IS it safe to come out yet? This is the time of year councillors traditionally go into hiding, as the new rates hit your letter boxes. However, I have noticed a distinct lack of grumpy ratepayers this time round — most of my regulars seem to have found their bills acceptable.
Well, the city didn’t do too bad this year, no doubt my rural colleagues are getting it worse. Or perhaps the Olympics have kept us so enthralled we haven’t had time to feel grumpy. Or maybe people have figured out it’s no use grumbling to me about their rates if they own several million dollars worth of property, because I don’t show a lot of sympathy. That is, after all, what the rates system is designed to catch — the wealthy who don’t get caught by income tax.
There are no formal council meetings this week, just the two hybrid committees on Thursday — wastewater and regional transport. Generally I don’t write much about them because they’re only partly council but occasionally they contain agenda items that are of broad interest, and the regional transport one has me narrowing my eyes somewhat.
A classic case of governmentitis. Ten years ago I, among many others, wrote grumpily about central government stealing the petrol tax for its own coffers instead of spending it on roads. Under pressure, central govt had a brilliant idea — instead of giving the petrol tax back to roads, they would bring in an extra 5 cents per litre tax, and this one they would give back! Remember that? Oh whoopdidoo, how generous!
So, for the past 8-9 years we have had extra funding for roads, while politicians kept the original petrol tax to fund their superannuation. I am not sure this has been a fair deal for us, because the extra 5c tax has been returned to regions on a population basis. So we get 1 percent.
How much did we contribute? Nobody will tell me but since we have more road per head of population than anyone else, and no rail system, quite likely we are subsidising Auckland and Wellington and they are laughing themselves red-faced over how they have conned their dumb country cousins.
The extra levy was time-limited, only for 10 years, so it is due to come to an end. But if it does, regional roads will suffer, obviously, unless we want to bounce the rates up a bit higher, which we’re not really keen on.
So, glory glory glory, the regions are asking central govt to continue the extra tax! I am consumed with admiration for those slippery Wellington politicians.
If I was half that cunning I’d be a millionaire myself. I bet they’ll pretend to object for a while, before gracefully giving in and allowing us to cheat ourselves. And we can’t even vote against it without cutting our own throats.
I swear, it’s just as well I never went into national politics — I don’t think I’m smart enough or brazen enough to carry something like that off. I’d go pink with embarrassment.
There are advantages to being a little older; you can remember history, so you know when you’re being conned.
So what to do about it? No easy answer.
It’s a loser because the national media are not smart enough, or old enough, to figure it out and make a fuss. But I’m going to do my best to embarrass some people, and you should too. They’re taking us for fools, and they’re going to get away with it because too many of us are.