CCC debt three times NZ average

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:25 11/06/2014

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The Christchurch City Council is the third most indebted local authority in the country, owing close to $14,000 for every ratepayer in the city.

That is three times the national average - and that is even before the large spending on the central city's anchor projects gets underway, which will push debt levels even higher.

Data on the council's debt levels were released on Monday as part of a joint research project by the Taxpayers Union and Fairfax Media which examined the financial performance of every local authority in the country.

TAXPAYERS' REPORT DATA TOOL

The Ratepayers' Report found in the Canterbury region the Christchurch City Council was the worst-performing council in terms of operating expenditure, spending $3901 per ratepayer - well ahead of the national average of $3175.

Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said it was unclear how much of that expenditure related to the earthquakes.

"Of concern is Christchurch City Council's high liabilities," Williams said. "The council data suggest that without more central government money, Christchurch City's decision to keep assets such as the airport and Orion will need to be re-examined."

The council does have a strong asset base, with around $58,000 worth of assets for every ratepayer.

The Ratepayers' Report shows the Waimakariri District Council has the highest average residential rates in Canterbury. Waimakariri ratepayers pay an average of $2130 a year in rates, while in Christchurch City the average rates are $1706 a year.

The Selwyn District has the second-highest operating expenditure per ratepayer and the second highest liabilities per ratepayer.

The best-performing Canterbury council is Mackenzie District. It has the lowest average rates, the lowest operating group expenditure per ratepayer, the lowest group liabilities per ratepayer and the lowest staff to ratepayer ratio.

"It appears to be a slick operation," Williams said. "Ratepayers in Christchurch City and Waimakariri may want to consider why their councils do not appear to be providing the same value for money as Mackenzie District."

Christchurch City Council finance committee chairman Cr Raf Manji said he believed the council could operate more efficiently and he was hoping to see the organisation's performance improve once new chief executive Dr Karleen Edwards came on board.

The Cameron report, due to be released next month, would canvas a range of options for increasing council revenue and maximising the return from council-owned assets.

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Waimakariri District Mayor David Ayers said the quakes and the costs of providing new infrastructure for a fast-growing region had pushed rates up in Waimakariri but he was confident ratepayers got good value for money.

Williams said the aim of the Ratepayers' Report was to provide objective data that would allow ratepayers to compare their councils with others. Data collated by the Taxpayers' Union, a lobby group, from council reports has been turned into an online tool, Ratepayers' Report, (ratepayersreport.co.nz) so residents can compare their local councils with 67 territorial authorities across the country.

This data was checked by Fairfax Media and supplied to councils for them to review before publication.

- The Press

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