In my June column last year, I remarked on Auckland Transport’s brilliant idea to offer local residents the ability to pay for their own road maintenance. The new policy would allow residents to fund the capital costs of sealing their road, including project design, consenting and construction. I asked at the time if these Rodney residents would then get a rates reduction. The silence was deafening. I guess not many of our locals took up this opportunity from AT because we now have our Local Board representatives trying to sell a “targeted rate”. This is not to future-proof our rural road. Oh no, this is just to pay for maintenance!
So on one hand we have our local councillor telling us that he has managed to “hold back” rates rises, while on the other hand we have the chair of the Local Board advocating for a possible rate rise on Rodney residents only; on top of the 2.5 per cent for all of Auckland. I am not trying to blame the current elected officials representing Rodney. They are merely trying to work under the restrictions placed upon them by the rules set out when previous individual councils were dissolved to form the Auckland Council. Nor do I think that one should blame, as many do, Rodney Hide for the mess we now find ourselves in. Now I am not a fan of Mr Hide’s politics by any stretch of the imagination, but the mess we are now living under was all the National-led government’s idea. They took the Royal Commission report, mucked around with it, pushed the boundaries out all the way to Te Hana and rammed it down our throats.
It is also the National-led Government who removed over $400 million of funding from rural roading over the last six years, which has led to the farcical situation we find ourselves in. We pay fuel tax when we will fill up our car, we pay roading tax via our registrations, we pay local government tax via our rates and we pay service tax (unfairly) on top of all these taxes. Now we are possibly looking at a “targeted tax” for our rural citizens, so they are able to drive down a decent road to get home. And they still tell us that we will be better off in the end.
In closing, I just want to touch on another very serious issue. There have been several recent examples of delays in ambulance attendance, due to an insufficient number of available ambulances at certain times, and the single crewing of those that we do have when called to emergencies. I want to acknowledge those in our community who are doing their very best to provide care for those in need. But we cannot get away from the reality that these services are woefully underfunded, under-resourced and under extreme pressure in rural and semi-rural areas. I hope that all rural and semi-rural communities around New Zealand will make the sustainable and appropriate funding of emergency services a question for candidates and their parties as we head into the 2017 Election.