Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has intervened in the Auckland mayoral and council elections with a carefully contrived announcement on water rates.
You would think water rates would be decided and announced by the new Auckland Council. The election is, after all, only six weeks away. And the water company, is after all, owned by the Council.
But no, Mr Hide yesterday trumpeted a new water rate that will see all Auckland houses pay the same tariff of $1.30 per 1000 litres of water.
Asked why he was announcing it now, he replied because Aucklanders have been “anxious about water” charges.
Why have they been anxious about water charges? Because the Government wants to roll out volumetric or user pays pricing for waste-water expected to result in hefty increases for most Aucklanders. And because the centre-right Citizens and Ratepayers ticket has the same policy. And the C&R mayoral candidate Mr Banks has been taking heat on this issue.
Mr Hide was happy to announce the new rate on water piped to the home, but he was keeping quiet on the new rate for waste water which is the one that is likely to go up significantly if it gets the full user-pays treatment. If he was going to announce one I don’t see why he couldn’t have announced both, because Watercare has had a full year to do the calculations on both.
The farsighted Mr Hide has legislated that waste water charges, and general rates, won’t be going up until mid-2012 which just happens to be after the mayoral and council elections, and after next year’s general election.
By the time the new waste water and general rates kick in, the Auckland Council will have been in place for 18 months and Mr Hide will be able to wash his hands of any responsibility. He is hoping the Council will have to carry the can for the structures and budgets he put in place 18 months before.
If in 2012 the waste water charges and general rates do go up, as most Aucklanders believe they will, with any luck we won’t have to listen to Mr Hide blaming the Auckland Council. He will be long gone by then.