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Supporting a rates increase? Really?

First of all, I wish to express my sincere thanks to over 10,000 people who voted for me. I am now a Tauranga City Councillor.

It was all very exciting over the weekend with endless emails, telephone calls, photo sessions and interviews. And during this time, I made my first mistake as Councillor and I got a first taste of why politicians are often so evasive and non-committal when they talk to the media.

I was quoted on Sunlive in a way that appeared as though I was going to support a rate increase in Tauranga. You would think that I enjoy paying the thousands that I pay in rates every year and feel that I would love to pay more.

Fact is that I did say the words I was quoted but my 15-minute interview was condensed into 150 words. The article was then titled "Rates: Time to pay up". The rest of the 14.5 minutes was not published and the criticisms started pouring in. Obviously none of my critics read my earlier blog post!!

Someone said that Council is not a business. How true indeed! I never even said it was! What I did say was that Council needs to be run like a business. Any entity that has income and expenditure is LIKE a business. Any entity that employs staff is a business. And the basis of running a business is simply that expenditure must NOT exceed income. For years, TCC has been spending far more than it receives.

So let me further clarify my words here.

The past Councils had kept rates low RELATIVE to its expenditure. And its expenditure has been so high because of this wish-list that the past Councils had and consequently its involvement in non-essential services and commercial businesses like TCAL that continues to make big losses which are funded by ratepayers! And it’s now ***time to pay up for past Council’s mistakes*** because this deficit really is the ratepayers' problem, isn’t it? Council had a limited spend but it was spending money like it had a bottomless pocket of money.

I am very interested to know what the ratepayers thoughts are in overcoming this current problem because right now, the rates that we pay are financing the interest on that huge debt. And interest rates are more likely to keep going up, not down. So effectively, more and more of our money will go into financing this debt. This problem is not going to go away unless something changes.

For starters, I am for selling off non-essential services and businesses that the Council has gotten involved with. I am looking forward to the appointment of a new CEO as I would really like an audit of Council’s business.

I am a ratepayer myself and each year, I pay thousands and thousands of dollars in rates. Do you honestly believe that I am for a further increase in rates? But lets be honest here. We are Council’s only source of income. If the sale of non-essentials is not enough to reduce Council debt to a manageable level, what other alternative do you think Council has?