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Candidates clash over council rates

With recent council rates rises biting the region’s residents, the key candidates vying for Wairarapa’s electorate seat agree local government funding needs to change – but disagree on what that change looks like.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] posted New Zealand’s highest rates rises in two of the past three years, hiking them by almost 20 per cent this year after a 29 per cent increase in 2021, while all three local councils have taken a financial hit from weather-related infrastructure damage.

A recent review into local government’s future said local authorities need more funding from central government, with many commentators saying we’ve reached “peak rates”.

Incumbent MP Kieran McAnulty – who has served as Local Government Minister since June last year – told the Times-Age that, if able to form a government after the election, the Labour Party will address local authority funding because “if things are left as they are, rates will quickly become unaffordable”.

“Labour is the only party committed to working with the local government sector to sort out the issue of rates rises once and for all. I made that commitment personally, as Minister of Local Government.”

McAnulty said Labour’s transport plan includes a $1.69 billion increase in funding available to councils for local roads, while the “$2.1 billion hole” in National’s tax plan and “$10 billion hole in their transport plan … will inevitably leave councils high and dry, leaving ratepayers to foot the bill.”

McAnulty said he secured millions for local councils to repair roads after Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle as local MP.

Labour Party’s Kieran McAnulty. PHOTO/FILE

“Limiting future rates increases was a prime rationale behind the affordable water reforms,” he said.

“Councils cannot afford to pay for water services by themselves. We need to fund $185 billion of water infrastructure over the next 30 years.

“If there is a change of government and these reforms are reversed, many ratepayers will face bills in the thousands each year. This would be a disaster for our region.” National Party candidate Mike Butterick said his party knows the cost of living is the single most important issue in the region, with rising rates playing a big part – something he blames on government economic mismanagement driving up inflation and, consequently, council costs.

“National is the only party with a plan to rebuild our economy and address the underlying costs of inflation,” he said.

Butterick said National intends to repeal the Resource Management Act [RMA] to make it easier for councils, as well as reduce costs.

“The extravagant spend on roading projects in Wairarapa, such as speed reductions, and about $9 million for 21 raised pedestrian crossings on SH2, will be reallocated to actually fix provincial roads. National builds roads, Labour slows you down,” he said.

“A reformed RMA under National will also help reduce cost pressures for councils on roading, as will a requirement to limit unnecessary use of road cones.”

Butterick said National will also work in partnership with councils on water assets.

“The ability to access tools such as long-term debt funding and financing, form Council Controlled Organisations [CCO’s] … and financial contributions from government will mean that regular and consistent investment can be made over the life of the assets, aresulting in minimal rate increases,” he said.

Green Party candidate and former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said in the past six years, with the Greens in government, New Zealand had taken more climate action than all previous governments.

“Pollution is tracking downwards for the first time ever, but the job is far
from done,” she said.

She said immediate and urgent action to limit global warming, and action to adapt to climate change-related events, is needed.

The Greens have floated a windfall profit tax on “companies that are making massive, unearned windfall gains” in the current inflationary environment, and tabled an Adaptation Bill aimed at helping communities prepare for such events.

“When severe weather events happen, everything from the roads we rely on, to our drains and water supplies, can be severely disrupted,” she said.

Green Party’s Celia Wade-Brown. PHOTO/FILE

“What people want are the tools to prepare, so that when climate events occur their lives can continue.

“The National Adaptation Plan will enable that through a combination of community-based initiatives and national-level policies and legislation.”

ACT candidate Simon Casey said his party’s GST-sharing policy is designed to help councils fund infrastructure without putting extra strain on ratepayers.

He said councils currently have poor incentives to build, with new infrastructure typically adding to ratepayer’s bills.

“These costs act as a disincentive for councils to approve development,” he said.

“With ACT’s policy, for every consent issued, half of the GST would be returned to the local council for infrastructure.

“The only time you get prompt service from a council is when they’re issuing a parking ticket. They’ll come to you, anywhere, anytime, because there’s money in it.

“Imagine how many consents they’d issue if there was money in it for them.”

Casey said this means there would be an additional source of funding for infrastructure improvements relating to extreme weather.

“ACT’s policy has the support of New Zealanders who recognise that something needs to be done. A recent Curia poll showed that 70 per cent of New Zealanders support the policy, with only 15 per cent opposed.”

– NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. Will we have had labour,greens and NZ first 🤔 for 2 terms and we have gone from a plus financial 🤔 to a large minus. Since MMP came in as a trial, we were told we could vote to change it Joke. One party has in the past MADE NZ a great 👍 place to live. What party would that 🤔 be.

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