This week came the rather astonishing news that the local tax take (rates) by the Auckland City Council demanded from Waiheke Island homeowners has shot up to $10,000,000. This is a staggering figure, considering there are only about 8,000 residents, but the increase can't come as much of a surprise after the latest official revaluations that have led to incredible rate rises.
The tax generated on the island has a very limited link to services provided to the island, witness the shocking state of the island roads, their poor and incompetent maintenance, a limited waste collection, negligeable streetlighting, lack of footpaths, or any other things city dwellers take for granted (and complain loudly about when they go awry). Most other city services, such as planning applications, resource consents and public transport, are all user-pays and thus recover their cost without a cross-subsidy from local tax.
The $10 million a year figure has locals already thinking about what they could use this sum for to spend on island-only purposes by breaking away from the City Council, de-amalgamation in local body speak, and the Waiheke Gulf News had some intriguing comments about that (sadly not online).
I am, of course, a full supporter of UDI, and have voted that way in the last local elections. Anti-de-amalgamation (is that a double negative?) candidates darkly predicted that rates would go up steeply if we broke away - which they promptly did even if we didn't!
So now it's all on the agenda again:
- Throw the Council off the island - and the Auckland Regional Council too for dereliction of duty by failing to prevent a ferry monopoly and allowing the competition to be bought by Fullers.
- Re-establish our County of Waiheke - complete with Count and Countess!
- Take local control over planning and resource use and development.
- Deal directly with central Government on larger issues such as Civil Defence, health, policing and transport provision.
- Reform the completely inequitable local taxation system along the lines of local income tax rebates and a share of the locally generated GST, as I have policy wonked before (item 3).
Waiheke Independence Party anyone? Wippies for short?