• Mayor admits: Some households will be expected to pay more
• $1000 a year rise in rates after budget passed by single vote
• Scroll down to see which areas will get hit the hardest

About 34,000 Auckland households will pay more than $500 when they open their latest rates bills in six weeks, according to council figures.

Council estimates released today show about one-in-13 of the city's 454,000 households will pay more than $500 and of those 9000 households will pay more than $1000.

HOW HARD WILL THE RATES HIKE HIT YOU? EMAIL THE HERALD

Advertisement

The figures reveal the impact of Mayor Len Brown's controversial new budget, which was passed by a single vote yesterday.

The bottom line is an average 9.9 per cent rise in residential rates costed at $214 for the average household.

Today, the council released the estimated impact of rates changes for the new financial year, starting on July 1.

The final numbers will be available from July 15.

As well as large numbers of Aucklanders facing hefty rises, the council said about 22.5 per cent of Aucklanders, or 102,000 households, will gets a rates decrease. Waiheke and Great Barrier Island and Rodney have average rates decreases of -2.8 per cent, -13 per cent and -1.4 per cent respectively.

Rates in Papakura are rising by an average of 3.3 per cent and in rural Franklin by 4.4 per cent.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has conceded that a "significant" number of ratepayers will face a rates rise much bigger than the 2.5 per cent promised to them.

This morning, Mr Brown told Radio New Zealand there would be a "significant" number of people who would notice an increase in their rates as a consequence of revaluation. There would also be thousands who would receive "significant decreases" in their rates as a result of the revaluation, he said.

Advertisement

"What we passed yesterday was an increase, this year at least, and over the next 10 years, of an average of 2.5 to 3.5 per cent increases in the underlying rate take. We also passed a transport targeted rate of $114 net for every household.

"And so for some households on top of what they're getting for their revaluation - yes they will get significant increase in their rating."

"Two separate rates"

Mr Brown said there were two impacts on rating.

"The first one is the 2.5 per cent underlying increase to the whole of the rating structure. That is a very clear and evident truth.

"And then in behind that we have also agreed a $114 per household average increase in a targeted rate. They are two separate rates."

A $114 transport levy for households would amount to a $523 million transport package over three years, Mr Brown told the station.

"What we will see for example is four new park and rides... we will see $124 million worth of extra cycleways in and around the city... we will be looking at busway extension out to the north-west, and to the north, a considerable amount of roading work supplementing what we see in the south."

However, Mr Brown said it would take some time to see a "significant decrease in congestion".

"We are seeing already significant shifts that will lead to decrease in congestion.

"Yes, we will see decongestion, but it won't be over a year or two. Aucklanders aren't stupid. They know that these sort of changes are going to take awhile."

Rebate possible for some

The council said if offered a number of options for Auckland's residential ratepayers who may be facing higher rates bill, particularly as a result of recent revaluations.

A statement said ratepayers could spread payments over the year by weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments with a direct debit.

The Government has a rates rebate of up to $610 available, of which only a third of eligible Aucklanders applied for.

The council also offered a rates postponement scheme for residents who live in their own home. This enables all or a portion of rates to be deferred until the ratepayers no longer lives there.

The elderly who qualify as residents of license to occupy retirement villages can also get extra assistance from the council.

Youth lobby group Generation Zero has welcomed the new budget, specifically the funding for new cycling, walking and public transport projects.

Spokesman Dr Sudhvir Singh said: "This budget prioritises the essential public transport, walking and cycling projects that Aucklanders have called for, and is another step in the right direction for our city."

He said the mayor's budget was proposing to fund immediate new investment in transport of $500 million over the next three years with an interim fixed levy of $2 per week on Auckland households.

"A $2 per week interim transport levy on each household is not ideal, and preferably would have been consulted on more extensively, but not investing in transport choices in
Auckland will be more costly in the long term," Dr Singh said.

The Council received more than 20,000 pieces of feedback from the community on the budget, which demonstrated clear support for cycling and public transport, he said.

