In a couple of weeks Auckland Council will make probably its biggest decision since adopting the Unitary Plan, by either voting for or against adopting the Regional Fuel Tax that was recently consulted on (twice).

In some respects the choice is simple. If the Council approves the fuel tax, then the list of projects below happen. If not, they don’t:

But there are, of course, a bunch of more complex questions. Things like:

  • How did we get to a point where, without a major new fuel tax, our largest city that’s growing at over 40,000 people per year, won’t be able to afford a bunch of pretty basic transport improvements?
  • Compared to other funding options how fair is a regional fuel tax?
  • What can we do to ease the impact of the regional fuel tax on those it will hit the hardest?
  • Do we need a regional fuel tax to be in place for ten years, or do we expect the funding situation to be quite different in a decade’s time?

In this post I’m largely going to focus on the first three questions as they are fairly big in and of themselves.

As the table above highlights, the regional fuel tax is expected to raise around $1.5 billion over the next decade, which will be matched by NZTA funding and also enable some projects that may be partly funded by development contributions. All up, this means that nearly $4.3 billion of projects make up the “regional fuel tax proposal”. Looking through Auckland Transport’s capital programme, once you take out committed projects and renewals, it seems like most of the transport projects for the next ten years depend on the regional fuel tax.

We should question how this could happen. In a large and fast-growing city where the biggest chunk of rates goes to transport, why is it not possible to do much at all without a big new revenue source? It seems as though there are two main reasons:

  • The Council is funding 50% of the City Rail Link, which is a really big “once in a century” project that would typically be fully funded by the government.
  • The Council is proposing a really low rates increase of 2.5%, continuing a trend for the past few years of rates increases around this level.

Presumably it’s too late now for the City Rail Link’s funding arrangements to be reconsidered, which leaves us with the second question of the rates level. Let’s take a look at the rates increases across other major New Zealand cities:

None of these cities are growing anywhere near as fast as Auckland, but all of them are proposing much higher rates increases. Furthermore, as rates increases are cumulative on the previous year, the fact that Auckland has now spent a few years down around 2.5% has led to a compounding lower level of money available from this “normal source” to be spent on transport. Let’s compare this against what was proposed in Auckland Council’s first ever long-term plan from 2012:

To provide a degree of certainty to ratepayers, the council has decided to limit the average general rate increases to 3.6 per cent in the first year of the plan and 4.9 per cent for the remaining years. Forecast rates increases in the plan are within this throughout the period of the plan, and there is increased capacity towards the end of the plan to absorb shocks, increase expenditure or reduce borrowings if deemed prudent.

Because actual rates rises have ended up being much lower than this, the Council more quickly used up its debt headroom (less revenue means a lower debt threshold before a credit rating downgrade) and now needs a different funding source like the Regional Fuel Tax.

So why is it that the Council has been making such low rates increases even though the city’s population is growing extremely fast and the need for investment is plainly obvious? I’m going to suggest a few points:

  1. During the transition from previous Councils to a single Auckland Council, there were huge variations in rates people paid as the different systems were brought into alignment. This means that while the “average” increase was 3-4%, many people faced much higher increases than this.
  2. This messy transition led to a lot of hysteria over large rates increases, especially from some vocal groups, that continues to this day. Slowly but surely the “acceptable” level of rates increase has dropped from 5% to 3.5% to 2.5%, while the previous Mayoral election was bizarrely fought over the difference between 2% and 2.5%. To understand how strange this is, if your annual rates are around $2000, the difference between a 2% increase and a 2.5% increase is around 19 cents a week.
  3. Auckland’s property values have obviously increased massively over the past eight years, and often not in a uniform way. Because rates are set on capital values, this can lead to really big increases or decreases in your rates (meaning that not too many people actually see their rates change by the “average”). Of course those who get rates decreases stay pretty quiet about it while those whose rates go up get very noisy about it.

