September 09, 2018

2018 Ratepayers' Report is now available

Auckland Council pays more in interest than post-quake Christchurch

The 2018 edition of our New Zealand-wide local government league tables is now live. Ratepayers’ Report has been published jointly with our friends at the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union and is bad news for Auckland ratepayers.

By comparing Auckland Council's performance and financial position to other councils across New Zealand (on a per-ratepayer basis) we see that Auckland ratepayers pay even more in interest than ratepayers in post-earthquake Christchurch City.

Even with historically low interest rates, Auckland Council now spends $794 per ratepayer, per year, just on covering the interest for its $11.6 billion of borrowings.

High debt is matched by the second highest rates in the country

In addition to the huge debt, we're also paying huge rates. The report shows that we face the second highest residential rates in the country (averaging $3,136 per household last year) and that doesn't include the new fuel tax!

And the money's not going where you think it is

Phil Goff tries to justify high rates and high debt by saying it's needed for infrastructure. But as exposed in our 'Battlefield Guide' to Council waste, most of the Council's higher revenue is being wasted on operational expenses (mostly staffing costs).

Cap-ex vs op-ex

In short, while the politicians claim they need higher rates and new fuel taxes to invest in infrastructure, it is the day-to-day operating expenses that are growing while capital investment is relatively flat.

And it is no surprise. Among the Council's army of staff, 2,250 are paid over $100,000 – that's 22 percent of the total.

See for yourself

Ratepayers' Report banner

Click here to log in to Ratepayers' Report and cut through the spin to see how Auckland Council performs against councils across the country. The report covers average residential rates, debt, assets, staffing costs, CEO remuneration, financial safeguards, and more.

Once logged in, click 'Auckland Council' on any of the league tables for the full picture.


Q & A


What is the purpose of Ratepayers’ Report?

Ratepayers' Report provides accountability and transparency to New Zealand ratepayers by allowing them to compare their local territorial authority with others around the country.


Where was the data sourced?

The Taxpayers' Union compiled the data in Ratepayers' Report after reviewing each council's annual report for the year ending June 30, 2017.

Other figures represent the most up to date figures available and were mostly obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The data has been sent to each individual authority for their review and error checking prior to public launch.

Population data is from Statistics New Zealand.


Where did the group finance figures come from?

They are taken from each Council's annual report. It is council figures, plus all those of subsidiary council-controlled organisations.


Which councils are assessed in Ratepayers' Report?

Of New Zealand's 67 territorial authorities, 66 are examined in Ratepayers' Report. That includes all city, district, and unitary councils, with the exclusion of Chatham Islands Territory Council (due to concerns surrounding that Council's workload pressure and unique position). We are currently working to incorporate regional councils into the analysis.


Is this the first Ratepayers' Report?

No. Ratepayers' Report was first published in 2014 jointly by the Taxpayers' Union and Fairfax Media. The Taxpayers’ Union published an updated version in 2017. This is the third edition.


How are the councils grouped?

Unitary authorities – the 5 territorial authorities which also carry out the functions of a regional authority are grouped.

Metropolitan – the 5 large councils with a population of over 120,000.

City – 6 smaller metropolitan councils with populations between 40,000 and 120,000.

Provincial – the largest group, 27 non-metropolitan councils with population over 20,000.

Rural – the remaining 23 councils.


How was the average residential rate calculated?

Calculating an 'apples with apples' figure for residential rates is difficult because councils use various mixes of rates, levies, and user charges. Our approach is based on work by Napier City Council to find an average residential rate. The methodology councils were asked to use to calculate the figures disclosed in Ratepayers' Report is available here.


While we think this approach is useful and fair, the average residential rates figure should be a guide only. It does not, for example, factor in councils' reliance on commercial rates. It also puts unitary authorities at a disadvantage. Unitary authorities (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, Gisborne, Tasman, and Marlborough District Councils , and the Chatham Islands Council) perform the functions of a regional council and therefore can be expected to have higher rates than other territorial authorities.


The data we have on the average residential rates bill of regional councils is not complete. Our analysis to date shows that regional councils charge anywhere from $42 to $553 per residential ratepayer on top of the bill charged by territorial authorities. Gaps in the data and different definitions for residential ratepayers dictate that these figures should be considered as supporting evidence, rather than determinative.


Were councils consulted in the process?

Yes. Every council was sent a draft version of their respective page to review.



Note that unlike last year the 2018 Ratepayers’ Report figures are expressed per ratepayer, and not per residential ratepayer, due to concerns about potentially inconsistent approaches by councils.

Therefore, the figures are not directly comparable to last years figures (though comparable/over time figures can be provided to the media, on request).