Rate rise predictions could crush hopes for Our Waiheke

Our Waiheke spokesperson John Meeuwsen said he felt "betrayed" by a report predicting huge costs for an independent council.

Our Waiheke spokesperson John Meeuwsen said he felt "betrayed" by a report predicting huge costs for an independent council.

Waiheke Island's hopes for a council of its own have been dashed, with a report saying rates would go up by 36 per cent.

A report from Morrison Low consultants released today said applications to the Local Government Commission for a Waiheke unitary or district council were not "reasonably practical options".

North Rodney's applications for a unitary or district council or to merge with Kaipara District Council were also dismissed as impractical.

Our Waiheke member Dan Ballard  said Auckland Council services are "shocking".
Diana Worthy

Our Waiheke member Dan Ballard said Auckland Council services are "shocking".

Spokesperson for Our Waiheke's bid to break away from Auckland Council, John Meeuwsen, said the consultants relied on figures from Auckland Council.

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However, Our Waiheke was making the breakaway bid precisely because it believed smaller councils are more cost efficient than the massive Auckland Supercity, he said.

Meeuwsen refutes the validity of Morrison Low's figures, which the Local Government Commission could use to declare Our Waiheke's application "effectively dead".

He said Auckland Council could not provide exact figures for the costs of services and facilities on Waiheke, so much of the information had been roughly estimated.

"The report seems like it had a predetermined outcome to deny our application, despite the demonstrably strong support from our community for it.

"I feel betrayed, I feel that Waiheke has been betrayed.

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"We've been chafing against Auckland Council forever - when are they going to give us a decent hearing?" Meeuwsen said.

The consultants' report, which was commissioned by the Local Government Commission, states that a Waiheke unitary council would operate at a deficit of $6.4 million the first year.

Rates would need to increase on the island by 43 per cent in the first year to cover the costs of a unitary council

"There are likely to be significant capability and capacity issues for a unitary authority that has approximately one fifth the population of the smallest current unitary authority in New Zealand," the report states.

The consultants said Waiheke did not have the resources needed for a unitary or district council to effectively carry out its responsibilities.

Although Waiheke has an appropriate region for a district council, it could expect a deficit of $4.7 million a year. A rates increase of 36 per cent would be needed to cover this deficit.

Costs for the transition to a new council were not included in the report, but would need to be considered before any changes to Auckland Council were made.

​Our Waiheke member Dan Ballard said the group had expected the consultants to estimate costs for a Waiheke council based on costs for other small councils around New Zealand.

"Their starting point was Auckland Council's giant, bloated Supercity figures and they have added figures on top of that and said there is no way we could afford to break away.

"There are many ways Auckland Council is failing Waiheke - almost every aspect of Auckland Council services is shocking.

"We think a small council would benefit Waiheke with better democracy and more cost efficiency," Ballard said.

The only options on the table that the consultants consider to be practicable are retaining the current Auckland Council and creating an extra local board in Rodney.

Merging part of Rodney, north of the Hoteo river, with Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council would create a deficit of $2.9 million the first year for Kaipara's council and reduce the surplus for Northland Regional Council.

A North Rodney unitary authority would have a deficit of $13.5 million a year, requiring a rates increase of 48 per cent, the report stated.

A district council in North Rodney would face a $10.2 million deficit a year and a 43 per cent rates rise would be needed to cover this loss.

The Local Government Commission will now decide whether to proceed with the proposals to create new councils on Waiheke and in North Rodney.

Public submissions would be called for before changes are made.

 - Stuff

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