Aucklanders facing rates rises of more than 40 per cent in some cases have shown an "overwhelming" appreciation of a $60,000-plus phone campaign to forewarn them, the council says.
"While a direct call may not be welcomed by everybody, the overwhelming response has been that people appreciate council reaching out to them directly on an important issue," budgeting general manager Matthew Walker said yesterday.
That followed criticism of the phone campaign by a Pt Chevalier resident facing a 47 per cent rates increase - to $5500 - on his four-bedroom weatherboard home valued at $1.96 million.
Andrew Robertson says the campaign is another example of financial extravagance and the advance warning is worthless to him.
The council says it made an initial budget allocation of $60,000 for about 12,000 phone calls to "talk through" changes before an online rates calculator was to go live today - and has been dipping into an additional reserve fund of $30,000.
Mr Walker issued a statement yesterday defending the calls as providing an opportunity to explain "a complex set of changes to those affected the most" and to make sure they knew what help and support was available to those who may have difficult paying their higher rates.
"We take our responsibility to communicate with Auckland ratepayers seriously and make no apology for calling those most affected by the changes to this year's rates," he said.
Although charges such as a $114 transport levy will increase average residential rates by 9.9 per cent, or $214 a household, the council says about 9000 face rises of more than $1000.
Conversely, it says about 51,000 - or 11.3 per cent - of the city's 454,000 households are in for rates cuts. The council predicted on its website last month about 3700 householders would face increases above 40 per cent, but was unable to provide a revised estimate last night.
A Murrays Bay resident is furious at being told by the council to expect a rates rise of between $1500 to $2000 from about $4800 she and her husband paid last year.
Although their home had been revalued at $2.325 million, she said that represented an increase of just over 20 per cent compared with what the council had advised her was an average city-wide rise of 34 per cent.
Yet a letter advising the couple of what they were likely to have to pay this year said the rates would be based on their latest property valuation. "I don't have a problem paying my fair share of rates - I have a problem with people not being honest about it," said the woman.
"When this happened in Kaipara [District] Council, a commissioner was brought in to sort out the council issues. Quite frankly, with the lies that the council are telling their ratepayers, this needs to happen again."
A council spokeswoman said the letter also explained the lifting of a 10 per cent cap on rates increases for each of the past three years. "This is the main reason for her increase - due to a single ratings system."
Dinnertime warning irks busy dad
It was thanks, but no thanks, from Andrew Robertson to a "courtesy call" on Monday night bracing him for a 47 per cent rates rise.
The Pt Chevalier resident was cooking dinner for his family of six when he took the call, which stunned him after he had expected an increase more in line with the average residential rise of 9.9 per cent flagged by Auckland Council.
"It came through at arsenic hour when you are busy with small children - my reaction was mostly mute, fairly stunned," he said yesterday.
"First of all you don't know if it's a real phone call, you get so many scams."
But details outlined by the caller soon convinced him it was all too real, and he would be up for a $5500 rates bill, compared with $3780 last year.
Mr Robertson, who heads a shoe retailing company, said he was particularly annoyed at the telephone campaign for which the council has budgeted up to $90,000.
"I guess the phone call is part of the reason why it cost so much - what a waste of money calling me," he told the Herald. "She [the caller] said it was a courtesy call because apparently our property has increased in value, but everyone's has.
"In my mind, I was reading 10 per cent in the paper - I expected some variation, but 46 per cent? We have got a nice house but I still don't think it's worth that much."
The four-bedroom house into which his family moved last year has a valuation of $1.96 million, but he said it was by no means palatial.
He did not begrudge a new transport levy of $114 a household. But he did not see any other increases in services to justify the extra burden, and noted that households were losing their inorganic rubbish collection.
• Auckland Council's online rates calculator available from 9am today.
• Rates payment options available.
• Rates rebate calculator available.
• Council has been spending up to $90,000 to provide advance warnings to householders.