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John MacDonald: Regional stadium tax a great idea

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 12:17PM
An artist's impression of Te Kaha. Image / Supplied
An artist's impression of Te Kaha. Image / Supplied

John MacDonald: Regional stadium tax a great idea

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 12:17PM

The new stadium in Christchurch, Te Kaha, is shooting up out of the ground and so are our rates.

The big news today is that those of us in Christchurch are facing rates increases of more than 30 percent over the next three years. Thanks to inflation, insurance and the cost of the new stadium.

Yes, I know our mayor said rates increases wouldn’t be any higher than the rate of inflation. But, if you believed that nonsense of his during the election campaign, you’ll believe anything.

At the moment, the expected rates increase for next year alone is sitting at around 13 percent. The mayor wants staff at the council to do some numbers and work out how they could get that increase for next year alone down to somewhere between 9 and 12 percent.

Annual inflation, by the way, is sitting at 5.6 percent. So, whatever they come up with, there goes Phil Mauger’s pipedream of rates increases matching inflation. And “pipedream” is putting it politely.

So Phil can tell the bean counters all he wants to play around with the spreadsheets and come up with different numbers, but let’s just leave him be and turn our attention to another councillor who, I think, has come up with a much better idea.

This is councillor Aaron Keown, who wants the council to go to the Government and ask for approval for a new regional rate or let’s just be honest and call it what it is, a regional tax to add the stadium costs to the rates bills of people beyond Christchurch.

I’ve always thought that it’s nuts that just Christchurch ratepayers are the ones who are going to be lumbered with these stadium costs.

Technically, if you don’t live in Christchurch city, you have actually already contributed to the costs because the Government has poured truckloads of money into it as part of the Crown’s contribution to the cost of rebuilding after the earthquakes.

But, then, so has every other taxpayer in the country. But, unlike a taxpayer in Auckland for example, someone living in Selwyn or Waimakariri or Hurunui is going to benefit from the stadium much more than someone further away.

So we can’t change the fact that Christchurch didn’t get off its chuff earlier in the piece and get the other councils to get some skin in the game with the stadium. That should have happened right from the start.

But, even if that boat’s already sailed, there is no way that Christchurch ratepayers should be paying for this on their own. Which is why I’m right behind Aaron Keown’s idea.

And it seems another councillor, Sara Templeton, might be behind it, as well. The two of them don’t want the stadium costs to be lumped-in with everything else, which is why Aaron Keown is floating this idea of a regional rate.

As for Sara Templeton, she says people are pretty angsty about rates increases and she’s worried that if too much gets ploughed into the stadium, then there won’t be enough money for climate change adaptation. Although, let’s face it, there’ll never be enough money for that.

She’s also concerned that the state of the city’s water infrastructure will go downhill even more. Which is probably more of a concern now, given the new government’s enthusiasm for local councils to hold on to their water assets.

But back to the stadium and Aaron Keown’s idea of a regional rate to help pay for it.
When someone comes to Christchurch from out of town to see a big sports match or go to a concert at the stadium, they’re not just going to do that and then sit in their hotel room the rest of the time.

They’re going to do other stuff. And that won’t just be within the city limits. There’ll be people going to Waipara to the wineries. Shooting through to the hot pools and the jet boat rides in Hanmer Springs. Heading up to Mt Hutt - and not just in winter, there’s mountain bike tracks there, as well.

See what I mean? The whole region is going to benefit from the stadium. So the whole region should be paying for it.

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