Carterton residents pay highest rates in New Zealand, Central Otago lowest

Carterton District Council.
Carterton District Council. Photo credit: Google

Residents in Carterton are paying the highest rates in the country, a new report by the Taxpayers Union and Auckland Ratepayers Alliance has found.

The Ratepayer Report ranked councils on a series of metrics including residential rates, staffing costs and council liabilities.

It is the fifth report of its kind by the Taxpayers Union and covers rates in the 2018/19 financial year.

The report found average residential rates in Carterton were the highest at more than $3400, while rates in Central Otago were the lowest at just under $1500.

Taxpayers Union campaigns manager Louis Houlbrooke said average residential rates were continuing to rise right throughout New Zealand.

"We found that once again, the average rates in New Zealand have gone up by $84," he said.

But the most extraordinary thing, according to Houlbrooke, was the variability between what councils charged.

At the top of the table was Carterton District Council, followed by Auckland Council, Tasman, Western Bay of Plenty and South Wairarapa.

The average residential rates for all of those were above $3000.

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang defended the higher rates saying they reflected investment into infrastructure.

"At the same time we listen to our community, and we ask them all the time what levels of service they would like produced and we get a good steer of the levels that we have," he said.

"They say 'we want a free swimming pool, a free library service' and these are things we provide."

The five lowest were the Central Otago District Council, Grey District Council, Mackenzie District Council, Southland District Council and Otorohanga District Council.

All charged less than $2000.

Central Otago District Council Mayor Tim Cadogan said while lower rates looked good on paper, it could hide failings within council.

He said water meters in the region had made a huge difference to the cost of infrastructure which was one reason rates had been kept low.

A plan to draw down emergency funds to cover anticipated financial hits by Covid-19 had also helped.

But on the other hand, Cadogan admitted the council had been underpaying staff.

"Heading into the long-term plan for next year, one of the things that we've identified is that we're actually underpaying staff and that's starting to really show in losing people," he said.

"So it can hide problems rather than be something to celebrate, but at this stage, if that's what the Taxpayers Union say, well I think a lot of people in this district would be counting that as a win."