Transport Taxes Triple Dipping

Herald postJune 2018. Auckland Council’s debt has continued to skyrocket by nearly $2 million a day under Mayor Phil Goff.

Its borrowings have increased from $8.3 billion to $9 billion this year – $700 million in just 12 months.

The Mayor’s 10 Year Budget plans to balloon Auckland’s debt to $12.6 billion.

Interest payments are already $464 million pa, nearly $1.3 million a day. This is equivalent to 23 per cent of the annual rates.

Next year’s budget shows employee costs will be the equivalent of 50% of the annual rates revenue. Total Council revenue will be $4.7 billion.

Rodney ratepayers could see double dipping, or even triple dipping, into their pockets with a smorgasbord of new targeted taxes, on top of the general rates.

There’s the Mayor’s regional fuel tax of 11.5 cents a litre, secondly is the Government’s fuel tax rising to 13.8 cents per litre, and thirdly there’s the Rodney Local Board’s proposed average transport tax rate hike of a whopping 7.3%, which would lock ratepayers into this additional tax in their rates each and every year for the next 10 years.

Rodney residents risk being lumbered with paying two fuel taxes and the Rodney Local Board’s council transport tax. This is all on top of council’s annual general rates increases and two new targeted rates council is planning to introduce for water and the environment. This will have an overall impact on people’s wallet in Rodney to the equivalent of a 15% to 20% rates increase.

People tell me they don’t agree with the fuel tax because the money being collected isn’t planned to be spent back in Rodney, saying that’s completely unfair. I will continue to fight for Rodney to get its fair share.

Looking at projects already on the books what we as a community could target is money for the Matakana Link Road, Hill Street fixed, local bus services, improving SH16 through Kumeu with NZTA, and road sealing budgets.

However, be warned, the Mayor is trying to get triple taxes from Rodney in a collaboration with the leaders of the Rodney Local Board. This will unfortunately undermine my negotiation leverage with the Mayor – but the correlation with the Mayor seems to be tightly embedded, and is purposely circumnavigating me as the Councillor. 

I do not condone this undermining and backdoor horse-trading without transparency to the ratepayers – especially when the Mayor has a more damaging overall “battle plan” in play. 

Many people have said to me they don’t like the idea of paying an additional Rodney Local Board council tax, especially when the rest of Auckland gets the Council services it pays for as part of their normal rates, particularly regarding public transport and roading.

People do, however, strongly support having a fair share of their rates and development contributions being spent back locally.

If the Rodney Local Board fails to withdraw its transport tax proposal, the great risk is the Mayor will have it voted through anyway, because he is desperate for any extra revenue so Council can borrow more money.

This also lets Mayor Goff off the hook evaporating any pressure on him to spend our general rates on our public transport and improving our roads. This is a trap for us to avoid!

Instead we will be “triple dipping” into Rodney’s ratepayers’ pockets for bus services, park and rides and footpaths- which the rest of Auckland get automatically.

The Mayor will get an extra $43 million of revenue “onto the books” (from the Rodney targeted rate) and this has the upside for him that the Council will then be able to borrow a further $125 million = more Council debt, which the Mayor wants.

We will probably all have to turn up and clap at the ‘red ribbon cutting’ ceremonies when these projects get built and are opened, along with the normal photo opportunities and congratulatory “back slapping” – well, we will have paid dearly for that privilege, but the focus will spun towards “but look what we got done!”. 

It is certainly one political approach- but is that really a fair and equitable approach for elected representatives to be taking?

Is it perhaps an easier path than standing up, and calling out, that Rodney deserves its rates spent back in Rodney? 

Will all of Rodney’s communities be treated equitably and each feel benefited from the collected new tax? Time will tell.

As a quick aside. The other Councillors love the idea of Rodney raising more taxes to pay for itself – as that means they get more of the remaining pie, which theoretically is Rodney’s slice! They will be more than enthusiastic to vote in a new transport targeted tax upon Rodney’s ratepayers.

Mayor Goff’s election promise was to make efficiency gains in Auckland Council of 3% to 6% and to redirect these savings into transport, but now with those promises now broken the Mayor, and the Local Board, are now reaching into our pockets proclaiming the new way forward to rates us again but to “ring fence” those additional rates in order to “be brave and get things done”.

Perhaps all the extra revenue raising would be acceptable to people if the promises to cut wasteful spending, to find promised efficiencies, and to have any savings directed into infrastructure had happened. But none of this has happened.
Triple dip