Auckland is not just a city anymore after the amalgamation of its different districts, but is now a ‘Super City’ with a ‘Super Council’. That’s what the Auckland Council is proclaiming, and despite that Auckland has gone through such an amalgamation not long ago that proved unsuccessful, everything is going to be successful this time. Well, I say, yeah right. The Mayor (Len Brown) has great dreams and visions for the Super City. He envisions in his 2040 plan – am I the only one who thinks it is utterly appalling to have a road map for 2040 when you are only elected for 3 years? – that Auckland will be ‘the most livable city’. I say: “Most livable in comparison to what?” The Mayor is in his mid fifties, most likely he won’t even be alive in 2040. Great Barrier Island being at the edge of the Hauraki Gulf belongs to this Super City and thus private and commercial property owners on Great Barrier Island are forced to pay ‘super rates’ which are assessed according to other properties which are actually and physically located in Auckland. When I formally asked the Auckland Council last year why and what for I pay 750 NZD annually for what they call ‘Farming and Open Space’ – my overall rates are 1500 NZD – since I neither farm anything nor have open space. My property is rugged, steep and at the end of the day I live in a jungle. I was provided with a link that explained in detail how property rates are being used to build parks, clean up beaches and other things that are necessary for a community. But hold on, I don’t live in Auckland. It’s like telling me that my rates help fund projects in Hamilton, which is another city I don’t live in… I had to reply and insist on an explanation for the ‘Farming and Open Space’ bit. Now I know that any property that is used EXCLUSIVELY for horticulture, agriculture, aquaculture, bee keeping or any type of farming must pay ‘Farming and Open Space’ rates. But hold on, I’m not farming! Well, it turns out that all properties on the Hauraki Gulf Islands that are greater than 4 hectares in size must also pay these rates. This is totally random and has absolutely nothing to do with farming or the term ‘Open Space’.
The Super City sent me my rates assessment for the upcoming year. ‘Farming and Open Space’ is now called ‘Farm and Lifestyle’. There you go, you pay extra if you have lifestyle. The Mayor and the Council have made many claims recently about the new rates, how they will be fair for everyone and that on average they have increased by only 3.6%. By the way, the Council’s projection for it’s road map to 2040 is financially based on income through rates, to a magnitude of a whopping 70%. You wonder what will happen if one of their projections into the future (stuff like economy, unemployment, population growth, house market etc.) is false. The foundation for paying for all the great things it takes to make the most livable city is based on rate payers money and as such, if the projections go pear shaped, the only way to pay for these costs is by increasing rates.
So, the mayor claims that on average the rates for Auckland have increased by (just) 3.6%. Further, he claims that no private person will be affected by rate increases of greater than 10% because the Council will cap any increase to a maximum of 10%. That means that if your rates have increased by for instance 17.6%, they will ask you FOR NOW to only pay a 10% increase. For Great Barrier Island, he claims that the vast majority, some 470 households, will receive an overall rates reduction, while 59 households will receive an increase of greater than 10%. I was wondering what group I fall into. A decrease? An increase of just 3.6%, an increase of greater than 10%.
Well, today I know. It all depends on how you want to calculate it. WE MUST STAND UP NOW AND AS A COLLECTIVE OBJECT TO OUR RATE ASSESSMENTS. In the following I will prove how, potentially, all our rates have increased in a deceiving manner.
Every 3 years properties in Auckland receive a general revaluation. We pay our rates now, in part, as a direct measure of the capital value of our properties. The capital value includes the land value and any sort of improvement. The capital value of my property has decreased in its latest round of general revaluation by 41.9%. Thinking that my rates will be adjusted accordingly, I was content with this new valuation. However, when I compare my overall rates for the 2011/2012 period to the upcoming one, the overall rates have only ‘decreased’ by 2.9%. I know that New Zealanders struggle with calculating percentages, but even if you are bad in maths, you must agree that in this example speaking of a decrease is nothing but deceiving.
This is the nightmare scenario that I have for 2040. For the next three years, my rates will increase by at least 3.6% annually, and when the next general revaluation of properties is due, the Auckland Council will decide that my property is actually much more worth. They will inflate its capital value by something about 50% and since my rates are assessed based on the capital value, my rates will also increase massively. There are many diverse opinions on taxation. However, undoubtedly, I can’t help noticing that by the time I’ve worked my butt off, paid my income taxes and all other forms of taxation, have built my own house and am ready to live the dream of retirement; living off the grid and off the land and sea, I will have to find employment just to pay my property rates which by then will be astronomical. The Council and Government rely on us ratepayers to say: ‘ Aaah, common 1500 bucks a year ain’t much.’ By the time the majority of ratepayers have actually realized their rates make up a significant portion of their annual income, ground for objection will be dramatically limited. This is so, because if you paid your rates for decades without complaining about increases, you quietly agree that these increases are justified.
It really grinds my wheels to realize that you cannot escape the system. I chose a lifestyle in which your main concerns are not based on how much you earn. A lifestyle in which you take care of your own, keep your costs down, try to be self-sufficient, work hard and build your assets up. These assets won’t be in a savings account and don’t consist of a portfolio of investments. My assets will be my home, my lifestyle and at the end of the day my LIFE and independence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no hippie who is against taxation and against government. I just have a sense of how things work and understand that there will always be a group of people who can afford to pay any rate for their property on Great Barrier Island. And I can tell you one thing, this group of people will not be your average Kiwi. The most livable city cannot be a place in which only people can live in that can financially afford to do so.
I have officially and formally objected my rates assessment with the Auckland Council and urge you, that is if you are rates are also unfairly assessed, to do so as well. I will post a thread once the Council has decided how they will proceed with my objection. Hopefully, my rates will be adjusted appropriately and others can object as well. If not, I will contact my local member of parliament and try to get a following.