Rates: where does that money actually go?
Published on 05 June 2023
Happy Kings Birthday! Yes, that does feel strange to say.
It’s that time of the year where we talk about Annual Plans and rates, and let’s face the facts, nobody in their right mind loves putting rates up, it’s never an easy conversation to have.
Around this time every year, Council looks at what is coming up within the Long Term Plan (that’s the 10 year plan that is reworked and reprioritised every three years). Then, after balancing what can realistically be achieved with what can be afforded, the rates are set.
What do we get for our rates?
Over the years I have heard various explanations, and now as Mayor I believe I have a good handle on what we get. A typical urban residential property pays around $2200 per year on land rates. This covers everything, like:
- maintenance of footpaths and roads,
- resealing roads,
- maintenance of sewerage treatment plants,
- access to public toilets,
- sports fields,
- pensioner housing
- public parking.
Rates also cover the cost of the people who do parking, barking and noise enforcement, City Safe, administration, insurances, advocacy and democracy within Council and events within our District. Then we have additional items, like funding for those community events, activities, and support of our community facilities and halls, and yet this is not all the items our rates cover.
Why possible rate increases?
Everyone talks about inflation, yet what does that mean? In simple terms, the costs to Council have increased.
Last term the Council voted to make sure that all Council staff and contractors are being paid the living wage, and with the fact that all construction materials have increased in price too, Council is having to pay more to achieve the same results.
This brings us to our roads. Pre-Gabrielle, our roads were already under duress after months of constant rain. Post-Gabrielle, like the rest of New Zealand, our roads are in a terrible state. Due to the soil types that are under our Northland roads, it typically costs around four times the amount of money to do the same repair and maintenance work as compared to the South Island. This is why our Council wants to make sure that within any rates increases we clearly set aside money to deal with roading issues only.
When I am out and about, I also get asked, ‘how can we trust the Council to spend the money where they say they will?’ This is a great question. As an example: I can hand on heart say that when you get the water rates bill, 100% of the water rates get spent on water infrastructure only, and that is why we have one of the best water infrastructures in the country.
When we say that we need to spend money on the roads, it is not going anywhere else, and for us to secure Central Government funding we need to put our share in too. We will start seeing the evidence of this within a year of approval.
This week, Whangārei Council will be deliberating on what the rates need to be for the upcoming year. Thank you to everyone who submitted on the Annual Plan - the discussions will be long, and the decision won’t be easy, but your feedback will guide us as always.