greater commercial discipline and judgement.
Sadly, all many residents can see are on-going cost increases despite the 2010 council amalgamation that promised Aucklanders greater economies of scale and containment of costs and rates. It’s time to deliver on these promises.
What’s more user-pays household rubbish is imminent, toll roads look set to come, and regulatory fees, such as dog registration and consent fees, just keep going up. At the same time, council has stopped mowing its own roadside grass verges but is throwing $30m towards a whitewater rafting facility in Manukau. Getting back to core council business will help keep the costs down, and that’s what I stand for.
I’m concerned about what kind of legacy this council is leaving our children and grandchildren. Another $1.2 billion is set to be borrowed this coming financial year alone. That’s over $3m a day and the end result will be crippling debt and interest payments for the next generation. We’re simply doing too much, too fast, and too soon. The debt hangover will seriously limit future councils.
Today this council has a revenue stream of over $3 billion per annum but alarmingly that’s still not enough cash for this Mayor, and so 27% of the council’s expenditure is now borrowed and that’s a big worry. This council needs to get a lot more disciplined on financial matters, learn to prioritise projects, and start delivering on all the economic benefits Aucklanders were promised when eight councils merged into one authority.
I am pleased to have exposed a number of issues around low quality and wasteful spending, and have forced council to buck up its performance in many areas. Rest assured I will continue to push for greater financial accountability and transparency.
I have worked closely with the Orakei Local Board to successfully secure funding for local projects.
Together we have strongly represented local concerns over the likes of rates increases and intensified housing. I support the seven Orakei Local Board members who are seeking re-election – chair Desley Simpson, deputy Mark Thomas, and board members Ken Baguley, Kate Cooke, Troy Churton, Colin Davis, and Kit Parkinson.
The Mayor’s push for more high-rise and infill housing has been met with huge local resistance and genuine concern. I went to all the angry meetings and I have been listening and actively pushing for the unitary plan process to be slowed down.
I may be among the minority around the council table, but we’ve had some wins along the way and I will continue to push back. With the local board, we’re doing all we can to lessen future growth pressure that this unitary plan will add to our suburbs and neighbourhoods. We’ve pushed for height reductions in many suburbs and along the coast, and will continue to do so.
Yes our beautiful suburbs will need to grow. However we must do all we can to ensure our young people, families and long-time locals are not squeezed out, or priced out. I support the protection of public open space, our heritage and built character.
Local projects I have worked to advance with the local board include bringing the construction of a new Meadowbank Community Centre closer, securing new transport-related project funding, as well as helping to convince councillors that council needs to buy the precious 19-hectare sports ground Colin Maiden Park in St Johns.
Local households pay over 54% more in rates than the average home across the region. The eastern suburbs deserve a greater share of its rates money back. I will always push for more investment into our local streets, parks, beaches, and business areas and I have always supported the local boardwith their project priorities and funding applications.
I will continue to keep in constant dialogue with local residents and business associations, not to mention heritage groups, sports clubs, and the likes of the local Rotary and Probus clubs.
With our area paying over $115m in rates every year, I will continue work closely with the Orakei Local Board and push for a fairer share of the council’s spending and will always promote local projects.