It’s been a busy start to the year with Council lodging resource consent for the Americas Cup Village and preparing consultation material to ask Aucklanders their thoughts on how rates should be set and spent for the next ten years. Whilst we ask you to think ten years out, the reality is the first three years are the most crucial, as by law, the ten year process needs to be repeated every political term (3 years). The suggestions are not all supported by me personally but my vote will reflect your feedback.
The consultation covers a very wide range of topics and proposals. The 4 main ones I’ll cover in this newsletter are:
- General rates rise and the UAGC amount
- New targeted rates proposed and funding mechanisms for these
- The proposed Fuel tax, and
- the Orakei Local Board’s main project.
I’d also like to touch on:
- Other consultation items and opportunities to Have Your Say!
- Desley Simpson
Councillor for Auckland representing the Orakei Ward
General Rates and UAGC
Broadly speaking, Council’s draft proposal seeks to constrain the general residential rate increases that fund the bulk of Council’s investment and activity, to 2.5% for years 1 and 2. The plan looks to increase this to 3.5% for following years. The UAGC (Uniform Annual General Charge) is also set to rise 2.5% to $414 for 2017/18 and another 2.5% in 2018/19. Again the plan looks to increase this to 3.5% for following years. This will be the highest UAGC Auckland Council has ever had. Remember this is ‘good’ for our ward on the whole, as the higher the UAGC, the lower the proportion of rates that is calculated on your property’s capital value, noting Orakei is the highest residential ratepaying ward in Auckland. Do you agree with the proposed UAGC and rates rise?
The draft proposal proposes to resume the “Long Term Differential Strategy” which incrementally lowers the proportion of rates paid by business ratepayers. Currently business pays 32.7% of general rates and this would be gradually lowered to 25.8% over twenty years. This is done gradually so that the effect on residential ratepayers is not more than a 0.5% increase in any given year. As a Business ratepayer (or residential ratepayer) do you agree?
New Targeted rates based on capital value of your property
The suggestion in the draft plan is also to add options for additional targeted rates to increase council spend in areas where Council has a great need, namely - Water Quality, and our Natural Environment.
Water Quality Targeted Rate
In my opinion, it is unacceptable that in a city such as ours, that we still have sewage overflowing at times into our harbours. Sadly, past investment in water infrastructure has struggled to match the growth our region has faced. The Water Quality Targeted rate proposal suggests raising and using this additional funding, to specifically reduce the amount of wastewater overflows. Orakei Ward currently has 11 points where overflows can enter Hobson Bay, 8 overflows entering Okahu Bay and 22 entering the Orakei Basin. Safeswim (the updated website identifying beaches safe for swimming and free from sewage discharge) has shown that in January this year, St Heliers Beach and Okahu Bay registered water quality, below the National Guidelines over 23% of the time. Mission Bay and Kohimarama registered below guidelines 16% of the time. All beaches had additional rates of between 3-6% of ‘risks to people with lower immunities such as the elderly’. The Water Quality Targeted rate proposal suggests raising and using this additional funding to specifically reduce the amount of wastewater overflows. Whilst consultation documentation talks about the extra rate as being on average $66 per year, this would vary based on your homes capital value. (I lost my recommendation on votes around the Town Hall table to have this as a set charge). Do you agree with this extra targeted rate to specifically clean up our beaches and waterways?
Natural Environment Targeted Rate
Council has also been recently faced with some major environmental challenges such as Kauri Dieback disease and introduced pest species. On top of that, Auckland has the sad label of being the ‘world’s weediest city’ because of our high number of invasive plant species. Late last year a number of cases of Myrtle Rust were found on Pohutukawa. Myrtle Rust is a fungal disease which targets related species such as Pohutukawa and Manuka. Data shows more cases of this disease were found in Remuera than any other part of Auckland. Myrtle rust is being addressed by the Ministry of Primary Industries ( MPI) but Council needs to play its part too.
Ratepayers and residents are being asked whether they wish to contribute to specifically targeting the reduction of Kauri Dieback along with rural possum control and plant and animal pest eradication on the Gulf Islands with a Natural Environment targeted rate calculated based on the capital value of their property. Consultation material will offer you three options; not to invest further into initiatives to protect the Natural Environment, a small targeted rate that would fund a limited suite of initiatives (gathering an extra $136m over 10 years) or a larger rate with a fuller range of activities (gathering an extra $311m over 10 years). Do you think we should keep doing what we do within budget, or pay more through a targeted rate?
