Submersion to authority
The Auckland City Council is hiking the rates. Well if you are squeezing almost 10,000 extra people in per year with flimsy infrastructure and do not want to reform poor systems and a big bureaucracy and have to pick up a bigger and bigger tab imposed by central government then yes, there will be a rates increase. As you will see below people are up in electronic arms about this. So I would like to relate my personal experience of the process:
My submission for their 10 year plan was heard last on the list by the council including the Mayor, on a night in the middle of my sedition trial. It was probably the worst, most cold and distant meeting I have ever attended. I've had IRD audits with more genuine bonhomie. I outlined my points about what I thought were important and reasonable long-term priorities:
*Co-ordinate the widening of Dominion Road properly - not just minimally ad hoc
*Co-ordinate and force undergrounding of overhead wires with new footpath upgrades properly - not just minimally ad hoc
*Lobby Government for a unitary metropolitan transit authority to run and build rail system - not just minimally ad hoc.
*Set up a system of emergency sirens and a Telecom auto mass-dial system of recorded message to warn of tsunami etc. - not just minimally ad hoc.
So I was the last submissioner and they were all charmed by the harmless woman beforehand who was going on about dogs needing to be on leashes and we were all agreeing with her, and she went on and on... She eventually left and I was called.
I elaborated on my very brief written submission and went on to note that with Telecom's forced and imminent break-up it is a perfect opportunity for the Council to approach Vector and Telecom (the two companies with overhead lines) to co-ordinate the undergrounding with new footpaths on a 20 year plan. That would allow a Vector-Telecom joint venture to lay fibre for advanced broadband that would be beyond regulation through a city of half a million and with a 20 year contract would provide corporate certainty and would boost the city's reputation and capability to foot it in the modern globalised world. Telecom would be very receptive to ideas to maintain assured revenue flows and focussing on what they can do best as a network provider in this period when they are setting a new agenda - and now is the city's chance to come to the party. Vector has an undergrounding liaison - the city should pro-actively do the same. Stoney silence. Not a murmur. Not a single question. Nothing.
So I ploughed on with the rest of the short list and waited for a question. After another pause Cr Casey (Matt McCarten's missus) asked me: "It's not clear from your submission whether you are in favour of a rates rise. Are you in favour of a rates rise?" At this point I must admit I snapped. "A rates rise?" I intoned with bewilderment. I had just given them a plan to provide the whole city with high speed connection and beautification simultaneously and all they fucking care about is whether they can tick a box marked 'rates rise'!? So I said "Is that all you care about - a rates rise?" - indignation was now dripping. "Oh no," Casey said in that wonderful Scottish accent "I have other questions" - which turned out to be true only because she had to make them up once she had said that.
I explained to them that if they were offering a real programme of advanced infrastructural investment "as opposed to..." (and at this point I tried to find another term for White Elephants) "...your pet projects" (doh!) then I could get behind a rates rise. I'm not seeing any vision here at all, I confessed, just a pre-arranged abitrary set of tick boxes for rates rises that had everything to do with the bureaucracy and precious little to do with ideas to take us over ten years let alone 50 years that we should be thinking about. Silence. "So are you not in favour of a rates rise?" Screaming wouldn't help, I had to scream on the inside. Sure I was in an *enhanced* state of mind at the time and it all seemed a little more intense than it would have been otherwise - but considering I had just been wheeled in and out of holding cells at court all day as the defendant in my own sedition trial where the policeman who arrested me turned up to give evidence obviously in the middle of his/her gender re-alignment process it had a lot of competition for the most surreal moment of the day.
"What are the options then?" I relented. The Chairman, seated next to the almost permanently earnest-looking Mayor, read out the options that they (bureaucrats?) had come up with and wanted to force people to declare which one they were in favour of. "Where does it start?" I asked? The Chairman said rate of inflation increase... "So, it starts at plus inflation?" - "yes." "Where is the one for a decrease?" - he, and everyone else, sort of looked confused and there was some muttering and a nervous laugh. I was so not impressed. "So, all the options that you are providing are for an increase - beginning at inflation?" - "Yes." There were no other questions.
I sympathised with their plight. To be sure they are in a difficult position and they may even be earning their salaries having to deal with the dramas and a Minister for Auckland that does zip. I thanked them for hearing me and assured them that I appreciated their time and treasured the ability to put forward ideas and half-apologised to Cr Casey for snapping at her. And I do mean it - the chance for an ordinary citizen to have virtually the whole council of this country's biggest city sit through all manner of their abuse and causes from the sublime to the ridiculous is something to be respected. They listen and they read, but that doesn't mean their minds aren't already made up however. But if they provide the venue for us plebs to tell them where they can improve then I will hammer away each year until something happens. The problem, as you have probably guessed, is they aren't interested in ideas.
NZ Herald report, if I can bullet point them:
* 5 per cent from house prices rising faster than commercial property - transferring a larger share of the overall rates income to households.
* 1.9 per cent from an ongoing plan to reduce the higher level of rates paid by businesses.
* 3.2 per cent inflation.
* 1.2 per cent for higher rubbish and targeted rates.
* 1.9 per cent above inflation to fund new projects.
DPF: "Two broken promises."
WhaleOil: "Mayor Hubbard can correctly and loudly be called a liar. He has repeatedly lied about rates. He was elected off of the back of his poor mother having to pay horrendous increases in her rates and he often stated that such increases wouldn't occur with his mayoralty. He repeated those assertions once in office and then cynically hiked rate 9.7% in his first year. He increased his cynicism when he loudly declared that this year's rates rise would be "substantially less" than last year's. Finally to complete his litany of duplicity over rates Hubbard council has announced a rates increase this year of 13.2% ."
Clouds of Heaven: "You cannot just keep raising rate levels at faster than the rate of inflation (currently at 3.2%). The majority of property owners are not getting equivalent pay rises, and so every year have less disposable income. Those renting don't avoid it either - landlords simply take into account the rate levels when setting the level of rent."