Thousands of Aucklanders living the quiet life in small rural communities have been given the status of city slickers which comes with an expensive joining fee.
On Tuesday, mayor Phil Goff and a cohort of councillors voted to move about 7500 town and lifestyle properties at Whenuapai Village, Herald Island, Kumeū/Huapai, Riverhead and Hingaia from a rural to urban rate.
The joining fee is a one-off rate rise of between 15 per cent and 28 per cent from July, inclusive of a citywide rate rise of 5 per cent and phased in over three years.
Pleas by locals and the likes ofthe Whenuapai and Herald Island ratepayer associations that their communities bear no resemblance to urban suburbs, fell on deaf ears at a meeting to confirm the city’s 10-year-budget.
The motion passed with the support of finance committee chairwoman Desley Simpson, who visited Whenuapai Village and Herald Island with senior finance officer John Duncan to see the situation first-hand.
The local resident associations said they got the impression Simpson and Duncan were very supportive and on their side. Duncan subsequently co-wrote a report recommending the urban rate.
“The areas proposed for inclusion into the Urban Rating Area have comparable access to services as other urban rated fringe suburbs such as Titirangi and Waiheke, or greenfield development areas like Flat Bush,” he wrote.
What’s more, he said, the communities are located inside the rural urban boundary for the Super City.
Simpson, the councillor for Ōrākei told Tuesday’s meeting that Paritai Drive – one of Auckland’s poshest streets – has only got a footpath on one side of the street, and sewage runs down the road at Hapua St in Remuera.
She acknowledged the affected communities are not in the middle of town, but said Duncan had been challenged as the professional to help councillors look at the issue “and I trust his judgment in his professional capacity and he has got it right”.
Mark and Maria Batchelor are livid with the council.
They live on Kauri Rd in Whenuapai with no footpaths. Last year, Mark Batchelor broke his collar bone after falling into a ditch to avoid an oncoming bus. Elderly people take their mobility scooters on the busy road, said his wife.
“Mr Goff doesn’t do anything for us. He puts millions of dollars into the America’s Cup, the CBD and Karangahape Rd and now wants to increase my rates. Come on,” said Maria.
The couple, who live on superannuation, estimate their rates bill will go up by $900 a year.
The Whenuapai Ratepayers & Residents Association wrote a long submission on the budget proposal debunking the infrastructure, transport and other criteria, including being within a 15 minute drive of community facilities.
It included photos of poorly maintained open drains containing toxic algae, children walking to school on high speed roads with no footpaths and modest playgrounds. The local hall was built by locals in 1955 and received little council support. The township has a single bus service that runs once an hour between Westgate and Hobsonville Point.
Association chairman Haydon Mattson said the council is just hiking the rates with no plans for the village community.
Places like Remuera might have one open drain, he said, “but we have 99 per cent open drains and 90 per cent of no footpaths”.
The 272 households on Herald Island, linked to the mainland by a causeway with no footpaths, are appalled at the decision, said local ratepayers association chairman Mr Le Fevre.
He said Herald Island has no proper stormwater, the bus service was cancelled in January this year, most roads do not have footpaths and the volunteer fire station doubles as an art centre with six to eight paintings by local artists.
The former academic at AUT, who holds a PhD in why people behave like they do in organisations, said the submission process appeared to hide the information provided by submitters rather than reveal it.
Therefore, he said, all the effort that went into 40 per cent of Herald Island residents writing detailed submissions had been wasted.
“I don’t think Auckland Council is structured in a way that allows democracy to work in the way it is supposed to,” said Le Fevre.
In the northwest towns of Kumeū, Huapai and Riverhead, driven to despair by gridlock on SH16, another whammy in the form of higher rates with no improvement in services, has gone down badly.
Craig Walker, who runs a building relocation business in Kumeū, said it’s fundamentally wrong to increase rates in a rural town that bears no resemblance to urban Auckland.
“It’s a busted council trying their absolute best to squeeze money from any form they possibly can,” he said.
Kumeū Community Action Group chairman Guy Wishart said the area feels picked on and would like to see more love.
“We assume most of the money from this rate rise will go towards the inner city projects. We would love to think it’s not that way but history has not been kind. We haven’t got the money for the projects we wanted in the past,” he said.
Albany councillor John Watson, who represents the residents of Whenuapai and Herald Island, said 93 per cent of submitters from the local areas did not support the proposal.
“This is another striking example of Auckland Council at its worst – an almost arrogant dismissal of entire communities,” he said.
He was one of seven councillors to oppose the change. The others were Wayne Walker, Greg Sayers, Daniel Newman, Chris Fletcher, Tracy Mulholland and Sharon Stewart.
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