Rodney accommodation providers dodged a bullet after a controversial targeted rate – dubbed a “pillow tax” – was passed by Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee, but the measure specifically excluded Rodney providers from paying.
Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers says during intense lobbying to get the rate passed, Mayor Phil Goff floated the idea that he might go back on an earlier decision to exclude Rodney accommodation providers, suggesting their inclusion might secure more votes from Councillors representing areas outside Rodney.
Mr Goff invited Cr Sayers to his office on two occasions in an effort to end Sayers’ opposition to the rate and back it instead.
According to Cr Sayers, Mr Goff threatened that there would be future consequences for Sayers and his constituents if Sayers failed to back the rate with his vote.
Goff repeated the threat three times.
“The first time I was in shock, the second time I was disappointed and the third time I thought he really overstepped the mark,” Sayers said.
The Mayor’s office failed to respond to a query from Mahurangi Matters seeking Mr Goff’s response to the allegation.
In the event, the Finance and Performance Committee voted to approve the rate by 11-8, with the Rodney exclusion.
It is anticipated the rate will raise $13.4 million to fund efforts by ATEED – Council’s tourism and economic development arm – to market Auckland to tourists.
Sayers says even though Rodney providers were excluded, he still strongly opposed the rate, believing it will put a lot of accommodation providers elsewhere in the Auckland region out of business.
He added that many tourism-related businesses benefit from increases in tourism, and it’s wrong to burden accommodation providers alone with the cost of tourism promotion.
In defending the rate, Mr Goff asked why ordinary ratepayers should be lumped with the entire cost of tourism promotion by ATEED when the accommodation industry makes hundreds of extra dollars per room per night as a consequence of that promotion.