Whangarei and Kaipara ratepayers have invited a local government expert, who ranks Whangarei District Council barely ahead of the struggling Kaipara District Council, to give a public presentation on the financial performance and decision-making processes of both councils.
Finance and policy analyst Larry Mitchell, who recently released a copy of his Local Government League Table, will speak at a community hall in Dargaville tonight and at the Old Library in Whangarei tomorrow. His report ranked the Whangarei District Council 62 out of 67 councils, just three places in front of neighbour Kaipara.
Mr Mitchell said the WDC performed particularly badly on sustainability measures such as debt per ratepayer, surplus/deficit and debt servicing to rates. However, the council has rejected Mr Mitchell's reading of the figures, saying a better assessment of its financial position was the AA-credit rating given by Standard and Poor's.
Mr Mitchell believes information on the councils' performance needs to be made public so that improvements can be made. "For Whangarei, it's a combination of a weak balance sheet and demographics the council [WDC] shares with the [Northland] region and I think it's a good time to put a peg on the ground so that we have a fair idea on the council's capacity to raise debt.
"It's a chance for Whangarei people to see the information that the council didn't want to know about and to discuss the results in depth so they are able to make their own assessments."
On Kaipara, he will talk about debt levels and other issues that brought the council to its knees.
Warren Slater, organiser of Mr Mitchell's Whangarei visit, said a growing number of Whangarei residents have grave concerns about debt levels being imposed by the council with irresponsible spending of rates in these tougher economic times.
Both presentations start at 7pm.