The Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance is accusing Mayor Phil Goff of being "disingenuous" in how he presented a five percent rates increase.
Goff released the mayoral proposal for Auckland's 10-year budget on Tuesday where he suggested the "one-off" increase to help the council deal with a $1 billion loss in revenue caused by COVID-19.
"This is not a slash-and-burn budget but it's also not the budget we had hoped to put out at the start of the year. We have to accept that COVID has changed our financial landscape and change our plans accordingly," he said.
"We don't want a city full of potholes and unkempt parks, so we need to take more urgent action now.
"While not all Aucklanders will be thrilled with a one-off rates bump of $36, it is a one-off measure that amounts to less than 70 cents a week for the average property."
But Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance spokesperson Monique Poirier claims Goff is being "extremely disingenuous" in describing the rates increase as a $36 bump.
"$36 is the difference between a 3.5 percent hike and a 5 percent hike. The full rate hike is around $120, and that's on top of the long succession of previous annual rate hikes," she said.
"Phil Goff boasts that this is 'not a slash and burn budget'. Frankly, the Council needs a bit of slash and burn.
"Its tourism and marketing agency could be abolished, but instead the Mayor is spending ratepayer money on rebranding it. He's forging ahead with a gold-plated suite of developments for the America's Cup, even though we won't have international tourists to justify it. And despite all the talk of cutting salaries, he isn't. The Council still pays 220 of its staff salaries more than $200,000."
Poirier says "something has to give" and it isn't sustainable for rates to "continue increasing faster than wages".
"The Ratepayers' Alliance will ensure that ratepayers' voices are heard during the submission process so that Phil Goff is not able to falsely claim public support for his aggressive rate hike like he did last year."
Goff says the budget responds to the COVID-19 loss by:
- Locking in savings of at least $90 million each year for the next three years
- Selling surplus properties to invest in critical infrastructure
- Temporarily increasing borrowing for three years by lifting the debt-to-revenue ratio to up to 290 percent, then returning to the current level
- Increasing rates by 5 percent by one year before returning to 3.5 percent the following year.
He warns without taking these measures, "our city will go backwards".