Octogenarian leads on rate revolt

James McNabb holding Mahurangi Matters, which alerted him to the imposition of a targeted rate.

A Wellsford superannuitant will refuse to pay a targeted rate to fix Rodney’s transport woes and is urging other ratepayers to do the same.

James McNabb, 89, is wanting like-minded people to get in touch with him to better coordinate opposition to the rate.

He hopes thousands will march on the Auckland Town Hall to make their views clear to Mayor Phil Goff.

Mr McNabb’s refusal to pay comes after the Auckland Council Governing Body voted to approve the targeted rate already voted on by the Rodney Local Board.

The Local Board voted 6-3 in favour of the targeted rate, which will cost ratepayers an additional $150 per dwelling each year.

The board vote required governing body ratification before it could be introduced.

The rate was expected to fund $46 million of transport improvements exclusively in Rodney over the next 10 years.

But Mr McNabb views the rate as “illegal, corrupt and undemocratic”.

He points out that the majority of public submissions on the targeted rate were against it and believes the money will simply be used to prop up a “bankrupt” Auckland Council.

“The money is only going in to Goff’s money box. The likes of Wellsford will never see a bus connection. They will never see a park and ride,” he says.

“I don’t believe Wellsford will see any of the money whatsoever.”

Mr McNabb says Council is supposed to help people but instead is imposing more and more taxes on people who are already short of cash.

Mr McNabb’s sentiments are echoed to a large extent by Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers, who voted against the rate at the Council Governing Body meeting.

He agrees the majority of Rodney residents opposed the rate and he felt it important to be the “voice of Rodney” in opposing it.

Cr Sayers says by approving the rate the average rate increase in Rodney jumps to 8.4 per cent, but for the rest of Auckland it is only 2.5 per cent.

Moreover, Cr Sayers says the transport improvements that are proposed to be fixed by the targeted rate ought to come out of existing general rates and development contributions – fees Council charges on new developments to cover the cost of providing additional infrastructure.

Cr Sayers says one of the findings of a Local Government Commission enquiry into conditions in

Rodney was that Auckland Council should be spending more money on basic transport in Rodney because its needs were poorly served compared to the rest of Auckland.

“We shouldn’t have to dip further into people’s pockets to do this. It should be coming from general rates,” he says.

Cr Sayers believes the rate was passed by the Governing Body because other Councillors followed the lead of the Mayor, who was in favour of it.

“The targeted rate raises more money and therefore Council can borrow more money. They have maxed out their credit card and they are desperate to get revenue any way they can.”  

However, Cr Sayers advised against Rodney ratepayers refusing to pay the targeted rate, pointing to the fate of activist Penny Bright who faces losing her home after the High Court ordered it be sold to pay unpaid Council rates and penalties.

Cr Sayers recommends any ratepayer struggling to pay the rate because of financial hardship to contact him to discuss options to help them pay.

Meanwhile, Rodney Local Board deputy chair Phelan Pirrie, who moved that the board adopt the targeted rate, is unsurprised it has been ratified by the Governing Body.

Mr Pirrie disagrees that after public consultation, most Rodney residents were against the rate.

He says some have mistakenly thought the consultation was a referendum, where people said either “yes” or “no” to the rate.

Instead, accurately discerning the public mood required the careful reading of 9000 pages of submissions, including those expressing partial support for the rate.

Mr Pirrie says the Board decision to vote for the targeted rate and its decision on the kind of things it will fund is consistent with the public submissions.        

For example, there was a strong emphasis in the submissions for more public transport, something the targeted rate will fund with several new bus services.

A more crude evaluation of public submissions showed 43 per cent of submissions were against it, 36 per cent supported it and 21 per cent partially supported the proposal.

To join James McNabb’s protest, phone him on 423 9597.


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