The Ratepayers Report

June 11th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

This morning Fairfax and the Taxpayers Union have launched the Ratepayers Report. Union staff have spent months collating the data from 67 city and district councils, with Fairfax staff checking the data, writing stories on it, and producing the online league tables.

You can see in ranked order the 67 councils stats for:

  • Average rates bill (Western Bay of Plenty $3,274 to Mackenzie $1,101)
  • Staaf numbers (Auckland 5,956 to Kaikoura 22)
  • Staff earning over $100,000 (Auckland 811 to four Councils on 2)
  • CEO salary (Auckland $620,000 to Waimate $166,000)
  • Mayoral salary (Auckland $247,229 to Kaikoura $51,050)
  • Council Revenue/ratepayer (Wellington $5,904 to Opotiki $2,197)
  • Group Revenue/ratepayer (Chch $10,368 to Opotiki $2,197)
  • Debt/ratepayer (Auckland $15,858, Dunedin $15,093 to Central Otago $327)

Stuff has published a number of stories, based on the report.

One can use the data to create your own league tables. For example I’m interested in the ratio of the CEO’s salary to the Mayor’s salary. The highest is Westland where the CEO gets paid 4.9 times as much as the Mayor and the lowest is in Christchurch where they get 1.7 times as much only.

One can also calculate what proportion of staff earn over $100,000. The three highest are Chathams (2/9), Westland (6/37) and Christchurch (302/1936). In Christchurch one in 6.3 staff are paid over $100,000, in Wellington one in 6.8 and in Auckland one in 7.3. At the other end only one in 25 staff at Napier City Council get over $100,000.

Special mention to Larry Mitchell, whose work in this area was the inspiration for the Ratepayers Report.

It is hoped that the Ratepayers Report will be an annual publication so people can see changes in their local councils over time, and use the data at election time to praise or criticise Mayors, councillors and candidates. Ultimately the aim is more informed ratepayers, where they can see key financial info at a glance.

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37 Responses to “The Ratepayers Report”

  1. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Whatdya think about Lecher being the highest paid mayor in NZ? He must be worth it, no one is doing anything about him and his antics. Aucklanders, you get what you deserve, if you don’t collectively get rid of filth such as he, and his financier, Slobcom!

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  2. Harriet (5,200 comments) says:

    “…..One can also calculate what proportion of staff earn over $100,000….”

    Does it take into account work that some councils employ staff for, and other councils who instead contract the work out?

    It’s seems rather pointless if it doesn’t.

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  3. wiseowl (974 comments) says:

    Public servants working in Local Government are grossly overpaid

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  4. Warren Murray (316 comments) says:

    Larry has been crunching the numbers on local government for years. Not everybody welcomes his reports, it must be just a coincidence that the critics are also the laggards at the bottom of his tables.

    To those who question the use of contractors v staff, it all is paid by rates and council-set fees. Ultimately it comes down to the level of service that people want.

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  5. rouppe (983 comments) says:

    I love the sun. And sunlight.

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  6. trout (954 comments) says:

    The Local Authority staff Union has been extraordinarily effective in racheting up salaries (often automatic without any kind of performance review), working hand in glove with the executive, and together intimidating the Councillors (who are of course also on the gravy train). OPM of course.

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  7. eszett (2,450 comments) says:

    Two things:

    1) Shouldn’t the numbers be in some relation to the population number or number or rate payers? What does the Staff difference between Auckland and Kaikura tell anyone.

    2) What’s the obsession with how many staff earn over a 100k? It really depends on what they are doing and how good they are doing it. On the one hand you want good, effective and well-educated staff, on the other hand your are upset if you don’t pay them peanuts.

    Would you work anywhere for less than a 100k p. a., David?

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  8. emmess (1,398 comments) says:

    Average rates bill (Western Bay of Plenty $3,274 to Mackenzie $1,101)

    Shit, I though the rates bill was bad in Auckland but I really feel sorry for the people in Tauranga.
    How is that affordable?

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  9. publicwatchdog (3,125 comments) says:

    http://www.ratepayersreport.co.nz/

    In my view this ‘Ratepayers Report’ simply doesn’t cut the mustard as far as giving ratepayers genuine transparency at local government level.

    How about checking the total spending of each Council on the private sector ‘contractocracy’ vs the directly-employed ,
    in-house ‘bureaucracy’?

    How many people know that when local or central government get into the contracting-out of public services, they then require ‘contract management’?

    In-house public service ‘bureaucrats’ are seen as too dumb to do this – so private sector consultants are hired to ‘project manage’ works contractors.

    ie: A double-layer of private sector ‘contractocracy’ compared with a single layer of public service ‘bureaucracy’, a double-layer of private ‘piggies-in-the-middle’ with their snouts in our public trough, all out to make private profit from what are supposed to be ‘public services’.

