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Report breaks down the region’s rate movements

The Carterton District Council’s office. PHOTO/FILE

Carterton has the second highest council rates in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Taxpayers Union’s [NZTU] annual ratepayer report is out and compares financial data across councils from the 2020-21 year.

It showed the average rates bill in Carterton was $3650, up from $3639 the year prior.

After a couple of years sitting at the top of the list for its high rates, Carterton has been narrowly overtaken by Auckland Council, whose ratepayers pay an average of $3656.

This latest ratepayer report covers the financial year before the Long-Term Plan being implemented.

There have been two annual rates rises since.

Carterton District Council chief executive Geoff Hamilton said he was disappointed to see the council near the top of the table for the 2020-21 year.

“However, these figures are already a year out of date, and we have made a number of changes this financial year to reduce rating increases.

“Our cost-saving approach to the 2022-23 Annual Plan saw our council’s rating increase fall lower than all nine councils in the greater Wellington region.

“Some of these changes included reducing costs in our building and general maintenance, reviewing our fees for regulatory work, and not adding any new projects to what was set in our 2021-31 Long Term Plan.”

He was pleased to see Carterton still ranked among councils with the lowest operating costs per household.

It was ranked 10th lowest in New Zealand at $4424 per household.

“This shows how cost-effective our council is when measured in terms of properties,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Wairarapa’s average residential rates for 2020-21, according to the NZTU report, was $2781, placing them at number 23 on the nationwide list for rates.

A South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] spokesperson said elected members balanced the investment needs of the district with the awareness that rates increases were a cost to households.

“South Wairarapa has a small ratepayer base spread over a large rural area, so it is not too surprising that our average residential rates are higher than the average for a city,” the spokesperson said.

“But it is pleasing to see that our rates average [$2781] does not stray too far from the national average [which according to the NZTU’s methodology is $2646].”

They noted that SWDC had the third lowest non-residential rates in the country and the lowest non-residential rates of any rural council in New Zealand.

“Regarding our CEO remuneration [$250k], this is in line with and similar to other councils in the region,” they said.

“Senior staff remuneration is under pressure due to our proximity to Wellington, and spiralling salaries within the public service.

“Our group operating costs per household [$4491] is at the lower end of the spectrum.”

The spokesperson said with inflation on the rise, “council officials and elected members will continue to carefully scrutinise everything on our priority list that we are asking our residents to pay”.

Masterton District Council [MDC] was ranked 35th on the nationwide list, with its average residential rates being $2602 for the 2020-21 financial year, according to the NZTU.

MDC chief executive David Hopman said elected members and staff were “very aware of the impact of rates on our community” and worked hard to deliver agreed levels of service in the most cost-effective way, including ongoing investment in maintenance and new infrastructure.

“However, artificially suppressing rates can lead to insufficient funds being available for replacement of essential assets and responding to emergency natural events.”

MDC noted some inaccuracies in the NZTU report, including an incorrect figure for the average councillor’s remuneration.

MDC also has both an independent member and an accountant on its audit and risk committee, which was not reflected in the NZTU report. – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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