Who has got the right figures on council rate rises in Nelson-Tasman?
Nelson MP Nick Smith has launched a cutting counter-attack on mayoral claims he used incorrect rating claims in a recent newsletter, saying the Nelson and Tasman mayors are in denial over the extent of rates and debt increases.
Dr Smith said in a newsletter to constituents rates have increased over the last decade by 13 per cent each year in Nelson, using compounding calculations, and 12 per cent each year in Tasman since 2001, and the debt of the two councils has trebled to more than $200 million during the last decade.
Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio and Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne released a joint statement yesterday saying Dr Smith had once more used incorrect rating figures that did not tell the true story.
Mr Miccio said Nelson had minimised the rates burden each of the last two years, reducing the average rates rise to 3.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.
Mr Kempthorne has put Dr Smith's claims down to a "proof reading error in the production of the newsletter".
Nelson-based Labour List MP Maryan Street has waded into the debate, saying Dr Smith's inaccuracies over rates figures should give people "pause for thought about the MP's ability to see the truth even when it has been served up to him on a platter".
Dr Smith said he failed to understand how neither mayor could see his figures related to the last decade and not the last two years.
"I worry that our mayors are in denial over the extent that rates and debt have increased for families and businesses.
"It does not matter what way the mayors try and spin their rate and debt increases. They have gone up dramatically for both councils.
"This little spat over the scale of rate and debt increases just reinforces for me the importance of the Government's reforms to tighten the reins on councils' spending," Dr Smith said.
He said the figures used in the newsletter came from Statistics NZ and the councils own published reports.
"I have far more confidence in the figures that come from Statistics NZ than from the councils, which have a vested interest in trying to minimise the reported increases," Dr Smith said.
Statistics NZ's published figures for rates show that in Nelson they have increased $17.2 million in 2001 to $51.1m in 2011, and in Tasman from $18.5m in 2001 to $52.6m in 2011. This equates to an increase in Nelson of 197 per cent, or 13 per cent a year compound, and 184 per cent in Tasman, or 12 per cent a year compound, Dr Smith said. He said Nelson's debt had increased from $16m in 2001 to $60m in 2011. Tasman's had gone from $29m in 2001 to $140m in 2011.
Both mayors said the councils provided Dr Smith the correct rating figures earlier this year when he misquoted incorrect rating figures promoting his local government legislation.
Mr Kempthorne said today it was true rates had increased, but the annual average for Tasman over the decade was 8.21 per cent and not 12 per cent.
He said rates income, including total revenue such as resource and building consent fees, had increased by the figure quoted by Dr Smith, but that was not the same as the average annual rates increase to property owners.
Today the council's chief financial officer Nikki Harrison was working with Statistics NZ to have its website calculations on per capita average rates corrected so it was consistent with "real actual rate rise averages".
Statistics NZ confirmed it had been contacted but was unable to comment further today.
Mr Miccio said the department calculated rates increases by a "very complicated process" using population figures and boundaries, and had made some errors. He said all the city council's figures had Audit New Zealand sign-off.
"To repeatedly say increasing costs are entirely due to council decisions and use incorrect figures of 12 per cent and 13 per cent to support his view is both mystifying and disappointing," Mr Miccio and Mr Kempthorne said.
Dr Smith said councils played tricks with percentages, but in his view "the numbers can't play tricks".
"The other side of the debate is what you include in rates and what you don't. Statistics NZ is right - it's a neutral party."
- © Fairfax NZ News