WHAT’S ON IN COUNCIL THIS WEEK - FULL council meeting Thursday, I’ll tell you about it below. First a bit about rail, since I tend to cop an earful about rail, even though I think I’m just being realistic. Which is OK anyway, I don’t mind copping an earful, that’s part of the job, the part that central Government politicians don’t seem to get — it is perfectly normal and OK for people to disagree on some things, and discussion about them is a helpful thing, not a bad thing. And I don’t really disagree with rail supporters, I just don’t think they’re understanding that it’s a harder world these days.
I said that I doubted whether rail had ever paid its way in this district, and people asked, quite reasonably, whether roads have paid their way. Um, yes. Roads are paid for by a raft of user charges — petrol tax, diesel tax, road user charges, rates for local roads tilted towards the heaviest users (so local forest owners pay four times as much in roading rates as regular residential properties).
Users of roads pay for roads. The Government actually makes money out of roads, always has, just as it makes more money out of tobacco taxes than it spends on health issues related to smoking.
Every time you drive your car you’re paying a hefty whack per litre of fuel towards roads. Every time a truck carries produce out of the district they’re paying a hefty whack in fuel or road user charges.
The entire point about the rail debate is that rail proponents want somebody else to subsidise rail. Road users, the taxpayer, the ratepayers, whoever. Which is kind of not how things work these days.
Nobody expects road users to subsidise air travel or air freight through their taxes or fuel levies. Nobody expects road users to subsidise coastal shipping. Why would anyone expect road users to subsidise rail users?
The only possible beneficiary would be the primary producers who use rail — they’d get a cheap deal on the back of road users. Doesn’t make sense.
I’d be pleased as punch, from a personal point of view, if someone else decided to subsidise rail. But then, I’d also be pleased as punch if someone would like to subsidise the price of beer — would make my cost of living cheaper!
Now, council matters this week.
We look to formalise the rates remissions scheme we have worked out in various working sessions. Won’t please everybody because it only addresses the three main “wild” results, and there will still be some rural properties that cop a hefty increase, but those increases, on planning, etc, come about because our use of uniform charges is at the limit. Next year we might be able to smooth them a bit, but nothing will ever “fix” the fact that high property values will attract high rates. I expect some argument, but more heat than light, if you know what I mean.
We look at an amendment to our encroachment policy; that’s where private people encroach on public land. When we first did it we forgot about air space encroachments, which are less of a problem — we might be able to accommodate some of them (at a price, of course). Balconies on buildings in the main street are the main issue, and at a rough guess I’d think most people wouldn’t be too bothered by that.
The Citrus Grove plan change comes up, and our freedom camping bylaw changes get put aside for a bit more work.