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Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has criticised figures released by the Taxpayer's Union.
The organisation this week released its ''ratepayers' report'', which said the Dunedin City Council had liabilities of $15,897 per ratepayer, but a lower value of assets than Otago's other territorial authorities.
Executive director Jordan Williams described the council's financial position as ''a basket-case''.
''Even when compared to other metropolitan councils around New Zealand, Dunedin City Council comes out badly on the national league tables.''
The table showed average residential rates at $1950 in Dunedin, compared with $2219 for other metropolitan councils.
It showed the mayor, chief executive and councillors were paid less than those of other metropolitan councils.
But debt across the council and its companies cost ratepayers $786, compared with other metropolitan councils, where the average was $548.
Mr Cull said the statistics ''may or may not be right, though in some cases we don't think they are right''.
He questioned whether they were ''relevant and meaningful'', and questioned how the statistics were interpreted. Councils such as Dunedin and Clutha were being compared when they were ''utterly different''.
The asset value per ratepayer in Clutha, for instance, was $179,000.
In Dunedin it was $53,000.
That was because roading in Clutha was listed as an asset, and there were fewer ratepayers - ''It's just ludicrous''.
On debt, he said that had reduced in Dunedin.
In the Taxpayers' Union report, it appeared to have risen for the council and council companies.
''It simply hasn't. They got that wrong.''
Mr Cull also commented in his capacity as Local Government New Zealand president.
In a press release, he said New Zealand's 78 councils were ''incredibly diverse'', from Auckland with its 1.5million residents to Kaikoura with fewer than 4000.
Each faced different challenges, had different circumstances and provided different levels of service.
''While any initiative that helps citizens better understand and access knowledge about their local council is welcomed, interpreting that data requires careful analysis to understand how a council is performing.
''Some areas are experiencing rapid growth and having to borrow significantly to meet the infrastructure demands of an increasing population, other areas are responding to burgeoning tourism while some are maintaining infrastructure and services with a declining population,'' Mr Cull said.