The Selfish Generation gets Greedier by the Day

Commentary, Role of Government, Owen McShane

We Greedy Oldies should be ashamed of ourselves.

And the old boys and girls on our councils should be the most ashamed.

These Councillors want to expand their empires, build their monuments, and save the planet. But they don’t want to send the bill to their ratepayers who increasingly tend to be “greedy oldies” like themselves.

So they have hit on the idea of paying for their extravagances with what they call “developers’ contributions”.

Machiavelli would admire their gall.

When some council announces new levies on subdivisions and new houses, local newspapers headlines declare “Developers to pay for future costs!” And we all know those greedy developers have such deep pockets.

Of course the “fat-cat developers” don’t pay these contributions. It’s the struggling first home-buyers who have to cough up the money, and for many, the total price is more than they can bear.

Fortunately, North Shore City got too greedy with its “Pay-before-you-Use” levies, and on the 21st March the High Court decided enough is enough. In Neil Construction and Others vs North Shore City Council (CIV 2005-404-4690) Judge Potter found that Councils do not have carte blanche to levy new sections and houses to pay for major projects which will obviously benefit all ratepayers. Council has to contribute $82.5 million towards stations on the North Shore Bus Land and had decided to fund 94.2% by development levies (i.e. by a fine on newcomers) and only 5.8% by general rates. The Judge found this was not what Parliament had intended.

The judgment is quite case specific, but we can only hope this decision will encourage others, and especially the Commerce Select Committee on Housing Affordability, to have a close look at the impact of such inequitable levies on our younger generations.

Councils wring their hands over the totally unforeseeable needs of future generations (more than 100 years out) but regard their younger generations as cash cows to be milked until thoroughly dry.

No one objects to the principle that users should pay, or that developers should pay their full costs. But the principle of intergenerational equity surely insists that the current younger generation should not pay in advance for projects which others will use before they do. North Shore’s Bus Lane is already in use.

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