27 Mar 2024

Government rejects Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown's demands over rates, GST

8:09 pm on 27 March 2024
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.

Wayne Brown. Photo: Glenda Wakeham

The prime minister has dismissed the mayor of Auckland's plea to the government to pay rates on its properties in the region.

With Auckland Council struggling to pay its way, Wayne Brown also wants the government to return the GST it charges on rates, calling it a "tax on a tax".

The government does not have to pay rates on its own buildings in Auckland, including hospitals and schools. If it did, and the government gave the GST back, Brown said the city would benefit by more than $400 million a year - more than enough to cover the city's annual deficit.

He wrote to the government to make the request.

"I had a very rare unanimous support around the table at the council," Brown told Checkpoint on Wednesday.

"The council has 21 completely different ideas and everything from hard left to hard right, and then plus the Independent Māori Statutory Board, all came together for a unanimous decision to tell me to write to the government to do that… It's not just me, mate."

He said it would be a "better, cheaper, faster" way of easing the cost of living for Aucklanders, in the face of another rates rise this year and potential transport funding cuts.

"The problem the government's fixing is doing something about the cost of living and the fact that they've made a promise to do some tax cuts. Righto, Well, here we are - better, cheaper, faster. Just give it back to the councils and that's immediately spread across every household."

He admitted he was "not in a position to give them a deadline" though.

"They are the government, I'm just the head of the largest council."

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he would not be granting the council's wishes.

"There's a very good conversation to have between central and local government about how we jointly fund what we call city and regional deals - importantly, how we actually incentivise councils to participate in housing growth in particular," he told RNZ.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"And we're open for mechanisms that may see that there is funding that goes to councils in order to do that."

MP for Auckland Central and Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick was backing Brown this time, saying it was one idea of many that she had discussed with the mayor.

"We have a disproportionate mandate placed on local government to deliver when they don't have the revenue-generating tools to do that. So we do need to see government come in and probably support local governments to be able to live up to what we expect of our local government, particularly in light of the infrastructural deficit that our country is working with."

If Brown had his way, it would not just be the government coughing up rates.

"I've never understood why churches are exempt or airports. I mean, basically, they all expect the same stuff - they all want footpaths and roads and stormwater pipes and buses, and police stations and churches and hospitals and schools can't function without them.

"So why do other people have to pay? Why does a man in the street have to pay for them and they don't, especially when they've got more money than the man in the street, who's a bit poorly off at the moment?"

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