Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Two-thirds oppose mayor's proposal for rates increases

Auckland Mayor Len Brown
Auckland Mayor Len Brown

Aucklanders are not impressed by Mayor Len Brown's plans to increase rates by nearly 5 per cent a year over the next decade, nor do they want him to extend the Manukau policy of free swimming pools in Manukau to the rest of the Super City.

Mr Brown's first 10-year budget has drawn 9921 submissions - 4524 from dog owners outraged over planned fee increases for pets, which Mr Brown and councillors are backing away from.

Dogs aside, Aucklanders are most concerned about transport and rating issues, according to a council analysis of public submissions.

"We have serious concerns about a doubling of rates revenue from $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion over the next decade," Heart of the City spokesman Greg McKeown told councillors on Friday.

"It's getting too easy to say $1 billion in this city."

The central city business group and the Employers and Manufacturers Association challenged councillors on their rating increases and projections for debt to rise from $2.9 billion to $8.4 billion. Mr McKeown said this would increase the proportion of rates going to repay debt from 11.9 per cent today to 22 per cent in 10 years.

Heart of the City is advocating alternative income sources for the council, including a bed tax and 1 per cent in GST, which would be paid by everyone in Auckland - not just ratepayers - and raise about $350 million.

Employers and Manufacturers Association executive officer Peter Atkinson said businesses were being called upon to shoulder an unfair share of the city's rates and debt repayment.

They were being short-changed, as they paid 2.63 times more than households in rates.

The association wants the council to start next year with a differential of 2.5 and reduce it by 0.15 per cent a year rather than the 0.1 per cent proposed in the budget.

It has joined the 60 per cent of submitters pushing for a higher uniform charge of $350 for households, suggesting a figure of $650.

Mr Brown, who won a mandate to build the $2.86 billion city rail loop, is finding opposition to the project after meeting resistance from the National Government to help fund the 3.5km project.

One submitter said, "I think the cost of this project is colossal and will not result in a substantial uplift in rail usage."

Another said: "Government must be made to stump up the 50 per cent rather than leave it all to ratepayers".

There was stronger support for rail to the airport: "At the very least there needs to be a rail link from the airport to the centre of town," said one submission.

Two of Mr Brown's pet projects, converting Shed 10 on Queens Wharf into a cruise ship terminal costing $27 million, and extending Manukau's free swimming pools to the rest of the region, have also come in for criticism.

Two-thirds of submitters do not want ratepayers' money spent on a cruise ship terminal - "It should be paid for by the ships that use it."

And there is little support for free swimming pools. Most favour user-pays or making pools free for children.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 31 Jul 2014 12:15:21 Processing Time: 784ms