Monday, May 21, 2012

The cost of low rates

"Rates are too high" is one of the mantras of local body politics. We hear it every year from businesses and residents groups when councils set their budgets. We hear it every three years from councillors seeking (re)election. And we hear it increasingly from central government, which has brought into the whole ideology of low rates just as it has for low taxes.

Meanwhile, in Auckland, people are seeing just what low rates gets you: stormwater pipes at risk of collapse:

Hundreds of kilometres of Auckland's ageing stormwater network are not up to scratch and at risk of collapse.

ONE News has obtained council documents and a map showing the strain the system is under.

The pink areas on the map show where a staggering 375km of bad pipes lie underneath Auckland suburbs, in need of priority repair or replacement.

The worst areas are in west Auckland, the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast.

The council plans to fix the pipes slowly over the next 20 years, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But with winter coming, officials admit pipes could collapse under the pressure of wet weather.

They've already had some pipes fail, causing millions of dollars of damage. And unless the pipes are fixed, there will be more.

This is what low rates gets you: failing public services, and a big bill in the future. Its not a "saving", its just a way of putting off costs while letting them grow. And we shouldn't fall for it. If we want public services that work, we have to actually pay for them.