Mayor set to fight growing rates rises

Bryan Cadogan
Bryan Cadogan
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan is launching a war on rates rises which he says are causing undue suffering for people on low incomes.

Mr Cadogan made the comments after the Otago Daily Times made inquiries about the average amount Clutha residents pay in rates. The sum in urban centres in the 2015-16 year was $2225.

He believed the comparison between what residents in different districts paid was not the most important issue and was instead concerned by the ‘‘overall trajectory of rates rises''.

This was hitting people on low incomes hard, especially pensioners, who he calculated were spending $1 in every seven on rates in the Clutha region compared with $1 in every 12 when he first entered politics in 1998.

‘‘The social implications we are seeing because of that is the compromises people are making on a daily basis.''

‘‘I am hearing some real worrying stories coming through from our pensioners: they are staying in bed in wintertime to avoid the power bill, they are taking food out of their diet.

‘‘That's not a society I want to be a part of and contributing to in a negative way.''

Government projections were for pensions to increase by about 1% a year for the next 10 years when rates were typically increasing by between 3% and 4%.

That meant pensioners would need to make even more compromises unless something changed and the Clutha District Council had a ‘‘battle plan'' to turn things around.

‘‘I'll stand hand on heart and say we will fight it all the way because I do honestly believe we have got a moral duty to align our rates with the ability of our district to pay.

‘‘Until we do that, what we are doing is forcing compromises on a greater and greater percentage of our community.''

The plan involved increasing the population in Clutha by leveraging off the ‘‘huge'' number of job vacancies in the region, while also looking for cost savings.

Part of that involved opening up more land for residential use, so that people who came to work in Clutha also came to live there.

If the population increased, the overall rates take would be split over a greater number of people.

‘‘If we have growth, we have more people, and we get the critical mass to bring the rates down.''

He believed it was the council's ‘‘moral responsibility'' to bring down rates rises and, if possible, he would like to align increases to pension increases.

● The rates for a single living-alone superannuitant after tax is $374.53.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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