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'Do less, pay less': Mayor Brown weighs into poll on his proposed 7.5% rates rise

Tom Dillane,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Mar 2024, 10:41am

'Do less, pay less': Mayor Brown weighs into poll on his proposed 7.5% rates rise

Tom Dillane,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Mar 2024, 10:41am

More Aucklanders would prefer to have their services cut to achieve a lower rates hike than those who support the 7.5 per cent increase in Mayor Wayne Brown’s 2024 budget proposal, a poll has found.  

But the responses by 1000 Aucklanders in the latest ARA Curia poll, run by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, provide a mixed attitude to the looming rates hikes in Auckland’s Long Term Plan - also known as the 10-year budget.  

In February, Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown presented his proposed long term plan consultation document which foreshadow’s rates hikes, to deal with ongoing Auckland Council budget dilemmas, after a drastic effort to fill a $375 million budget hole was made last year. 

Three options for rate rises have been proposed, with most of the council, including Brown, supporting a “medium” increase of 7.5 per cent the first year, 3.5 per cent the next year and 8 per cent the following year. 

But the Curia poll has found that 40 per cent of respondees - who were all over 18 and live in the Auckland region - support the so-called “pay less, get less” option when it comes to rates rises in 2024. 

In this scenario, lower rates increases were proposed for reduced investment and fewer service levels. 

Average rates increases were about 5.5 per cent in year one, 3.5 per cent in years two and three - a total increase of 13 per cent over three years. 

The next most popular option, endorsed by 32 per cent of respondees, was the mayor’s “medium” proposed increase of 7.5 per cent the first year, and a total increase of 21 per cent over three years. 

Brown told the Herald there are still a “range of options in my council” referring to the preferred stances of the 20 member Governing Body who will vote on the long term plan. 

“Left [inclined councillors] favour ‘do more pay more’, right favour ‘do less pay less’, [we’ll] probably end up in the middle. There are always options,” Brown said. 

On the question of whether it is even possible to cut council services further after years of austerity measures, Brown only indicated that the “Government’s policy on transport will drive some cuts to busses probably”. 

The mayor was likely referring to the Government’s cancellation of the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax and the hundreds of millions in funding it provided to Auckland Council. 

Of the other options in the Curia pole, 9 per cent of respondents favoured the “pay more, get more” rates option, in which higher rates increases were proposed for faster investment and higher service levels. 

Average rates increases for this option would have a residential rates increase of up to 14 per cent in year one, and 10 per cent in years two and three - a total increase of 38 per percent over three years. 


Auckland mayor Wayne Brown in his office, in conversation with Simon Wilson.
Photo / Michael CraigAuckland mayor Wayne Brown in his office, in conversation with Simon Wilson. Photo / Michael Craig 

Nineteen per cent of respondees were unsure what they preferred. 

Auckland deputy mayor Desley Simpson said she had met with the 21 local boards across the region who are having discussions with their communities about the long term plan consultation document. 

“I haven’t been there to share any particular view. I’ve been there to share the facts. The feedback has been very varied, from the higher rates option to the lower rates option,” Simpson said. 

“It’ll be up to councillors to review the complete package of feedback and its implications before making a final decision. That’s what listening to Aucklanders means. 

“If my role was a closed mind with a fixed view we wouldn’t bother asking Auckland. We’ve chosen to give Auckland three options, which is more than we have before.” 

National and Labour voters in the poll were almost identical in their preferences for the three options - and roughly paralleled the overall results. Act and NZ First voters were slightly more likely than the average Aucklander to prefer the “pay less, get less” option. 

Greens voters preferred the mayor’s “medium” rates increase option over the “pay less, get less” option. 

The poll also revealed Aucklanders thought rates increases should be no higher than the annual rate of inflation - which sat at 4.7 per cent in the 12 months to the December 2023 quarter. 

Forty eight per cent of respondents thought that rates increases should be in line with inflation, 32 per cent supported rises below inflation while just 11 per cent wanted rates hikes above the rate of inflation. Eight per cent of respondents were unsure. 

Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Sam Warren said the poll numbers weren’t surprising. 

“When Aucklanders are struggling with their mortgages and the stubbornly high cost of living – the idea of increasing rates at a level far-exceeding inflation is really untenable for a lot of people,” Warren said. 

“Auckland Council must first go to greater lengths to cut the waste of its own internal bureaucracy, before it can go rifling through the back pocket of everyday ratepayers.” 

Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson has met with the region's 21 local boards. Photo / Dean PurcellAuckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson has met with the region's 21 local boards. Photo / Dean Purcell 

Homeowners are facing a median rates increase of $228 under a 7.5 per cent hike proposed by Auckland Council, a Herald analysis shows.  

Over 10 years, the proposed increases will add up to about 48 per cent for more than 600,000 ratepayers, and that means the median rates bill in 2034 will be roughly $1500 more than it is today.  

“The decisions of the past have determined our current budgetary woes. And the decisions that we make now, in the process of developing Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan, will shape the decades ahead,” Brown said when his proposed 10-year budget was previewed in November 2023. 

“The chickens are coming home to roost. The running costs of the City Rail Link alone are expected to account for about 10 per cent of rates paid by Aucklanders in the third year of the Long Term Plan.” 

Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina said he didn’t think any of the councillors necessarily had an ideological position on possible rates hike, and they would be approaching the public submission process and the consultation documents with an open mind. 

“I won’t have a position now because that could well change depending on the submissions,” he said. 

“For me, it’s really what ability will people have to pay if the rates go up 7.5 or even below, but if it’s going past, what ability do they have?” 

Filipaina said there are also options under the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 to suspend rates payments and pay them when they sell their house. 

Aucklanders can read Brown’s central proposal for the long term plan and the options in the full consultation document, then give feedback at akhaveyoursay.nz/ourplanSubmissions close by the end of today. 

The poll was conducted by Curia Market Research for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance. It is a random poll of 1,000 adult Aucklanders and is weighted to the overall adult Auckland population. It was conducted by phone (landlines and mobile) and online between 20 March and 24 March 2024, has a maximum margin of error of +/- 3.1% and 21% were undecided on the mayoral vote question. The full results are at www.taxpayers.org.nz/aucklandratespoll 

Tom Dillane is an Auckland-based journalist covering local government and crime as well as sports investigations. He joined the Herald in 2018 and is deputy head of news. 

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