"Cycling and public transport were prioritised as the key pieces of infrastructure that the public wanted to see funded in Auckland and it's great to see these projects prioritised in this budget."

Dr Singh said the budget has taken on the recommendations made in Generation Zero's report Fix Our City, which proposed prioritisation of walking, cycling and public transport projects.

"Aucklanders have called for greater transport choices and the council has responded with this budget. We now call on the Government to get on board with Auckland's agenda and to immediately start funding the City Rail Link," Dr Singh said.

What does the future hold for Mr Brown?

Mr Brown also refused to comment as to whether he would stand for mayor in the next election.

"In my own time I'll talk about the future, but as you can see I am hugely focused on sorting out what Aucklanders think are the most important things to sort out at this time."

Vote averted financial crisis

The nail-biting decision to endorse the 10-year, $60 billion budget averted a financial crisis which would have required stock exchanges in NZ, Singapore and Switzerland being informed, a likely downgrade of the council's credit rating and the possibility of the Government replacing the council with commissioners.

After more than five hours of intense debate and warnings from the Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, and senior officers, the council voted 10-9 to adopt the budget.

Mr Brown had eight of the 19 votes heading into the meeting, but got over the line when two undecided councillors, Mike Lee and Wayne Walker, voted for the budget.

Mr Lee, worried the Government would step in and trash Auckland, said he would support the budget, "deeply flawed and odious as it is".

"None of us are going to come out of this room undamaged. The council is going to have to change or it will be changed," he said.

Two other undecided voters, Cathy Casey and Ross Clow, voted with seven councillors opposing the budget, primarily over a targeted rate for transport.

Other factors, including the targeted rate, revaluations and the final step in moving to a single rates system for the Super City, mean bigger rates bills for many households. Many of the city's poorest suburbs, like Mangere, Otahuhu, Beach Haven and Glenfield, face increases of more than $300.

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board chairwoman Lydia Sosene said the latest rates rise of 16.9 per cent in her community would create real affordability issues, but supported the budget and benefits that spending on transport would provide locally.

The vote was as close as Mr Brown has come in five years to effectively losing a confidence vote in his leadership. He said it had been a "particularly challenging 10-year budget" requiring tough decisions, but it was time to get on and deal with decades of underinvestment.

But Mr Brown's late decision to introduce a $114 targeted rate for transport when the Government said no to tolls was criticised. It was likened to a poll tax by Mr Clow, a regressive tax that socked the poor.

Opposition to rate rise

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said the size of the rate rise was a "huge breach of trust with ratepayers" and clear evidence the council was failing to manage its affairs efficiently and prudently.

He said the 10-9 vote to pass the budget yesterday "may have averted an immediate crises, but long-term it leaves council with a plan that is clearly not 'fit for purpose".

The creep in the size of the rate rise from 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent and then 9.9 per cent because of the last minute addition of a targeted transport rate leaves Auckland with a plan and budget that is clearly not fit for purpose, he said.

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said it was time councils, including Auckland Council, followed family and made sacrifices.

"They have not had the luxury of raising their income by 10% with a simple vote. They should not pass on out-of-control spending to families. It's time that they too tightened their belt.," he said.

"For many families, an increase in rates will put them under huge pressure - an increased cost which they cannot simply pass on to others, as councils can do."

"Families, local bodies and government cannot simply spend spend spend without accountability for that spending and without facing the consequences of an out-of-control budget - family or otherwise," Mr McCoskrie said.

Q&A:

What would have happened if the budget had not passed?

The council could not strike rates or send out rates bills, although it could invoice ratepayers for three months. The Government could appoint commissioners.

What does it mean for ratepayers?
Residential rate rises of an average of 9.9 per cent.

How much will rates rise in dollar terms?
The package is costed at $214 for the average household. Some households get a decrease, but tens of thousands will face an increase of more than $1000.


Where the targeted rate is being spent ($, million)

- With additional reporting from NZME. News Service