    Meanwhile – do your own ‘cost-benefit analysis’ and ask yourself – have YOUR rates gone UP or DOWN?

    Penny Bright

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  10. chris (647 comments) says:

    Debt/ratepayer (Auckland $15,858, Dunedin $15,093 to Central Otago $327)

    Absolutely swimming in debt, and spending more than is brought in from rates and everything else. Why is this not frequently front page news? I suspect the general populace has no idea how indebted our major cities are.

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  11. wiseowl (974 comments) says:

    Trout.
    Exactly right.
    I saw this happening when involved with local government.
    Most councillors didn’t know what was going on as it is the CEO who deals with staff matters.

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  12. Redbaiter (10,398 comments) says:

    This is a great initiative by the Taxpayer’s Union. The more light shone on the murky dealings of govt bureaucrats the better.

    BTW, I do not agree with the criticism of the TU from the right wing. Whether the issues they raise are large scale of small scale doesn’t matter as long as bureaucratic waste and inefficiency is exposed.

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  13. Drp (8 comments) says:

    An independent ratepayers report – so much potential – but what a disappointment. Not a report, just numbers.

    I thought it might add somethimg to the debate about local government expenditure, but no, just data already in public domain, with some numbers divided by others.

    Really could do better.
    For example: economic (or social) activity with each sister city versus cost of sister city relationship.
    Maybe time series for each council may be useful – but needs everything to be kept the same.
    We need to examine the quality of the spending not just the quantity.

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  14. mikenmild (12,340 comments) says:

    Have your rates gone up or down Penny, or don’t you read the notices?

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  15. wreck1080 (3,999 comments) says:

    @emmess : why would you feel sorry for the people of tauranga?

    I don’t quite get what the WBOP council rates has to do with Tauranga council rates?

    You probably assumed tauranga and WBOP are the same.

    Although, Tauranga has very high per capita debt ranking. Not much to show for it either, no museum, no great parks or facilities , pretty boring really.

    The only decent facility that tauranga built was the TECT arena.

    And, they purchased the joke rugby stadium from bob clarkson who would have laughed his way to the bank.

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  16. wreck1080 (3,999 comments) says:

    Incidentally, great work DPF, loving this information.

    You can see glaring greed among some councils.

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  17. goldnkiwi (1,612 comments) says:

    I am sure it will be refined and expanded as a report, as further applications are considered and suggestions made. All have to start somewhere.

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  18. lazza (401 comments) says:

    Thanks to all who helped with this excellent exercise.

    Those of you who have suggested improvements/additions … KEEP EM COMIN” … that way next yea’s will be “better”.

    BTW, from October of this! year, all NZ Councils will be required to report a set of (10 or a dozen) standard financial benchmarks.

    Taken together with StatsNZ excellent LG databases, NZLG can regain its position as a worldleader in LG performance management and accountability … provided that the beauracracy does’nt knobble this first.

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  19. wiseowl (974 comments) says:

    Drp.
    I think this is as they say a Taxpayers report.
    Perhaps to cover your concerns we need a Ratepayers Union that can expose the waste expenditure of ratepayers money.

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  20. georgebolwing (1,011 comments) says:

    This is actually pretty light weight.

    It gives us some data on outputs, with a lamentable populist bent (the prurient interest in salaries, for example), but nothing about outputs or outcomes.

    For example, the level of debt is pretty meaningless without knowing the level of assets it backs and the financial performance of those assets. You mention in this post that Auckland Council has a debt level of $15,858 per taxpayer, but don’t mention that it has assets of $71,427, which to me suggests it is in a very strong position.

    The Taxpayers Union is proving to be little more than a bunch of well-meaning amateurs pretending to be policy analysts. Here’s a tip: if you employed an ex-Treasury analyst and paid them say $200,000, you might actually get a few reports that are useful, rather than the headline fodder that you are producing.

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  21. lazza (401 comments) says:

    Re: georgebolwing … Huh? An ex- Treasury Analyst?. Need I say more?

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  22. Redbaiter (10,398 comments) says:

    “We need to examine the quality of the spending not just the quantity.”

    So get off your bitching moaning lazy arse and do it then.

    These people don’t get paid for doing this. They volunteer their time and effort.

    Before you criticise their work so strongly you should reflect upon that.

    Same goes for you Bolwing you pontificating self important noddy.

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  23. georgebolwing (1,011 comments) says:

    lazza.

    Can you point to any other organisation in New Zealand with a strong track-record in analysing government spending to determine if it represents value for money?

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  24. lazza (401 comments) says:

    Err the OAG/Audit Office … in the days way back when they recognised their full audit-related social responsibilities.

    Today they are a shadow of their former selves.

    Ask yourself … when did you last see an OAG report that critically examined NZLG performance? (Thought so … now read the daily letters to the editor about the same subject). Go figger.