Ultimately, this has all now caught up with the Council and there’s now a choice between the Regional Fuel Tax or a pretty big (the Mayor has mentioned 13%) rates increase to deliver the ATAP programme. Which of these is “fairer” kind of depends on your definition of “fair” – as nicely summarised by Sam Warburton in his submission on the fuel tax legislation:

It’s possible to argue that a regional fuel tax is fairer than rates if people who drive more pay more for the maintenance and improvement of roads. It’s possible to argue that rates are fairer than regional fuel taxes if rates raise more revenue from richer households than poorer households.

Fuel taxes, like GST and other excise duties (e.g. alcohol and tobacco) are by their nature regressive: poorer people spend a greater proportion of their income on these taxes than richer people. Furthermore, poorer households have been pushed to the outer suburbs over the years, are less likely to work in places with good PT options like the city centre, and are therefore more reliant on their cars. These are real problems that need to be addressed and I can understand why councillors representing poorer parts of the city feel really torn over this issue.

On the other hand, burning fuel creates a whole pile of major impacts, on local air quality (which has major health impacts) and on the global climate. Creating an incentive to use less fuel is almost certainly a good thing, if you can find ways of reducing effects on lower income households.

This could include things like:

  • Ensuring a big chunk of Auckland’s transport investment goes into improving travel options and reducing car dependency for poorer parts of the city. One example of this is ensuring the cycling investment programme is large enough to provide safe routes in west and south Auckland, as well as the inner areas.
  • Ongoing monitoring of the impact of travel costs on lower income households. At the moment this information only appears to exist at a very high level, making a proper assessment of important decisions like implementing the regional fuel tax difficult.
  • Making other changes to tax or welfare systems to ease pressure on low income households and compensate for increased fuel costs. This would particularly benefit low income households who don’t drive (who probably make up the poorest households of all).

So, in the next couple of weeks the Council will ultimately need to make a decision on where it sits on the various definitions of “fair”. Because of the way consultation documents for the Council’s budget were worded, I think it might be difficult for them at this stage to throw out the Regional Fuel Tax and instead vote for a 13% rates increase, or to go for a lower fuel tax (say 5c a litre) and a higher rates increase (say 7.5%). Of course if the Council feels like it “got it wrong”, it is easy to make a change. The Regional Fuel Tax legislation outlines the process for varying the fuel tax (say from 10c a litre to 5c a litre), while the Council reviews its budgets every year.

If any Councillors feel like they’re “sitting on the fence” then maybe the best idea for them is to insist on a proper assessment of the impacts of the fuel tax (particularly on low income households) “one year in”, which could inform a potential review of the balance of funding between rates and the fuel tax in future budgeting processes. Just shooting it down would simply mean voting against all the projects listed in the tables at the start of this post and I doubt they will want that on their record.

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  1. There’s a missing component here: The Govt has just posted a Budget with a surplus. Why were funds not freed up to deal with the infrastructure deficit in Auckland? A billion dollars towards the CRL would have given Auckland Council major headroom to deliver other projects over the next few years or reduce interest costs going forward. Instead, we not only are funding the half-share, but still only getting one and a half stations out of it.

    1. The government plans to borrow an extra $10 billion over the next 3 years although as a % of GDP it will come down – not really sure if that counts as a surplus.

      1. That’s a bit misleading, although budgets are complicated things. My attempt to simplify below:

        Borrowings do go up a bit in the next few years – from $112 billion to $117 billion in three years, based on Treasury forecasts – and as you say they reduce as a percentage of GDP.

        The extra borrowing comes because the govt is investing in new assets, i.e. it will own more stuff. The Crown’s “net worth”, or its assets minus its debts, rises quite fast, from $110 billion to $133 billion in three years. So the debt is quite manageable in that context.

        The above is the long term picture, or a “stock” measurement.

        In terms of day to day, i.e. does the government have more money coming in than it does going out, then yes it does and that’s the “surplus”. A “flow” measurement.

