Businesses and hard working New Zealanders are struggling not just under the costs of central government but also under the burden of local government rates and charges. Rates for households and businesses are too high.
Here in Hamilton, 80% of residential ratepayers face a massive 22% average rates hike for the 1999/2000 year. We are launching ACT's Local Government policy here, outside the BNZ building on Victoria Street in Hamilton, because this building is a symbol of out of control local Government spending that's crippling ratepayers.
While ratepayers are struggling to pay for the rates hike, the Hamilton City Council is using their rates money, not on providing the core services it should, but on risky property speculation like the BNZ building which has so far cost taxpayers more than $19 million.
This building was built by the Hamilton City Council at a cost of $13.9 million. In the 19 months since it opened the building's value has dropped to $8,250,000. That's a loss to ratepayers of $5.65 million. Based on what the Council paid for this building it is returning just 5.19%.
The ACT Party says Local Government has no right to play property tycoon with ratepayers money. Ratepayers money should not be blown on property speculation, it should be used for the services that ratepayers are rated for. This building should be immediately sold and the money used to reduce Hamilton's skyrocketing debt. ACT will make sure that councils divest non-core assets and return the proceeds to ratepayers.
The Labour Party announced on Friday in its Local Government policy that they want to authorise councils to fund more reckless adventures with ratepayers money.
It's high time Local Government got its priorities right. Just like Central Government taxes, rates must come down. That means Councils and Regional Authorities getting their spending under control.
ACT will make certain that councils are much more focused on their core functions. ACT's commonsense policies will substantially reduce the burden on ratepayers while increasing the ability of local government to plan effectively for the needs of our communities. ACT will review land based rates as a revenue source.
Average residential rates around the country have gone up 15% (after accounting for inflation) in the last 10 years. Ratepayers are asking where is the money going, certainly not on better services. The Consumer magazine, which this year carried out a survey of what ratepayers around the country are getting for their money, described the rates charged by some councils as "extortionate".
No where is the problem worse than in Auckland. Local body politicians in Auckland have run the city out of water, cut the power supply to the central city, failed to provide adequate roads, and continue to pollute the city's beaches. But, the new sewerage ponds in Auckland are costing $100 million more than the Health Department guidelines require. That is because local body politicians gave into extreme environmentalists who said that the sewerage must be purer at the out fall than the Pacific Ocean.
Rates go up and up and basic services deteriorate. The Auckland City Council has millions of ratepayers' money for grandiose schemes like Britomart but not for the basic necessities.
In heartland New Zealand the bureaucracy and red tape generated by councils' backroom boffins is seriously affecting the ability of our farmers and rural businesses to make a profit and run their businesses. It has almost got to the stage where farmers have to get a resource consent just to cut a paddock of hay. ACT says the nonsense with the RMA must stop. We will be announcing a plan in this campaign to get that Act under control.
ACT will prevent regulations that undermine property rights without compensation.
ACT is the only Party that has campaigned against the ongoing rates hikes. ACT believes Local Government should stick to its core functions - and do them well. That would mean less rates and better service.
It is time local body politicians were sent a message. No more rate increases! It's well passed time our councils attempted less - and did more. Councils should get back to the basics," said Hon Richard Prebble.