Regional Fuel Tax
The mayor is also asking Aucklanders to also consider a Regional Fuel Tax. Unlike the other two suggested targeted rates, it’s not yet clear exactly what projects this tax would fund. Transport has a number of masters. Obviously Auckland Transport is given budget to deliver transport infrastructure and solutions in Auckland, but for large transport projects Council often shares the spend with central government. A good local example, is the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive shared path. You will remember that following lobbying to the MP for Tamaki Simon O’Connor from the then Orakei Local Board based on community feedback, this project was agreed to be funded by both central government and then following that, Council. We are currently waiting for the new government to confirm their transport policy and at time of writing this hasn’t been completed. However due to the good work done with the previous government, we do know that Auckland faces at least a $5.9 billion shortfall in transport spending. To confuse things even more, every residential ratepayer currently pays $113.85 per annum as an extra transport cost. This was instituted in 2015 by the Len Brown Council as a flat charge to all properties as a stop gap funding measure until a new transport revenue source was identified. The proposal now is to replace that set levy with a Regional Fuel Tax of $0.10 plus GST ($0.115c) litre of fuel (diesel and petrol) to help fund the shortfall. I am still waiting to hear if this would release funding for local projects or specifically be allocated to fund any transport projects to benefit our Ward.
What do you think about paying extra through a fuel tax to assist funding transport for our region? ( noting we don’t know what for as yet)
Orakei Local Board Initiative
The Orakei Local Board has chosen as their number one initiative, the popular north south connection to the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive shared path at Gowing Drive. In the past, even though the Orakei Local Board have put up projects well supported by our community, they have been unfunded due to a lost vote around the Town Hall table. I’m hoping to change that.
But I need to know if you support this.
Re-Valuation of your home
You will remember that independent revaluation of all Auckland properties was done in November last year. Whilst we all know Auckland is expensive, overall revaluation showed that the value of Auckland’s real estate had increased by a whopping 46% since valuations were last done in 2014! Some properties in the Orakei ward increased significantly more than the overall average of 46% and others less. This means that unlike last year’s clear 2.5% rates increase, the change you see on your rates bill for the year beginning July 2018, will probably not match the 2.5% - some will be higher, and some will be lower. Not everyone likes a high property valuation as obviously it’s the capital value of your home which influences how much you pay in rates.
By way of average figures for our ward, sadly revaluation will mean 304 properties will receive a rates rise over 40% before you even start adding the extra proposed rates, 15,511 properties over 2.5%. There is good news for some though, 10,409 properties will have a rates reduction on last year.
To check what YOUR rates will look like with all that’s proposed please follow this link and put in your address. You will see the rates you currently pay, the increase or decrease proposed and then what the extra targeted rates will do to your bill.
If you have any questions or queries, please contact me.
Other consultation items and opportunities to have your say!
Extra funding for the Auckland Art Gallery
In 2005 Auckland Art Gallery received $6.4M of operational funding. You will remember the Art Gallery closed for extensive renovation and extension and reopened in 2011 with an operational funding budget of $9.2M. previous Council regimes have then annually reduced the budget for the Gallery down to $6.9M, very close to what it was 13 years ago even though the Art Gallery has 50% more exhibition space and 80% more public event space. After some lobbying (and yes, I was one) the Mayor is now suggesting an extra $2M per year additional funding as part of the ten year budget. This is not guaranteed at all. In fact it’s still not even in the draft budget for consultation. So if you agree the art gallery needs more funding you will need to specifically say so in your submission. If you don’t agree the Art Gallery needs more funding, is not so necessary to mention it- it’s not in the current draft.
Charging more for your rubbish collection
Also coming in the plan are some changes to the way that council’s rubbish collection works. These changes don’t start to affect Orakei until next financial year, but they are worth knowing about and having your say on them. We currently pay for refuse and recycling collection through fixed rates that are the same for every property: $ 117 for your red bin and base rate of $102 for your blue recycling bin and inorganic collection. From next year the proposal is to give you a third bin just for food waste. This would be compulsory and add $67 extra per year to your bill. The theory behind this separate food waste collection is that it would greatly reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfills. Your red bin would be collected only when you put it out and you would be charged $3.80 every time you did or that. Currently you pay $219 per year through your rates for these services and under this proposal you would pay an estimated $264 per year from 2020/21 (through rates and user charges), with an added bin for food waste collection. Do you support this?
Complete information on all the budget issues is available on the council website including what the various proposals (if agreed on) would mean for your property’s rates bill. Information will also be at your local library and through your local Residents Association. My main request to you, is to please take some time and be part of the discussion and let me know what you think. My vote will reflect your feedback.
There will be a public meeting at St Chad’s Church and Community Centre March 15th at 7pm if you want to discuss the above issues specifically with me, as well as a drop in session at:
- Eastridge Shopping Centre 10 March, 1:00pm-3:00pm.
Submissions opened February 28 and close on 28 March. See The Auckland Council website for full information.
Remember, I am always available to listen and look forward to seeing you at an event or reading your submission.