19 November. Stuff.co.nz & New Zealand Herald : If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. (Despite what your lawyer might tell you).
The Court of Appeal has found one of Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s first initiatives in 2017 was, in fact, such a duck.
A purposely designed targeted rate (now found to be illegal) was forced through by Goff and his elected supporters on the Council and Local Boards. Eight honest Councillors fought to hold the line.
Last week, it ruled it was not a valid, legally sound additional rate on visitor accommodation providers. Council voting on the introduction of the 𝐀𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐓𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐞 in 2017 was won 11 votes to 8. It was opposed vigorously by Crs Lee, Fletcher, Sayers, Quax, Walker, Stewart, Newman and Watson. They believed the concept of the targeted rate was flawed from the start.
Cr Greg Sayers was extremely successful in having all of Rodney excluded from the new targeted rate, while also holding the moral ground of voting against its introduction onto other Aucklanders.
The Court of Appeal’s judgment said there was “virtually no assessment” from the council on the benefit to the targeted group. “The council’s failure to adequately consider this mandatory relevant consideration was an error of law going to the heart of the decision,” the judgment said.
“Given the significance of this error to the rating decision in both years, we consider it impeached the validity of these decisions.”
“This was fundamentally because the assessment was carried out at the end of the process to reverse engineer a justification for a scheme that had been formulated without regard to the statutory criteria.”
The ill-fated Accommodation Providers Targeted Rate (APTR) is what it always seemed to be: a way of shifting rates away from voting Aucklanders and onto businesses, in the hope they could claw it back from out-of-town customers.
Embarrassingly for the mayor, he now faces sitting around the table with the hoteliers who may well want a $28 million refund of invalidly created rates, as well as their legal costs. (The equivalent of nearly a 2% rates increase!)
It’s either that, or Goff adds to the ratepayers’ $1.5 million legal bill to date, and tries to defend the rate by taking the beleaguered tourism sector participants off to the Supreme Court.
The targeted rate was Goff’s first and highest-risk play upon election in 2016. He had pledged to keep the rates rises paid by voters to a bargain-basement 2.5 per cent, and pre-election, floated the notion of “targeted rates”.
He arrived with his inner circle of local government newcomers, and within weeks APTR was floated publicly in his first Budget proposal.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff proposed and championed the APTR from 2016.
The Mayor is planning to introduce yet another Targeted Rate next year – a third one for across all of Auckland called the Climate Change Targeted Rate. Already in place are the Natural Environment Targeted Rate and the Water Quality Targeted Rate. The Rodney Local Board also have introduced a Rodney wide Transport Targeted Rate.
And off-course there is the regionwide Fuel Tax as well!
Details about the Climate Change Targeted Rate will be publicly notified, for feedback, March/June next year. Nothing available yet… while the Mayor designs it and is working hard to get sympathetic Local Board members and Councillors to back him.