Rates Control eyes district council too

BY NATALIE AKOORIE
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2009

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Another Waikato council could be in for a shake-up as a second Rates Control Team looks to move in at next year's local government elections.

Waikato District Council is being eyed by the ticket, which is in the process of being set up by Environment Waikato councillor and Rates Control Team member Tony Armstrong.

Mr Armstrong was working on finding suitable candidates for the ticket, but did not think he would stand a full council of 12, as was the plan by Hamilton councillor Roger Hennebry at the city council.

Unlike Mr Hennebry's team, which would announce its candidates after Christmas, Mr Armstrong said the Waikato District Council ticket would not begin campaigning until closer to the October 2010 elections.

He is looking to find candidates willing and able to give up their time in return for a meagre $20,000 annual salary compared with the $60,000 Hamilton City Council paid councillors.

Mr Armstrong said the ticket would be based on the same premise as the team which swept to power on Environment Waikato at the last elections in 2007.

He said the idea behind Rates Control – to keep rate rises as low as possible – had been effective and attracted much community support.

"We've proven that we have been quite a success in keeping the rates down from a council which had the highest rates to something a little bit more reasonable."

The team had pledged to hold regional rate rises at 4 per cent this year but had to settle for a 5.6 per cent hike after two of its six-strong team defected early into their term.

But Mr Armstrong said that before the team joinied EW, the predicted rise was up around 23 per cent.

"I think the community needs some choices."

He had found candidates with a similar set of "values" to theirs and wanted people with business acumen.

However, Hamilton city councillor Peter Bos called the Rates Control teams "fraudulent" because they could not keep promises they made to the public before being elected.

The 1998 "City Vision" ticket on the council including Garry Mallett was one of the most disruptive councils Mr Bos had been on, he said."They left after three years and did a lot of damage to our city, I believe."

The fourth-term councillor was sceptical about teams "driven by an outside philosophy" and said they voted using preconceived ideas.

Hamilton Deputy Mayor Pippa Mahood said history showed teams on councils had not worked in the city.

"The public actually like to vote for an individual on the whole."

She said any council with "political party interests" voted according to their political beliefs rather than for what was best for the community.

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Mrs Mahood suggested rates control-styled teams at Hamilton City Council had in the past been "one-term wonders".

On her blog, councillor Angela O'Leary suggested such "politicking" in the council was nothing more than "silly games" which was distracting, and a waste of time and energy.

"As far as a Rates Control ticket, please. We all know how well that worked for EW."

She issued a warning to Mr Hennebry's ticket.

"I don't want you to have my seat, Rates Control people, and I will fight hard to keep it."

- Waikato Times

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