North Shore City Council backs ARC rate revolt

By THERESA GARNER and NATASHA HARRIS

The North Shore City Council last night joined the revolt against the Auckland Regional Council's new rate.

At a noisy city council meeting councillors voted unanimously to ask the ARC to urgently review their new rate, which has seen bills skyrocket across Auckland.

They also want ratepayers to have some breathing space before penalty payment dates kick in. The first of these is on August 6, and the city council wants it put off until September 15.

The council will also contact all of Auckland's MPs to hold a meeting on the issue, write to the Auditor-General about the legality of the rates, and ask the ARC to take cheque payments for instalments as well as direct debits.

North Shore ratepayers are facing rate increases of up to 657 per cent, and the revolt against the increases has built steadily there and in the Rodney District, the first parts of Auckland to be hit by the new rates.

The revolt is likely to generate further momentum this weekend with protest meetings planned.

Last night, up to 300 people crammed the city council chamber to ask for support to fight the increases.

North Shore mayor George Wood said the council was concerned about getting the services to warrant the rate rises.

Deputy mayor Dianne Hale said the council was sending a strong message. "We are all united on this, and the council appreciates the challenge that a lot of our ratepayers are facing."

While the ARC had had to make tough decisions "the public is speaking and saying 'we can't cope'."

She was not sure what effect the decision would have on the ARC. "It depends how determined they are to stick with their decision."

She predicted the revolt would spread to other areas of Auckland. "As other people get their bills they will then appreciate the impact."

North Shore Mayor George Wood, who had asked people to turn up so he could gauge the depth of feeling, repeatedly called for order as emotional members of the public interrupted the meeting.

Glenfield Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesman David Thornton said the result was "significant". "This will enable us to start to plan a strategy to harness all this power that is coming out."

He had told the council that the rates policy was "vicious and indiscriminate".

"Why does it have to be done this year? Why the huge increase now? And where can we cut back on the $27 million apparently required?" he said. "You find out the numbers and we'll do the rest."

Mr Wood and councillor Mike Tafua stressed to the delegation that the council had proposed setting rates a different way, but had been rebuffed by the ARC.

Councillor Andrew Williams shocked the meeting by saying that ARC chairwoman Gwen Bull's rates would be $98.72 this year.

"Shame, shame!" people called. "My property is the size of a handkerchief and my rate is five times that."

Mr Williams suggested Mrs Bull pay for the difference between her rates and the rates of people with large increases out of her ARC salary. The room flooded with applause.

Rodney District mayor John Law pledged his support for opposing the rates, saying, "The people have had enough."

"Your council and our council are one on this. We have an uprising just like this." He said the power of the people had been ignited.

Many of those at the meeting were impatient for action and when Mr Wood proposed obtaining information on the analysis of ARC rates, they shouted at him.

"August 6 - hello? Is anybody home?" one man said. August 6 is the date a penalty payment will be inflicted for non-payment of rates.

Councillor Andrew Eaglen warned that refusing to pay the rates bills was "a dangerous game to play".

"Are those who want to do this prepared for the penalties?"

Rates protests

Meeting of protest groups at St Columba Church in Surrey Cres, Grey Lynn, 1pm Saturday.

Castor Bay and Campbells Bay Ratepayers Associations hold a joint public meeting at the Milford Senior Citizens Hall, 11am Sunday.

Orewa residents' rates protest at the Orewa Community Centre, 2pm August 2.

Public protest march up Queen St, Auckland City, August 6.

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Herald Feature: Rates shock

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