Amendment could cost ratepayers $70,000 pa

Waitaki ratepayers could pay an extra $70,000 a year to meet new Government requirements aimed at ensuring local bodies' costs, rates and activities are better controlled.

That is the calculation of the cost the Waitaki District Council faces to meet provisions of the Local Government Amendment Bill introduced by the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, and being considered by a Parliamentary select committee.

The Waitaki council has consistently been critical of Government requirements placing a financial burden on its ratepayers and leading to increased rates - ranging from spending millions upgrading water supplies to meet new standards, to accounting, reporting and audit changes.

Waitaki council chief executive Michael Ross said the latest requirements would have a greater impact on the Waitaki district than some other councils, because the main driver would be linked to infrastructure.

Infrastructure costs, including the district's extensive roading network, represented 70% to 80% of the council's budget.

In a submission to the select committee hearing the Bill, the Waitaki council said it would cost about $100,000 to set up the processes and administration needed to meet the requirements of the new legislation.

"Ongoing administration costs - mainly staff time - will be in the order of $70,000 [a year] as a direct result of this Bill," the council said.

The council did not support any parts of the Bill that added costs, because the benefits to ratepayers were "low to zero".

Parts of the Bill created more costs for ratepayers that were "deadweight losses" on local communities.

The Bill would require councils to compile a "pre-election report" on the state of the council, but Waitaki was concerned that could be manipulated or misinterpreted, particularly in comparison with other local authorities.

The reports were "trying to address a problem that doesn't exist". It disagreed with the basic principle in the Bill that transparency, accountability and financial management in local government was poor.

That was more ideological than empirical, the council said.


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