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Businesses will get lower rates

LIZ WILLIS
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014
Len Brown

KEEN INTEREST: Developer Dave Donaldson, left, Yachting NZ chief executive David Abercrombie, centre, and developer Peter Wall at the Takapuna Beach Reserve hearing.

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Takapuna is the right location for an elite national sailing centre but faster decisions are needed, says mayor Len Brown.

Mr Brown refused to express a view on the controversial National Ocean Water Sports Centre site but clearly has opinions on the issue.

"I'm loathe to put myself in the middle of this because it's a local issue and should be resolved at a local level."

Despite this, he told the North Shore Times the paper had been "formidable in its involvement in the debate".

About 2000 people submitted largely opposing NOWSC taking over the existing campground and the Facebook page Save Takapuna Beach Holiday Park now has nearly 10,000 likes.

When the paper told the mayor it had reflected public views, Mr Brown laughed and said; "You'll be struggling to find out exactly what that is".

Mr Brown says he supports the vision for a national elite sailing base at Takapuna and urged informed, consistent decision making.

He warned the super-city didn't "muck around" and had a "you snooze, you lose" attitude. Mr Brown said he believed a good outcome could be reached.

Early in the interview with the North Shore Times he also praised Takapuna business leaders like Dave Donaldson and Peter White for their vision for the area. Mr Donaldson is on the Harbour Access Trust pushing for NOWSC at the campground site.

Mr Brown says this year rates will fall for many North Shore businesses. North Shore had a high differential between residential and business rates but the super-city is lowering rates for businesses.

Mr Brown says North Shore's former differential was $1 for residential versus $5 for business. For 2014/2015 it's set to lower to $2.43 for businesses, switching more of the rates burden to residential owners.

On the Shore it's only Devonport-Takapuna that has substantially higher than average overall rates when you include business and residential ratepayers, he says.

He attributes this to property values rising faster than average.

"They might be winning on the valuation side but they're paying higher rates."

All Shore residential ratepayers are set to pay more than the 2.4 per cent average with Devonport-Takapuna facing 5 per cent rises.

Mr Brown vowed to keep a promise to the Shore to fight for a fairer rating system, particularly for the elderly.

He says he will be raising the issue of a nationwide local government funding review at Local Government New Zealand this month.

He says there needs to genuine debate on all options.

Mr Brown noted rates campaigner David Thornton, a Shore resident, had succeeded in getting government to review the rating system but he says that doesn't go far enough.

He says it's unfair there are only about 600,000 ratepayers in Auckland when there are about 1 million people in employment.

Mr Brown says an income- based funding system that doesn't just target property owners needs consideration.

"It would be something everyone is paying. Where presently you only pay if you own a property which is not equitable in itself because we're building a city and the cost that applies really to everybody."

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Mr Brown is confident of getting support across New Zealand councils for a funding review and says the issue may need a national referendum.

He defended event funding in Auckland in the wake of criticism from former mayor Andrew Williams, now a New Zealand First List MP, that the Shore was losing events.

Mr Brown described the Shore as "event city" and says the super-city is looking to spread events throughout Auckland.

He's happy to keep discussions alive about future funding of the Devonport Food & Wine Festival that was cancelled this year.

"If it's really sustainable and the locals really like it then I'm sure it will reinvent itself into something."

Mr Brown says he would look to guidance on the issue from the local board and councillors.

He says the Shore puts on great events.

"On the Shore you are highly collaborative and generally speaking able to run things on the smell of an oily rag and are really efficient."

Mr Brown expressed sadness about the recent financial problems at the Bruce Mason Centre that saw Regional Facilities Auckland step in to run it.

"The ratepayers of Auckland have jumped in to back them up. So this just shows you that when it hits the fan we're the guarantors, we the people of Auckland."

Mr Brown said the centre is a great Shore cultural asset and the city is keen to help "put it back on its feet".

- North Shore Times

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