    2. Simple answer is there isnt a ‘cash surplus’ as you would have if compared to a household budget.
      There are 2 types of spending , operational spending ( where the surplus is) and capital spending on top of that, which is in addition to operational spending. This where debt comes in.
      Money for CRL is capital spending so wouldnt change the ‘surplus’ one bit.

  2. There’s no easy answers and fuel tax is a blunt instrument. Road pricing would impact them as well as they drive higher kms

    A lot of it comes down to politics, the poor vote at lower rates than the rich so are a softer target. Also they’re not going to vote for a right wing candidate against Goff regardless.

    1. Fuel tax has been used for decades, it pays for roads and stuff now.
      Why should a regional fuel tax be blunt when theres 50c + a litre fuel tax there now ? The Council can really only raise money now from rates which is as remote from road usage as you can get.

      1. Spot on, why is this additional fuel tax such a hit on the poor but all the existing taxes are fine?

      2. Times change. There is a compounding effect of:

        (1) in general living further from jobs so having to travel more;
        (2) living further out so having fewer viable PT options; and
        (3) owning older cars that in themselves use more fuel than EVs, hybrids and just new vehicles, quite aside from then driving more in congestion due to the first two factors.

        It all starts to add up, while the people in the opposite situation get compounding benefits, accelerating the widening of the gap and the relative unfairness.

  3. I think few people will really begrudge the fuel tax going directly to fixing our transport woes if that is exactly what happens and reasonably quickly. Sure Hosking and the rest of ZB are outraged but does a bear shit in the woods in that world? Tax ain’t for them to pay to squander on the proles!

    Its if we don’t see change, things become problematic because people who care about the poor like Botany Downs MP Jamie Lee Ross (honestly, I don’t know how this turkey kept a straight face) will be out with pitchforks. No, honestly, the cheque is in the mail and he really really really cares people……

    1. Agree. The faster we can implement far-reaching (value-for money) projects with a really positive impact on lifestyle choices, the more people will see the benefits quickly. This is why I think it’s critical to not spend the billions on new roads in Auckland but to use that money on comprehensive bus and cycle lanes as quickly as possible. If new roads are necessary in the future, so be it. But we won’t know until a massive mode shift has occurred.

      1. Absolutely right, visible improvements done quickly will work.

        Even if it is starting a projects like Skypath or light rail etc and people see the walkways/tracks going in, you know the money is going somewhere and without it nothing would be happening!

    2. Lets be clear, that for the Hoskings of the world:

      Any taxes spent to enhance their world is an “investment” that clearly is self-evident.

      Taxes spent to enhance anyone elses world but their own are always “squandered” with no further evidence needed.

  4. It must have been funny to be at the meeting where they came up with that dot diagram above. I imagine they put up the table on the wall and gave everyone a set of coloured dots and told them to put a dot in a box if there was any remote chance even one person from that area might use the finished project. I can imagine the facilitator saying ‘Come on people we need more dots in these outer areas! Anyone?”

    1. So you take issue with where some of the dots are placed? To me it seemed a fair representation of the text that accompanied them. What’s your point, really?

      1. Well check out line 2- City Centre Bus Infra. An honest person would have put a dot in the Centre column because as the title says that is where the improvement will happen. But these people put one into every column and then used the text to double count AMETI which is included as a separate item below.

        1. Fairly straightforward, non-Central areas have bus routes that go to Central, where passengers will have better interchanges and fewer delays, due to the improved facilities in Central. Is this not obvious?
          And it’s not double-counting AMETI – try reading it again and see if you can figure out why.

        2. Sorry I think I have misunderstood. By Central they must mean Panmure. I kind of think of that as East. AMETI as I understand it requires bus passengers to get on the train at Panmure. I don’t really get how a bus improvement in the City Centre will make any difference. But then I am not in PR.

