Sign up to our Newsletter


Sign Up Successful

Thanks, your sign up has been received

Homepage

Competition winner announced

Yesterday the Taxpayers’ Union  announced the winner of its competition for the Aucklander with the highest percentage increase in rates and user-charges.

The winner is Mrs Glenys Smith of Howick, whose rates have more than doubled since 2003.

Mrs Smith is a classic example of an Auckland householder paying more but getting less. In 2003 Mrs Smith’s rates were $1,371 in 2003. They are now more than double, up to nearly $3,100 for 2013/2014.

Mrs Smith also pointed out in her entry that, “When the wastewater charges were taken off the rates, the rates didn’t go down to compensate!”

Mrs Smith wins a KraftMaster petrol lawnmower (perfect for mowing the berms).

The other winner is Mr Colin Shearer of Sunnyhills. Though Mr Shearer didn’t provide the required user charge details to qualify for the lawnmower, his un-capped rates increase was the highest we received. As a discretionary prize, the Taxpayers’ Union is giving Mr Shearer a weed-wacker.

Mr Shearer’s uncapped rates increase is 34.2 per cent, from the 2011/2012 base year. That means that his rates will be over a third higher, in less than four years.

While Len Brown is hiding behind the ‘average’ figure of 2.5 per cent, this is merely an attempt to disguise just how much extra some Auckland households are paying. As the entries show, many Aucklanders are paying much more, while the Council is reducing services such as berm mowing.

Continue Reading >

Kaipara District Council’s wastewater project - an expensive audit failure?

The report of the Auditor-General’s inquiry into the EcoCare wastewater project was released on Tuesday. It revealed serious failures in the management of the project, and strongly criticises Audit NZ. Inaccurate record keeping, mismanagement of the project, lack of financial advice and expertise, and reliance on private partnerships saw a huge budget blowout, with costs exceeding over $63m. For example, the effluent disposal bill alone increased from $361,000 to $14m.

How did the Council pay for this budget blowout? By raising rates for Mangawhai residents. The annual cost to ratepayers was a consideration in assessing the affordability of the project. However, the summary of the report reveals that the Council in fact decided to “increase the number of estimated ratepayers that would be covered by the scheme and contribute to funding it”. This is a fundamental flaw, and the Auditor-General concluded that this decision was not based on an adequate account of predicted growth in the area. This, as well as the undisclosed liabilities are precisely the things Audit NZ should have picked up on.

Overall the report suggests Audit NZ was failing audit 101

The Auditor-General's office (which includes Audit NZ) is supposed to provide assurance that government departments are performing as they should. The report details that:

  • audit quality of the project was varied;
  • the quality of documentation for some audit files were inadequate, especially those explaining why judgments were reached;
  • there was a failure to reassess the project between 2006-2009 despite significant changes that could have been an audit risk; and
  • the auditor’s reliance on information from Kaipara District Council’s management (which, from our examples above, were also clearly inadequate).

Joel Cayford has written a blog post evaluating the report. He’s gone a step further than the Taxpayers’ Union, and believes that an unreserved apology does not cut it, concluding that the Auditor-General's 'head is on the block'. 

Many audit failures internationally have led to large payouts by audit companies and their insurers to shareholders. Here, the tab was left with Kaipara ratepayers. The report does not address what we think the issue is: redress for the Kaipara ratepayers who paid the bill.

Continue Reading >

Friday the last day to get entries in for Auckland rates competition

Entries close tomorrow for our competition for the householder who can provide evidence of the highest percentage increase in Auckland Council rates and user-charges.  The prize is a lawnmower - just perfect for mowing those berms.

At the same time the Auckland Council is reducing services, a quick flick through the 50 or so entries we've have in so far, show many rates and user charge increases well over the 10% "cap".

The terms and conditions are available here.

Please scan and email your entries to tipline@taxpayers.org.nz as any sent by post will no longer arrive in time.

Living Wage - higher costs, less diversity, job losses?

We've been looking into the claims by Auckland Council politicians relating to promises of a 'living wage' for Auckland Council employees.

An Auckland Council internal report obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union raises questions about the potential for job losses and casts the $3.75m price-tag for the policy into doubt. 

The Council’s report explains that the living wage is ‘not an effective, general tool for alleviating poverty’ and that ‘large proportions of minimum wage workers do not live in poor households.’

When you put aside the political rhetoric, the economic impact of the living wage policy will be disastrous for low-skilled Council workers, diversity and ratepayers according the Council’s own analysis.

If the Council’s aim is to reduce poverty, the report suggests that living wages for Council employees is not the way to do it.  According to the report, workers aged 15 - 24, women and ethnic minorities are over-represented in the category of people not earning more than $18.40 per hour. Artificially inflating Council wages may see less of these groups gaining future employment with the Council as competition for these positions increase.

In addition to increased competition for Council positions, the report indicates the potential for job losses and shows that workers may see overtime slashed.

The living wage policy will not only burden Aucklanders with higher rates, it also threatens Council workers with the prospect of job losses.  The true cost of the living wage policy may be much higher than the $3.75m quoted in the media.  For example, the Council’s analysis only considers workers within a 10% wage differential.  It has not factored in the potential for a domino effect of wage increases emanating from the introduction of the living wage.

We've uploaded the full report here.

Continue Reading >

Taxpayers' Union offers prize to Aucklander with largest percentage rates increase

The Taxpayers’ Union this afternoon announced that it is offering a lawn mower to the householder who can provide evidence of the highest Auckland Council percentage increase in rates and user-charges.

We understand that some Auckland residents have suffered cumulative rate increases of over 30 per cent in the last few years.  At the same time the Auckland Council is reducing services such as berm mowing.

We are worried that while Len Brown is hiding behind the ‘average’ figure of 2.5 per cent, this is merely an attempt to disguise just how much extra some Auckland households are paying.  It ignores, for example, increased user charges.

The proposed rate increase is almost double the rate of inflation.  Aucklanders should be expecting more, not less, services from their Council.

Click here to read the full press release.

Click 'continue reading' for the competition terms.

Continue Reading >