The Watchdog

Keeping citizens in the loop


Rates revolt

John Landrigan | 6th May 2010

Hilary Butler of Tuakau has asked Franklin District Council to support the rates revolt.

Citizens and councils are considering a legal rebellion ‘No vote, no pay’ local body boycott , writes John Landrigan.

Sire, sire, the peasants are revolting.

The well-worn line may not be the most diplomatic way to summarise the actions of the region’s irate ratepayers, but it looks as if it is becoming accurate.

The Aucklander is now presenting the Auckland region with its only chance to vote “yes or no” to the Government’s plans to merge our eight councils. A select committee is due to report to Parliament on May 24 with its proposals for the third and final Act to shunt the changes through.

In the meantime, a council-backed rates revolt is the latest action proposed to stop the amalgamation and the public’s assets being put in the hands of Wellington-appointed boards.

The concept: ratepayers could put their rates into a temporary financial management fund until Auckland’s voice is heard.

It has the backing of some current city councillors and at least one deputy mayor.

Long-time bureaucrat battler and water rights campaigner Penny Bright is addressing all councils – except Auckland City because Mayor John Banks refused her speaking rights – on the idea of setting up an “escrow” fund.

Holding rates money in escrow, according to Ms Bright, would allow more time to hold an official vote on the Government’s fast, sweeping changes.

For the idea to be practical, parties such as ratepayers and existing councils would have to agree. The concept already has some support.

Waitakere’s deputy mayor, Penny Hulse, is interested. Councillor Caroline Conroy, a nine-year veteran of Papakura District Council and member of action group, also likes the sound of it.

Waitakere City Council heard the submission from Penny Bright and is interested in further exploring the idea of a third party holding rates money, says Ms Hulse.

“We all nodded and thought, ‘That sounds interesting’. The Government is hellbent on pursuing the super-city.

“People are coming to our meetings and asking: ‘Where’s the democracy? Where’s the process?’ The community wants some way to have their voices heard.”

Ms Conroy says there are merits in the idea and Penny Bright is “heading in the right direction”.

“I’m not sure council would endorse a rates revolt as council still needs to function. I like the mechanism.

“It shows the amount is in dispute rather than people making an excuse not to pay rates.”

Tuakau resident and staunch campaigner for a democratic Auckland, Hilary Butler, says she would back it if it is a legitimate protest.

She has asked Franklin District Council to do just that.

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. We still want to pay our rates. Everyone wants the services.”

Mrs Butler is mostly concerned that no final cost has yet been cited for the amalgamation of the region’s councils.

“If I had an idea, but did not have any cost analysis to back it, council would not accept my idea. I’m objecting to the information we have been given. It is crud.”

Penny Bright says refusing to pay rates is the most effective, responsible action to “safeguard our lawful democratic rights, our public assets and resources for our children, grandchildren and future generations”.

As The Aucklander went to print she was in talks with a prominent investment company to manage rebel ratepayers’ funds.

She says this will be held until Parliament repeals the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau) Reorganisation Act 2009. “There should be no taxation without representation.”

What is escrow?

Money, goods, or a written document, held by a neutral third party pending fulfilment of some condition – Collins Oxford Dictionary


May 6, 2010 - Posted by | Stop the $uper City

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