Auckland Deputy Mayor Puts Spin on Water Rates

Published: Tue 12 Jun 2007 06:00 PM
12 June 2007
Contact: Elaine West
Auckland City
Auckland City Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker Puts Political Spin on Water Rates
Whenever Auckland City Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker says that increasing water rates is justified -  that is, an average 140% increase in household water rates over the next ten years – he does so knowing that such costs will cause financial hardship for society's most vulnerable people.
In an attempt to defend soaring water charges, Dr Hucker says that Auckland City rates are:
1) lower when compared to other cities and
2) that there is the increased rates rebate for some residents.
But Dr Hucker's comments are no more than political spin.
In reality,
i) Council has a long-term rates differential policy that is shifting the burden of rates from businesses to householders.
ii) Council has split General rates into a variety of rate categories which disguises the total intake eg: water rates, general rates and a selection of targeted rates. Added together, soaring costs give every reason for ratepayers to feel financially swamped by Council taxes.
iii) Metrowater, a council controlled organisation, is promoted as a 'champion' of user charges.
iv) Watercare, a regional bulk water supplier 'owned' by six Councils, intends to show a significant increase in water prices from 2008.
v) Dr Hucker told the Rates Inquiry Panel that Auckland City Council aims to borrow $1.5 billion over ten years with interest and repayments from rates.  Therefore, the Deputy Mayor is about to 'lock-in' ratepayers to a significant burden of debt.
vi) Aucklanders are expected to pay a regional fuel tax of up to 10c a litre, and
vii) Council has agreed to tolls on Auckland's roads despite massive public protest against tolled roads and despite not having a mandate.
The Deputy Mayor Keeps Turning His Back on the People
For more than ten years, thousands of Aucklanders have protested against the commercialisation of public goods and public services including introducing direct user charges for water and roads.
In 1999, my submission to Council stated that tolls on roads represented a social injustice and that water is essential to human life and universal access to quality drinking water was a human right.
The Deputy Mayor Should Heed the Lessons of the Auckland Rates Revolt
In 2003-04, as Chair of Auckland City Residents and Ratepayers and as a leader of the rates revolt, I convened and chaired the first combined regional meetings across Auckland which protested the unjust rate rises imposed by the Auckland Regional Council.
The "increased rates rebate" which Dr Hucker recently referred to when defending increasing water rates, was achieved during the rates revolt by the very people whom the soaring water rates will hit hardest:  families, low/fixed income earners, and householders with high overheads such as mortgages.
At no time, did the people lobby central Government to allow Councils to use an open cheque-book, or to entitle Councils - or the Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker - to design policies with the intention of putting profit before people.

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