Average rates on the Hauraki Gulf islands are set to fall - by $160 a year on Waiheke, and $270 on Great Barrier - following the latest property valuations, so "the removal of the subsidy should not present material affordability issues for those ratepayers.
Other Aucklanders have been subsidising the island's many well-heeled dwellers for too long, and it's time the higher cost of dealing with waste on the islands is recognised, said the council.
Neither of the two quotes above are useful in explaining what’s actually going on here and why there is an attempt to force Waiheke ratepayers into a strict ‘user pays’ model that will see Waiheke pay the full cost of its waste transfer charges. These will come into effect in Council’s 10-Year Budget unless there is an outcry from ratepayers or your Local Board and Local Councillor actually grow some balls and oppose them - and, and it’s a very big ‘and’, they are listened to by the Mayor and councillors.
The real issue is one of equity. One of the supposed benefits of amalgamation was that all Aucklanders would be treated the same. How else can you weigh up the costs and benefits of living in central Auckland versus the costs and benefits of living in the 90% of the Auckland Council area that is rural?
It is the equity principle that underlies the notion of a unified rating system based on a ‘capital’ value i.e. the only fair system for rating homes is their underlying capital value. If it applies to rates, it should also apply to all other Council costs and services.
It’s ‘Win some, lose some’, otherwise we start getting into the sorts of irrelevant arguments put forward in this poorly researched article.
Like other outlying areas, Waiheke Islanders, for example, have to pay additional transport costs if they want to access Council’s key public facilities - art galleries, swimming pools, stadiums, to name a few. A swim at the nearest Council swimming pool facility to Waiheke, the Tepid Baths, for example, is around $6 but for Waiheke Islanders it costs an additional $36 for the (unsubsidised) ferry ride. An argument could be put forward that Waiheke Islanders and rural communities subsidise Central Aucklanders’ swimming exercise as well as their public transport network. That they are subsidising central Auckland apartment owners and inner city renters (who don’t even pay rates) to access the trappings of inner city living.
Local resident, Herb Romaniuk, who is quoted in the article, should know better as a former Waiheke politician, than to highlight city water and wastewater charges, which are subject to a separate rate paid for by property owners for their reticulated services and not relevant to this discussion.
It is true that Waiheke’s waste transfer costs (for that is what we are talking about here, not the rubbish collection per se) are higher that the rest of Auckland because Waiheke has no tip and all waste has to carted off-island, no matter what organisation is collecting it. Council assesses an additional cost of over $500 per household per annum will be necessary to make Waiheke pay its way. This would apply whether or not the current contractor Transpacific Industries or some ‘community’ organisation was responsible for waste collection.. So, second interviewee Stephen Tozer’s argument that the community could do it better is also irrelevant.
What it comes down to is this. The Mayor is strapped for cash because of his single vanity project the Central Rail Link. He can’t afford it. We can’t afford it. But he’ll stop at nothing to get money to pay for his train set, whether it is user pays on the motorways or user pays for waste transfer from Waiheke.
What isn’t fair is that only 500,000 Auckland ratepayers have to subsidise the other 1,000,000 residents who pay no rates at all. It isn’t fair that those who live and work in rural Auckland have to subsidise the additional services enjoyed by inner city apartment renters. It isn’t fair that the elderly on fixed incomes are being forced out of their homes by rapacious rates demands. But that’s the Mayor of Auckland for you. He’s been profligate with our money, thinking he has a bottomless pit of ratepayers’ money he can tap into.
The reality is that unless there’s a ratepayers’ revolt or a new Mayor, Auckland will continue to be one of the World’s Most Unaffordable Cities.