        3. You don’t see how ‘improved provision on the Wellesley St corridor’ is an improvement for those many people who take a bus from outside Central that travels to or along Wellesley St?

        4. Errol that would make sense if they had titled it “Where a few of the people who benefit come from”. but their title is “Where improvement will happen”, and from there on they are just bullshitting – again.

  5. I think the biggest mistake the council made was not to have a higher uniform general charge during the transition to super city. This lead to some of the cities getting huge rates increases while some got big decreases. It was always going to lead to the scenario where the ones that got huge increases don’t want to vote for someone proposing more big increases.
    They should have set the general charge high to start off with but then not increased it and let it get eroded by inflation.

  6. Matt – you talk about fairness, but where is the fairness in a rating system based on the value of a property ?
    I am a retired older male, living on my own in a 3 bedroom brick n tile in the Franklin area. My income for
    the financial year just finished was $42 thou, and my rates were $1800.

    If one or two skilled working people lived in the same house, with a total income of $142 thou or $242 thou, the rates would be the same as I pay.

    I’m not complaining, just pointing out an issue which seems to always be overlooked. Would a version of
    a state tax be better ?

    Yes, I apologise for being a babyboomer, but my parent’s gave me no option.

    1. I don’t like it when people use the term ‘fair’ when talking about rates or taxes. To me the only ‘fair’ system is user pays (I’m not advocating for that BTW).
      I guess in this context ‘fair’ means that richer people pay more than poorer people. In NZ, income rich people pay high income tax while asset rich people pay high rates bills. I think it works pretty well, although I would personally like to see a bigger burden on the asset rich.
      I can understand the argument of ‘I don’t earn much so I can’t pay much’ (even if their house is worth millions), but then why should a person with a high income and no real wealth suffer all of the tax/rates burden?

    2. No need to apologise for being a boomer! I would say though that rates have been around for a very long time and anyone who is currently retired would have been well aware they had this bill ahead of them.

      1. Of course you can always find something about the council you are not happy with, and then refuse to pay your rates for 10 years as a protest.

    3. As a non Aucklander, $1800 for rates on a 3 bed house is a steal. You should see what rates in the rest of the country are. Most are $3-4k.

      1. As an Aucklander, $1800 for rates on a 3 bed house is a steal (ours are much more than that).
        Also remember we pay extra for water which many other regions don’t – our water costs about $1000 P/A

        1. 1 person with a water bill $1000pa ? My place has 2 and its around $500 pa. Do you know why its so high for 1 person. For Auckland the ‘water bill’ is both water supply and sewage disposal

    1. The improved bus services I mean, not light rail. Going all the way to New Lynn by the sounds of it. Is there a reason they can’t provide a direct subsidised bus to the city?

      1. Same reason they are phasing out direct express buses in other locations, better to make use of the existing rail network. The city option will be bus to Puhinui and train to the CBD, requires a lot less buses.

  7. Excellent post Matt… just a quick point on your numbered point 3, “Auckland’s property values have obviously increased massively over the past eight years, and often not in a uniform way… meaning that not too many people actually see their rates change by the “average”).

    That is a key point, especially in the last few years people have seen huge swings in their rates. That will be less of an issue going forward – just the extent to which values change, relatively, in the 3-yearly valuations. And I guess the possibility of the council one day switching to “land value” based rents, instead of “capital value” based rents.

    Also, a lot of people (including media commentators) still get confused and think that if values go up 40%, then rates go up 40%. That’s completely wrong – the values don’t make a difference overall. What it does mean is that if one house goes up 50%, then they’ll get a larger rates increase than the average, and vice versa for a house that goes up 30%.

    1. I live in an old house in Avondale, not a particularly weathly area, family income is pretty average, kids at school, we spend money carefully.
      Since the super city my rates have gone up 10% p.a. except for the last year where they went up 17%.
      Inflation over this period has probably averaged about 1% p.a.
      I don’t think this is fair, I don’t want to move.

