Monday, March 19, 2012

A recipe for public squalor

The government has announced "reforms" for local government. The key one? Restricting rates rises to inflation plus population growth.

This policy has a name: TABOR, short for "Taxpayer Bill of Rights". Its widespread in America, and its a key reason why their public infrastructure is so decrepit. ACT has been pushing this piece of American wingnuttery at us for the last decade or so; now it sounds as if they've succeeded.

Contra Nick Smith, local body rate rises are not being driven by councils being "distracted" by social obligations. According to the Department of Internal Affairs, they're being driven by rising infrastructure costs, which are themselves the product of past underinvestment. The problem isn't that our councils are doing too much - but that they've done too little in the past (largely in an effort to keep rates low). Capping rises won't solve this problem. Instead, it will mean councils forced to underinvest, and therefore forced to fail to provide the public services and infrastructure we expect of them.

National's ACT-driven policy isn't a recipe for better councils, its a recipe for worse ones. And its a recipe for decaying infrastructure, leaky sewage pipes, dirty water, and potholed roads. But those problems will happen on someone else's watch, so therefore don't exist to National. Once more, they're mining our future, "saving" money today (for their rich mates, naturally) by piling up costs for tomorrow.