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Ratepayer Report 2019: Highlights for Christchurch (and Canterbury)

This year’s Ratepayers’ Report reveals that, in terms of average rates, Christchurch City Council ranks well compared to other large cities. However, personnel costs are driving rate hikes that are undermining the Council’s position, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Christchurch City Council’s average residential rates are $2,446. While Christchurch still ranks below Auckland and Wellington, a $184 (or eight percent) increase in average rates in 2017/18 has pushed the Council up the board, from 34th to 23rd.”

“Interestingly, Christchurch is not Canterbury’s most costly council. Waimakariri and Selwyn district councils both rank more highly for average rates, showing that you don’t need to be a big fish to fleece ratepayers.”

“Where Christchurch does stand out is in its debt. Its per-household liabilities total $25,402, ranking it first out of all councils. This is effectively a hidden $25,000 bill in the letterbox of every household in the city.”

“While earthquake recovery explains some of this debt, the Council should still be looking for ways to reduce pressure on future ratepayers. An obvious place to look is staffing. Christchurch City Council’s personnel costs are the fifth highest in New Zealand on a per-household basis.”

“To the Council’s credit, they are one of just five local councils that met all of the Report’s criteria for a prudent Audit and Risk Committee. No other Canterbury council met the full criteria.”

All figures relate to the 2017/18 financial year. Further figures are as follows:

Staffing:

Full-time equivalent (FTE) staff excluding Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs)*: 2135
FTE staff (excluding CCOs) earning over $100,000: 534

CEO Remuneration (Dr Karleen Edwards):

$414,987

Councillor Remuneration:

Mayor Lianne Dalziel: $190,245
Deputy Mayor Andrew Turner: $126,002
Average Councillor Remuneration (excl. Mayor and Deputy Mayor): $103,775

*As with last year’s Report, Christchurch City Council refused to provide the number of FTE staff for its CCOs, saying “CCHL have reported that they do not hold this information”. This is a concern in terms of transparency.

Comparison of Canterbury region councils:

Average Residential Rates:

  1. Waimakariri District Council: $2,585
  2. Selwyn District Council: $2,508
  3. Christchurch City Council: $2,446
  4. Waitaki District Council: $2,240
  5. Kaikoura District Council: $2,138
  6. Waimate District Council: $2,126
  7. Timaru District Council: $2,062
  8. Hurunui District Council: $1,947
  9. Ashburton District Council: $1,850
  10. Mackenzie District Council: $1,796

Debt (liabilities) per household:

  1. Christchurch City Council $25,402
  2. Waimakariri District Council $6,884
  3. Timaru District Council $6,410
  4. Hurunui District Council $6,361
  5. Kaikoura District Council $4,551
  6. Ashburton District Council $3,847
  7. Mackenzie District Council $2,081
  8. Selwyn District Council $1,988
  9. Waitaki District Council $1,688
  10. Waimate District Council $1,404

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