      Also, council spending in the area has been minimal, they no longer mow the berm and the express bus I used to take no longer runs. There’s been talk about a pool, new library & community centre for many years but nothing has happened

      1. I am interested in how different areas fare relative to each other. I’ve always loved Avondale and wonder why it hasn’t received a bit more Council love. It does have the train – friends with teenagers say they couldn’t imagine living anywhere not on the train line, because it gives the children so much freedom.

        The thing with rates is, the rates are still not covering our needs. Take our waste situation. We’re not recycling our own waste – our landfill rates are bad, our waste-related carbon emission rates are bad, our recovery from demolition rates are bad. Then there’s our water quality. Our streams are polluted. Our harbours are polluted. Industry, sewage and road runoff are all contributing.

        So I think we’ve not been paying for the services we should have been paying for. Our rates have been set at a level that only allowed for trashing of the environment. They do need to rise. Otherwise what kind of a polluted place are we handing to the next generations?

  8. Actuallly all of this discussion is about the revenue side of the equation…”if we don’t have more money we can’t afford new things”…

    What’s been lost from the whole debate is how the council spends its money today and whether you could find ~$150m per year from existing opex to fund the important other initiatives outlined above.

    A quick back of the envelope, operating spend for CCOs excluding transport is $2.4bn. Are we saying we can’t find a 5% saving across all of that to fund what would have come out of the regional fuel tax?

    There doesn’t seem to be any belt tightening in the council or efficieny gains at all on the table – the first move is to tax people more.

    And I’m not talking about frontline services, I’m talking about management layers, leases, buildings, cars, all the opex that our taxes and rates already pay for. The assumption seems to be that the council is super efficient, no money wasted. It just doesn’t wash.

    1. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the way AC (and AT) carry out a lot of operations. Not spending money is very high on the list of priorities. In a way that has let to the current state of many things (particularly with AT) – no improvement as it costs money. It became the universal excuse for doing the absolute bare minimum. You think you can cut down on costs of management or salaries but the reality is that all those organisation must offer competitive rates, as otherwise they’ll struggle to attract skilled employees.

    2. It’s complex, but if you read yesterday’s post about safety, you’d be wary of cost-cutting. Cost-cutting by National resulted in higher DSI. A sustainable society pays for its lifestyle without trashing its ecological base. Look at our harbours. Look at our poor urban form sprawling out onto what should be carbon-sequestering healthy soil. Programmes to intensify with appropriate pollution-mitigating infrastructure rather than allowing ever-increasing pavement over ecology will cost money, but we must pay for it.

      A good place to start to keep a cap on rates while we do what we must do for the environment and our people, is to charge trucks for the damage they do. We are currently subsidising them.

      1. If we charge them, they’ll pass on the cost, so we’ll end up paying more at the supermarket, petrol station, etc anyway. Not only that, but you’re naive to think that charging them will result in the removal of the current subsidy (reduction in tax take). That won’t happen, the taxes will just get absorbed elsewhere. Some will have to be spent on administering your new charges on the industry. You know what that means. Hundreds more bean counters.

        1. Why would you need more bean counters? The system for getting the money is already in place, all that is required is changing the amount charged.

        2. That is true if you don’t believe anything about truck use would change. Customers are sensitive to price. Without a subsidy, some imported goods may become more expensive than locally produced and trip volume reduces.

        3. We have a highly competitive trucking industry in NZ, with a possible over-supply.

          That comes through in systematic under-pricing, a high level of business turn-over on the margins, and poor working conditions for drivers.

          There is something to be said for lifting the barrier to entry to thin out the industry, and pushing truck and driver supply into the large professional companies, as the larger operations encourage the uptake of newer vehicles and safer driving.

          However, you won’t just get a 1-for-1 pass through of your new surcharge; concentrating the market into larger operations will also increase their market power and see margins grow too (though at the logistics company level, probably not the subbie driver level), adding further cost again to end-users.