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  25. georgebolwing (1,011 comments) says:

    The Audit Office have never had “social responsibilities”. It is an office of parliament, created by statute, charged with undertaking a specific set of functions, largely around compliance with certain standards.

    They occasionally try and do value for money work, but struggle because value for money is an economic, not an accounting concept. It requires developing metrics other than cost to value expenditure. This is what Treasury does.

    On the letters to the editor issue, this is my point about amateurs. I’ll trade one good policy professional for all the “Angry of Mayfares” going round.

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  26. Nigel Kearney (1,096 comments) says:

    It’s a good start but what matters to me is how much I pay and what I get for the money, not how the Council achieves that. They can pay the mayor or CEO a million dollars if they are worth it. Focusing on the top salaries is basically buying into Clark’s politics of envy.

    Somebody tell me how to use this to figure out whether Celia is stealing more or less from my family than Len is stealing from a hypothetical family equivalent to mine in Auckland. And whether it is higher because Wellington Council are more bloated and inefficient or because I am funding a contest for who can wear the silliest hat and Auckland ratepayers are not.

    A useful analysis would take the Council spending and split it into categories: important stuff such as water, drains and sewage in one category and other crap somewhere else, maybe more than one category if needed. Apportion the pure admin costs across the categories. Then compare the rates paid towards each category across regions based on a similar dwelling, e.g. three bedroom house in the suburbs. Maybe also adjust for different regions having a different cost of providing services. But telling me that western BOP has the highest rates bill means nothing if it is all farms or something.

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  27. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    This is an excellent report! Well done to all those involved with creating it.

    How on earth Auckland council can justify having *811* staff on over $100,000 pa is beyond me. Looks like lots of scope for the job-cutting chainsaw to be swung far and wide in the Auckland council.

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  28. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    It’s not often that I’m in such complete agreement with Baiter.

    So get off your bitching moaning lazy arse and do it then.

    These people don’t get paid for doing this. They volunteer their time and effort.

    Hear hear!

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  29. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    Penny – Why do you care? You don’t pay your rates anyway, you sponging parasite.

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  30. goldnkiwi (1,612 comments) says:

    Fairfax and the Taxpayers union lol is that a conspiracy?

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  31. goldnkiwi (1,612 comments) says:

    Community Boards in places where there is also a council, I do not have an issue where there is a distinct separate community in a District. That is a waste, ours decides on projects under $50,000.00 I think it is which they then refer to Council. So much work to do, that they elected 6 weekly not monthly meetings.

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  32. lazza (401 comments) says:

    Geo Blowing says … “The Audit Office have never had “social responsibilities”.

    Au contraire.

    The OAG has a statutory wider mandate role of ensuring public monies are not wasted, are used “cost-effectively” (the new S. 10 LG Act Purposes of LG refers) and they are responsible for the detection and prevention of fraud … sure sounds more “social” to me … than just plain ol’ attest-audit bean counting.

    The LG Act is shot through with performance requirements for Councils , all pretty much ignored and with the OAG’s tacit approval

    Time they did some of it … “socially” responsible audit-accountability that is.

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  33. Viking2 (11,672 comments) says:

    No Petone stadium for Wellington Phoenix

    The Petone Arena plan is dead after Hutt City councillors voted unanimously to drop the proposal this afternoon.

    Public feedback had been overwhelmingly negative on the idea, which would have seen a 12,000-seat stadium for Phoenix football club built over half of the Petone Recreation Ground.

    Loss of green space, loss of playing fields for local sports clubs, and lack of parking were the most common complaints.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/10145482/No-Petone-stadium-for-Wellington-Phoenix
    ====================
    so the Hutt Councillors continue with their stirling efforts to keep rates under control and debt low.

    Great Stuff.

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  34. Inky_the_Red (764 comments) says:

    Is there somewhere where they say how they adjusted Unitary Authorities so they are comparable to District Councils and City Councils?

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  35. ross411 (902 comments) says:

    Who are all these people that are looking at the numbers and complaining? What are you complaining about? There’s no information here, just data. Some numbers and no explanation of what they mean.

    When this report allows you to break down a council’s spending, and to see what the money is being spent on and how well the spending is accounted for, then and only then will you have real reason to complain. Stop moaning about nothing.

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  36. IC5000 (146 comments) says:

    “Redbaiter (6,905 comments) says:
    June 11th, 2014 at 11:46 am
    So get off your bitching moaning lazy arse and do it then.

    These people don’t get paid for doing this. They volunteer their time and effort.”

    That sounds communistic to me. Seriously only a latte drinking, sushi eating bisexual prog stalinist would actually ‘volunteer’ to do something without having selfish motives like making making money out it. Clearly there is some ulterior motive like trying to turn our sons onto lesbians.

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  37. wreck1080 (3,999 comments) says:

    http://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/74609-western-bay-rating-refuted.html

    WBOP are saying that their rating figures are residential only , not sure what they are getting at.

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