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Working group reviews 'complicated' rating system

JAMES IRELAND
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2014

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The rating system in Auckland is unfair and unsustainable, says city mayor Len Brown ahead of a national review.

He and local body politicians from around the country will spend the next six months looking at how local government is funded.

Brown met members of Local Government New Zealand on March 20 and the decision was made to form a working group.

Auckland's rating model is too "complicated", he says.

"No-one can explain it simply in any public meeting. You've got uniform annual general charges and fees for Africa."

Its lack of fairness impacts on the elderly in particular because they are charged rates based on land values rather than their ability to pay, he says.

Home owners shouldn’t have to downgrade to cheaper properties in order to pay more affordable rates, he says.

" I don't think the rating system or the taxation system should force the person into that decision."

Whether you are poor, middle class or richer, the same problem applies.

Local Government NZ spokeswoman Helen Mexted says planning for the working group is still in its formative stages.

"This week we are putting the frames of reference together," she says.

"The group is likely to have people from Auckland and other councils from the rest of the country as well as members of our organisation."

The work is necessary to deal with changing demographics and demands such as Auckland's need for more infrastructure, Mexted says.

Brown’s comments have already raised some concerns.

Former Silver Fern netballer, Labour MP Louisa Wall fears sweeping changes could have an adverse affect on renters.

Ms Wall represents the south Auckland electorate of Manurewa where over 50 per cent of residents are renting.

"I hope incorporated into the review is a real assessment into investment properties and their tenants who have to pay high rents which already cover rates," Wall says.

If the mayor wants to help elderly people with their rates he should make a specific provision for that, rather than changing the whole system, she says.

"The city is a big tourist destination so I think a bed tax is a good idea.

"I don't support user pays at all.

It could result in people being denied access to places like libraries and pools.

" Aucklanders who earn less than $23,870 per year are entitled to a rates rebate of up to $595.

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- Manukau Courier

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