      2. You are not subsidising trucks for the damage they do. That cost is fully recovered through their RUC.

        Now, not all of it is being passed back from the NLTF to councils. That is an allocation question at the political level, not a paying question at the truck level.

    1. How on earth is that fairer!? Basically those who travel in and out of the CBD or to and from the North Shore have to pay but no-one else.

      1. Also toll the motorway from the point of entry to the point of exit, like what is done in Croatia. I live in Orewa, work in Silverdale, I don’t use public transport, neither does my wife or kids, why should I have to pay an additional fuel to fund a service which I will never use? I’m not alone in this situation.

        1. Put aside the consideration you pay a 50c + per liter fuel tax now anyway, what about your neighbour , who could drive from say Orewa to Manukau every day. Because of the greater distance he or she could pay more ,a lot more as your distance is so small.
          Isnt that fair you pay a small amount and they pay much more.
          Money for local transport would otherwise come from property rates ?

        2. All that will do is push longer trips onto local streets, completely counter to what the motorway is designed for.

          If you are just driving short distances then you won’t be paying much in fuel tax so I’m not sure what you are worrying about.

        3. Master Chief, “why should I have to pay an additional fuel to fund a service which I will never use?” Because you live in a society. First, because society has built the roads that you use. Secondly, how will your kids get around when they’re teenagers, but not able to drive? They will need public transport and safe cycling infrastructure, and it is our duty to provide that. It’s not ok to say that they will be driven around by you or your wife, because a SOCIETY also provides options for teenagers who don’t have parents able to do this.

          Are you just happy to ignore teenagers’ needs? Let them have no access to their city? I think that’s callous. And I think it’s worse than callous. I think your attitude is what is stifling and killing our young people who are trying to live in a car dependent city that doesn’t provide for them.

  9. The problem that I have is that the Council has done virtually nothing to reduce staff and expenditure.

    1. Why would you expect the council responsible for a rapidly growing city to reduce staff or expenditure?

      Auckland grows by about 45,000 residents every year, about the population of Gisbourne District. To remain effective and representative Auckland Council should grow by the size of Gisbourne district council each year, that’s about 14 councillors and 250 staff that should be added every year.

    2. Classic comment – Sure they could reduce staff/expenditure , but I beat you’d also moan you when rubbish doesn’t get collected or that noise control never show up – illegal dumping of rubbish is already a huge problem that probably requires more resources,
      what’s your magical solution to cut spending?

  10. They effectively cut staff per capita. I worked at council and pay was way less than private sector, no perks, even Friday nibbles were banned cause council.

  11. There is little doubt that for many in the south and west things are tough. Some will have benefited from family tax cuts; some from the minimum wage increase; and some where they are subject to a collective agreement.

    I suspect that for many families the owning and use of a car is a significant contributor to their poor financial situation. If we take a modest car of say $6000;a fuel economy of 10l / 100km doing the Auckland average of 14,000 kms per year. At a petrol cost of $2.20 per litre the fuel cost is $3080.

    Add to that registration, wof, insurance, a small amount for maintenance, and depreciation and that’s a further $1800.

    A total of $4880 buys a lot of public transport.

    Two stages travelling to work for one individual is $1584.

    Both parents going to work is $3168 per year.

    This is why public transport options are so important; as are biking options. If AT can provide useful options for travelling around Auckland as they have to and from the city it has the potential to increase the wealth of many. Potentially many in these areas will be able to dispense with a car, or second one if they are so lucky and derive the financial benefits that many city apartment dwellers have.

    1. Why do people continue to push biking as an option for Auckland, it’s never going to work, for the simple fact that Auckland isn’t flat, it’s covered in hills, look at the cities in Europe with massive uptake in cycling, they are all flat, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Bremen, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, all very very flat.

      1. 1) Gears
        2) eBikes
        3) Even our high investment in cycling is less than 1% of the transport budget
        4) You don’t have to ride if you don’t want to.

