Mayoral view: How much say do we get in our tax?

I have previously written about the significant increase in the costs of building bridges (38%) and roading (27%) over the past three years.

As we start finalising the numbers for the consultation document of our long-term plan, this provides the context of the difficult situation we have found ourselves in with preparing budgets that we can stomach, while still allowing for the necessary work to be done in our great district.

I was talking about this to someone the other day and we had an interesting conversation. They stated they pay $3600 each year in rates and we started discussing what they got for this charge. I asked them if they knew their total power bill for the year? They were unsure but thought it was about $260 a month ($3120 per annum). If we add internet to this ($720 per annum), these two services came to more than their rates.

So, if we break the rates bill down, we find the largest slice is wastewater at $700, followed closely by water at $693. Each of these is the equivalent to their annual internet cost. Rubbish and recycling collection is the next highest at $500, so cheaper than their internet, and they said having these services available was just as handy.

We worked out they spent more on TV subscriptions than the roading component of their rates ($319) which was an interesting observation. At the risk of too personal a question, I asked if they knew how much their household paid in tax each year. I was met with a blank look and: “I have no idea, probably quite a lot.”

The average household tax paid in New Zealand is about $37,000. This is more than 10 times the rates this person’s household pays to local government. Not to mention we also pay tax on our rates (GST).

I have no problem with the consultation process and ensuring local government delivers what our communities want – but how much say do we get in the rest of our tax? Does this seem like a fair split of tax/rates? New Zealand is one of the most centralised countries in the world in terms of this and, in my opinion, this needs to change!— Rob Scott is the Southland District Mayor