Lowest rates in country

EMMA BAILEY
Last updated 06:15 11/06/2014

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Mackenzie District boasts the lowest rates in New Zealand, while those in Timaru and Waimate are lower than the national average.

A Ratepayers Report released yesterday examines all 67 territorial authorities in the country and compares statistics based on each council's annual report for the year ended June 30, last year.

It also highlights low debt and running costs for Mackenzie and Waimate, but high debt and average running costs for Timaru.

TAXPAYERS' REPORT DATA TOOL

The report, put together by Fairfax Media and the Taxpayers Union, showed the average rate bill per year in Timaru is $1802, lower than the average for other provincial councils, which is $2005, and below the national average of $2019. Timaru has the 17th lowest rates out of the 67 councils.

Mackenzie ratepayers pay an average of $1104, the lowest in the country, compared to $1906 as the average of rural councils, while Waimate ratepayers pay an average of $1700, the eighth lowest.

When it comes to debt, Timaru is carrying $5738 per ratepayer, notably higher than the average of $3890 for provincial councils and the national average of $4386 for all councils.

In the Mackenzie liability per ratepayer is $490, the fourth lowest. It carries no debt. The average for rural councils is $2775 per ratepayer. Waimate District also comes in well below with liabilities of only $757 per ratepayer.

Employee expenses and costs per ratepayer were high in Timaru. Employee expenses came in at $902 per ratepayer, higher than the provincial council average of $747.

The council's cost per ratepayer of servicing debt was $236, again higher than the provincial council average of $173.

In the Mackenzie employee expenses per ratepayer were $417, well below the rural council average of $878, while Waimate came in at $669. Debt servicing in the Mackenzie was zero and Waimate's $9, compared to $91 as the average for rural councils.

The Timaru District Council employed 218 people, with 14 paid more than $100,000. The chief executive was paid $265,488 and the mayor $93,219.

The Mackenzie District Council employs 26 staff, four paid more than $100,000, including the chief executive who is paid $168,000 and the mayor is paid $55,000.

The Waimate District Council employs 40 staff, with four paid more than $100,000. The chief executive is paid $166,000 and the mayor is paid $59,000.

CEOS HAIL OUTCOME

South Canterbury council chief executives are happy with how their entities fared in a ratepayer report out today.

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Timaru District Council chief executive Peter Nixon said the high level of debt the council had represented an investment in infrastructure.

"It reflects the significant investment in recent years on items such as waste minimisation, sewer and water upgrades and the aquatic centre development."

He was not concerned about staff costs being higher than the national average. "It depends on what is done in-house [staff] versus what is outsourced [contractors]. The costs to the ratepayer in rate costs are still below national averages."

Mackenzie District Council chief executive Wayne Barnett said the council strived to provide value for rates.

"We are very pleased to have low rates but recognise that cost is only half of the value equation. The quality and effectiveness of the services we provide to our communities are also critically important."

Mackenzie would not consider raising more debt to offset rates, Barnett said.

"One of the reasons that Mackenzie District Council is in such a sound financial position is because the council maintains strong discipline. Part of this involves ensuring rates are sufficient to cover expenses. Raising debt to offset rates would push the burden onto future generations and limit their ability to determine their own future. The [council] has inherited its financial strength from previous generations and is keen not to squander it."

Waimate District Council chief executive Tony Alden was happy with its result.

"Comparing Waimate to similar councils shows the financial strength of our balance sheet, and the lower average rates in our district."

- The Timaru Herald

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