      2. Master Chief2221 /
        Huh? I use my bike to cycle 1.5km to the train station, just as quick as driving and easy to get a bike park close to train no matter what time I show up.
        The cycle counters in the city would also seem to prove you wrong

      3. Yet the hilly Isthmus has the highest cycling rates and flat Manukau has the lowest.

        Many hilly Swiss and Northern Italian cities have cycling mode shares of 5-10%.

      4. Why do people continue to push driving as an option for Auckland, it’s never going to work, for the simple fact that Auckland isn’t on a large flat plain but is on a narrow Isthmus with pinch points, look at the cities in the US with massive motorways, they are all on large flat plains, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Houston, all on very very flat large plains.

    2. Those PT prices for traveling to work are bonkers. I just moved to bordeaux and 1 year full city pass is 500€ AND the employer pays half of it. Wages are comparable if not higher

      1. Yes, I agree, Ian. Auckland has amongst the highest PT prices in Australasia, and that’s not much of a comparison. Created, as you know, by a historical over-investment in the most inefficient transport mode, the private car. The reason we’re not adjusting this quickly is summed up very well by MasterChief221, with “why should I have to pay an additional fuel [tax] to fund a service which I will never use?” There’s a general lack of understanding about how much we subsidise driving and the benefits in health, environment, access, urban form, and social health that come from investment in public transport.

        1. MC221 seems to live in a bubble around Orewa, expected all the existing roads to be paid for by others and yet a trifling amount he will pay based on his 5km commute gets up his nose.

    3. I guess that all comes down to how flexible your lifestyle is, whether you live close enough to where you work for cycling to be a realistic option and whether you don’t have another need for that car that isn’t solely to do with your commute.

      1. Yes it dependes, but if you’re not using your car for your commute, and can use cycling and PT for some of your other needs too, it’s fairly likely that there’s more value to be had in using Cityhop, taxis and rental cars for the other trips. Advantage too that you can choose the car you want for the job.

        1. Given congestion, I’d suggest if that were possible for most people, they’d already be doing it. Let’s also not forget that hiring a car is a substantive one-off cost for people with relatively tight cash-flow.

        2. I think we’ve a long way to go before even 10% of people would be considering it. People have cars in Auckland because it’s what you do. It’s normal. It’s what their parents and neighbours and friends do. They are dependent on them in their minds. I know this because my not having a car while living in the burbs with children is seen as very, very odd by almost everyone I know.

  12. The case around rates is being seriously overstated here. The assertion that “None of these cities are growing anywhere near as fast as Auckland” looks just wrong. Stats NZ’s Infoshare tool shows population growth for Auckland of 11% 2013-2017, compared with 10% for Hamilton and 11% for Tauranga.

    The rates increases quoted look to be those for City Councils. But where Auckland rates are set by a single rating authority, ratepayers in other cities face separate levies from regional councils. Calculating total rates rather than City Council rates looks at first glance to give much lower numbers, at least for Hamilton and Tauranga.

    Yes, rates in increases are much higher outside Auckland, but the difference is likely to be significantly smaller than claimed.

  13. Good article, which really picks up on a lot of the points raised in the debate around the select committee hearings on the Bill.

    My only question is how the timing of the RFT contributions lines up with the various projects, as my working assumption is that the “little bit here, little bit there” approach to parcelling it out reflects the low annual yield relative to what level and when any given project will generate invoices.

    That being said, it seems strange that so many projects would necessarily be at risk of not progressing without an RFT. I can accept that you might not be able to cancel one project of about the same net cost as the estimated revenue, because of timing differences, but surely not all of them absolutely require the RFT, especially if one or two were pushed back 10 years?

    I appreciate the desire to press on and, generally, think it is the right one. But it is pure gamesmanship to suggest that the whole list is actually at risk. And let’s not forget that whole stadium thing…

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