Grey Power on warpath over rates

By Wayne Thompson

A fiery meeting of 400 Grey Power North Shore members yesterday voted to censure the city's mayor, George Wood, for saying that ratepayers should consider downsizing their homes if they cannot pay this year's 9.5 per cent average rates rise.

Some long-time North Shore residents told the Weekend Herald they were insulted by the three-term mayor's comment this week.

"People all over the city are upset about this," said Lina Findlay, of Northcote.

"We've already downsized to a small unit and we are paying $1400 a year in rates.

"I've lived on the North Shore all my life and why should I move because the council is buying stupid things? They seem to have no interest in what people can afford," said Mrs Findlay.

The city's budget calls for the average rates bill to more than double in 10 years from $1456 to $3151.

Yesterday, Mr Wood said he was sorry if his comment in a Close Up television interview had given offence and seemed lacking in feeling.

He said it was not meant to sound like he was suggesting moving into a cheaper home as a solution to the problem of rates rises.

"I was saying that was the last resort if people can't pay their rates.

"That's if they don't want to use the rates postponement system that the council has and they cannot get relief through the Government's rates rebate scheme."

Mr Wood said people did not seem to appreciate that most of the rates increase was to repay loans for capital works which surveys showed the people wanted.

He did not agree that the council was trying to do too much too quickly.

However, he said the council could look again at the its 10-year plan for $1.7 billion of works.

"Maybe it should be put out to 12 years or longer," said Mr Wood.

He said Grey Power North Shore president Alan McCulloch was being unfair to a well-run council when yesterday he sought - and won - a vote of no confidence in the council.

A roar of approval greeted Mr McCulloch when he said: "We're not putting up with any more crap of the past few years."

The meeting voted to express opposition to the council's "exorbitant levels of rating and excessive spending policy".

By yesterday, 2210 North Shore residents had applied for a rates rebate of up to $500.

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