Promise kept: Rates to fall - 28/02/2005by Mayor Michael Laws
One of the great ways to confound critics is to keep your pre-election promises. It unnerves them on so many levels as to seriously amuse.
A good example is the pre-election promise of myself and other councillors that we would get Wanganui's rates under control. That the cost-plus mentality of council would be ended. To that end, we promised a nil rates increase for the 2005/06 financial year, with the aim of no increases whatsoever throughout the whole term.
At my instigation, Council unanimously adopted a resolution just before Christmas to effect a nil rates increase for this year. Last Monday we defined what that would mean the same rates take to be gathered in 2005/06 as was gathered in this current financial year.
In essence this means a real rates decrease. There is no compensation for inflation and there is no attempt to pick up the windfall dollars from property growth over the past 12 months. I would calculate then that real rates will drop, on average, between 3% and 4% over this coming year.
Contrast with Auckland. An 11% rates increase. Palmerston North a projected 8% increase. Many other city and district councils are talking similar figures. In short, a pre-election promise not simply kept but made better.
What does this mean for you?
The next question is what an average nil rates increase will mean for you. And that depends where you live.
Council is required to take into account the most recent revaluation done of our city and district. That is the law. That revaluation produced suburban fluctuations. St John's Hill and Springvale, for example, had revaluations of around 40%. Castlecliff now a very desirable suburb indeed had revaluations of around 60%.
What does that mean? It means that the average St John's Hill house is worth 40% more than three years ago, but the average Castlecliff house is worth 60% more. In essence, the average Castlecliff ratepayer has had a stunning increase in their real wealth.
Over the next few weeks, Council will now be determining how those revaluations flow into their ratings calculations. We will also be determining if more weight should be given to uniform charges. And then we will release the draft Annual Plan in late April and seek your input and comment.
Wanganui Democracy leading the way
Council also determined last Monday to proceed with the 2005 Wanganui Referendum. In essence, this makes Wanganui the most democratic local body in New Zealand. Very possibly Australasia.
Because it gives every Wanganui ratepayer and resident the chance to have a direct input into determining how your rates dollars are spent. Initially we are looking for your thoughts on capital project priorities for the next 12 months. Which should they be the Splash Centre extension, the riverbank walkway, footpath renewal or the Sarjeant Art Gallery extension? You will decide.
And so you should. It's your money. I dont accept arguments that only councillors know best. Provided people have access to the same quality of information, then I trust Wanganui people to make decisions that are in the best interests of us all.
Gosh, we've come a long way in the past decade, havent we? Ive said this before but it bears repeating. Take a good hard look at race relations around the world
and then take a look at New Zealand. We don't know how lucky we are. Sure, there will be disagreements and disputes from time to time. But there exists a relative goodwill here that is missing from the rest of the planet.
The Council Prayer
I have to say I was disappointed at the response to this item last week. My office received less than a half dozen calls, e-mails or letters so obviously it's not a big issue either way.
Council decided to commence its proceedings with a prayer but I want to ditch the meaningless mess that is the current one and reinstate the Lord's Prayer in both Maori and English. That recognises then the traditional ambience of the prayer but also the two official languages of New Zealand English and Maori. Your thoughts?
Heart of Wanganui update
Five of New Zealand's finest architects, co-ordinated by Unitec architecture head (and Wanganui old boy) Tony van Raat, have met with all the key stakeholders to discuss the requirements of the Heart project. They expect to present concepts and drawings to both the council and the people of Wanganui by late March.
It is a very exciting idea this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalise the city's civic and cultural amenities. The Sarjeant, Alexander and Davis libraries, Museum, War Memorial Hall, veterans' steps and War Memorial forecourt are all part of this brief.
And the concept ties in brilliantly with the conclusions reached by both the economic and heritage summits held over the past week. My thanks to Crs Dot McKinnon and Marty Lindsay for leading these forums and to all the participants. They produced some excellent ideas and Council will be following them up.
Finally, who says Wanganui isn't exciting? This past weekend we played host to the Mardi Gras, Moutoa and the Variety Bash there was something for every kid in town. Events are what makes a city both interesting and entertaining. You'll be seeing a lot more under this Council's support and patronage.