By ANNE BESTON and BERNARD ORSMAN
Ratepayer groups from all over Auckland will hold a council of war this weekend to discuss ways of forcing the Auckland Regional Council to back down over its new rate demand.
More than 30 ratepayer groups from across Auckland are expected to be represented at the Saturday meeting, with Federated Farmers, a property investors' organisation and trade union representatives.
One of the organisers, Glenfield Ratepayers and Residents Association chairman David Thornton, said it was shaping up to be the biggest meeting of ratepayer organisations in recent times.
The association is also organising a regionwide petition.
"I am already being told that re-setting the rate would cause chaos, well so be it," said Mr Thornton.
"The [Local Government Act] says it can be done in the same year as a council sets its rates and that will be our objective."
A senior National MP believes the rates crisis could trigger a change in the region's local government landscape.
The MP for North Shore, Dr Wayne Mapp, predicts the downfall of the Auckland Regional Council and the possible emergence of a super council and a super mayor to run the city of 1.2 million people.
Dr Mapp said options for change included abolishing the ARC and having three or four councils or one super mayor elected for the whole region.
He said North Shore residents were justifiably angry to ask why they had an average ARC rates increase of 134 per cent when inflation was 1.5 per cent.
He blamed spending on public transport as the fundamental reason for the increase and reiterated that National's priority was to fix the roads. Suggestions of a 10 cents a litre regional petrol tax, tolls and borrowing were desirable but the Government could do more by spending the $670 million of petrol taxes that went into the consolidated fund on completing the Auckland Motorway network.
The National MP also had a word of warning for his political friends on the ARC who pushed through the controversial rating system, saying a bit more skill was required if they wanted to hold on to their seats at next year's local body elections.
ARC chairwoman Gwen Bull has strong National Party links.
The ARC, responsible for region-wide environmental, transport and parks services, has switched to direct rating for the first time after previously having its rate demand included in local council's bills.
At the same time, the ARC decided on a capital rating system to raise the extra $34 million it wants in rates this year.
It also dropped the rate-take from businesses. That has raised some ratepayers' bills by more than 300 per cent on the North Shore and in Rodney District.
World record miler John Walker, a Manukau City councillor and Manurewa Community Board member, said the board had "objected strongly" to the rates rise but had no power to stop it.
Meanwhile, the ARC's new capital rates system means ratepayers are paying some rates twice.
Because of the capital rating system, local councils are being hit by a new charge for water utilities, meaning local councils will have to find money out of rates even though householders have already paid the ARC direct.
Waitakere expects a bill of around $90,000 for its utility rate and North Shore estimates its bill at $220,000. Auckland City is not affected because utilities were rated in the previous year and the cost was recovered from ratepayers.
The bill last year was $167,000. The bill this year is expected to be $160,000.
How to calculate your ARC rates bill
1) Click on related links (at the bottom of the page)
2) Click on Estimated ARC rates for any address
3) Click on Accept (at the bottom of the page) to bring up Xplorer.
4) Click on Search
5) Click on Find Address
6) Enter your street name and number to read your rates bill.
(NB: A direct link outlined in last Friday's Herald is no longer available)
How to join the group opposing the rates hike
Groups interested in attending Saturday's meeting or the petition can contact David Thornton by phoning 443-6771 or by email
or Elaine West on 360-2771 or by email
What is your rate rise?
Tell us what you think: Email the Herald News Desk or fax (09) 373-6421
Herald Feature: Rates shock
By ANNE BESTON and BERNARD ORSMAN