I once was appointed a juror in a fraud case where a kindergarten administrator was accused of doctoring invoices. She claimed that they all fell out of a folder and into a puddle which washed off the amounts. Rather than ask for duplicate receipts she ‘re-typed’ the amounts out of fear her ‘carelessness’ would be exposed. The game was up when the prosecution asked “why were the re-typed amounts on every single invoice higher than the original?”

Each year, every council in New Zealand justifies an increase in rates invoices –in many cases above inflation. There are legitimate reasons for this such as costs put on councils by successive governments’ requiring new tasks and regulations. The insatiable demands of a growing community hungry for a better city and the increasing cost of construction materials such as bitumen are often cited as reasons too. However, councils with declining populations seem to argue the opposite to justify their rates rising and when the cost of materials falls during a recession, the savings don’t result in a rates decrease either.

A potential solution is for mayors to prepare council budgets as they are empowered to do under the Local Government Act. Few do, and instead we have a process where it is up to management to provide a budget and councillors vote on a few contentious items, often losing sight of the forest for the trees. Council investment in Tauranga is a record $368m this year. As work on the 2018-2028 budget begins, councillors need to support their mayor to lead it.

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris