In my 45 years of kicking around local government, I have never seen such high levels of community engagement in local affairs. Now, more than ever, local government is affecting the lives of middle New Zealand. Local government have their hands deep in our pockets – taking more taxes, rates and targeted rates. Furthermore, in order for our communities to get Council funding, hard-working citizens are spending their spare time sitting on committees and organisations and being exploited by doing volunteer work. We are paying more and doing more.
I am very proud of the way the Wellsford community has accepted these challenges. Community organisations, such as the Wellsford Sports Collective and Wellsford Plus, are shining examples of everyday citizens “mucking in” and doing their bit for the betterment of their communities.
Meanwhile, the rates notices are out and Wellsford is open for business. It’s now time for Auckland Council to come here and spend the dollars that we have provided to them. It is also time for us all to take a good look at our rates notices and scrutinise every inch of them. You will notice all the new targeted rates. As far as I am concerned, these are just the sneaky man’s way of increasing rates and worse, they are like possums – once you have them, hard to get rid of them.
My farming communities have been especially hard hit with all these rate increases and targeted rates. With no access to central city infrastructure themselves, they are nevertheless stumping up to pay these outrageous increases to clean up central city wastewater and sewerage issues. Meanwhile, small town urban infrastructure is neglected. All our money heads south.
We are all witnessing crazy budget blowouts and growing old waiting to receive services earmarked in 10-year plans, which seem to be stretching out to 20-year plans. I am asking our communities to remain vigilant when it comes to their rate money and demand greater return for our rates investment and hard work.
Individually, there are so many great people working within Council that are doing an amazing job, but collectively the organisation seems to be a bureaucratic nightmare with absolutely no idea how to spend within the budget. Central government has let go of the reins on local government. The horse has well and truly bolted, trampling over middle New Zealand in its wake.
Local government policy is now the bigger focus of average Joe. Now is the time for central government politicians to step in and compel them to rein in spending and get back to basics, or get used to playing the second fiddle to local government decision-makers. Without intervention, plastic bags might not be the only thing becoming obsolete.
Colin Smith, Rodney Local Board