Cornwall Park Trust leasehold land model flawed

This letter was published but they left out any reference to the New Economics Party unfortunately

Letter to the editor
Sunday Star Times
August 19, 2013

Your article (Aug 18) about owners of leasehold properties in Epsom walking out or selling for a song showed that the leasehold model of the Cornwall Park Trust Board is fundamentally flawed.

These valuable properties in Maungakiekie Avene, Wheturangi Road and Campbell Road are serviced by more than just a park. Each site is valuable, being near local shops, Newmarket and the CBD. It is in the elite grammar zone for schools and has access to council and government provided hospitals, roads, schools, transport, street lighting, sewerage and so on. So instead of paying rates we should have a system where all property owners pays society a land fee or a land rate and the revenue is then shared by central and local government.

Unfortunately those who set up the Cornwall Park Trust Board hadn’t thought about this. They hadn’t worked out it was unfair for a few landowners to provide a park for all of Auckland. Nor could they forecast the current housing bubble where land prices are inflated to the point where the 5% of unimproved land value becomes unaffordable.

The New Economics Party will promote this new model of financing local authorities. This fee would replace rates and would stop the private capture of rising land values when those gains truly belong to the public that provided the services.

Yours sincerely

Deirdre Kent
Spokesperson New Economics Party


Rating policy of user-pays is regressive

Well I don’t know where you live, but in my town we have just had another election meeting. I was an observer with a strong philosophy and didn’t this time ask questions about the rating system. But I engaged in a conversation afterwards with a real estate agent friend and it went like this.

Me: Tell me what is the price of land here in Otaki compared with the price of land in Waikanae or Paraparaumu?

Him: Well it’s about double. A section here costs just over $100,000 whereas in either of those places it is over $200,000. I will get you the exact figures tomorrow.

Me: Thanks a heap. So if 71% of our rates is in Fixed Annual Charges nowadays, it means that the rates in Otaki are rather similar to the rates on a property in Waikanae or Paraparaumu, but our section prices are only half that value. Isn’t that hard on the poorer people of Otaki?

Him: But in a user pays system what services are you not getting from the Council?

Me: Actually you have asked the wrong question. We should be asking if there is another way to fund local authorities which is fairer. It is a question of philosophy about revenue raising. I believe that people should pay according to the value of their land, so that it doesn’t penalise you if you want to improve your house and so that you get concentrated development to save expenditure on infrastructure. Empty sections near shops and services should all be used.

section $100k OtakiAnd since then I have been thinking about the parallel situation in central government. I don’t know in what year it became ridiculous to say people should pay for their own education, but I would have guessed the arguments progressive politicians would have used is that it is in the whole of society’s interest that we have an educated population. So Government revenue needs to pay for education. It would be ridiculous now to return to saying people should pay for their own education. It is in nobody’s interest to have an illiterate uneducated population.

The advantages of a rates system based on unimproved land value are many. Not only is it more just, but it encourages the use of valuable land rather than letting it lie idle. Once upon a time the majority of rating systems favoured land based rates, not capital based rates. All referenda which were held favoured land based rates. But in the last few decades we have seen the creeping introduction of first capital value rates (it is now compulsory in Auckland) and then user pays. In Kapiti District Council it is a mix of all three but the dominant one is user-pays.

Otaki house Dunstan large sectionWell, user pays should certainly not be for basic infrastructure. I can see that for conservation reasons it is fair to charge for water after a certain amount of free water has been delivered. But basic infrastucture like water purification is a public good not a personal good. For health reasons alone sewerage and water and street lights are public goods.

You see our town won’t really thrive until the railway from Waikanae to Otaki has been double tracked and electrified. Land values will increase and we can pay more in rates. Sure we have a superb Wananga (or Maori university) and some excellent kura here and we know people move to the town so they can go to the Wananga or send their kids to one of the kura. But frankly our little village is full of second hand shops and fast food shops. Prominent are WINZ, Budget Advice and the Food Bank. Our retailers are struggling and shops lie empty, while outlet shops on the main through-highway thrive. Many of our old people move away to retirement villages and our young move to a city or to Australia. Homeowners struggle to pay their house insurance and rates are over $2000 for a very ordinary property. The standard of housing isn’t high and there is a large percentage of rental properties. I am told that there is a growing trend for landlords to sell up because rents are so low as to make it unviable.

The effect of land value rating on rural land is interesting. Just outside each town on Kapiti Coast there are lifestyle blocks supporting the odd horse and a few sheep while the owners commute to Wellington jobs. As services from council are fewer, their rates are very low under user pays. Rates on these properties would rise, forcing them to amalgamate to viable farming units with high productivity.

I guess our town is like many others and the arguments in yours are similar.

(I understand now the Education Act in New Zealand was passed in 1877, when education became free, compulsory and secular)

Two major blindspots in David Cunliffe interview so the Labour policy won’t deliver jobs.

It was with considerable interest that I spent half an hour watching the streamed online broadcast from thedailyblog recently. Bomber Bradbury and Selwyn Manning were interviewing the new Labour leader David Cunliffe.

For a while I was very excited. Here was a man who was head and shoulders above his predecessor. His replies showed his high intelligence, considerable knowledge and a lot of political wisdom. Yes he would come down hard on tax evasion, he would reform the trust law, focus on exports and jobs. He showed he had a very good grasp of climate change, talked about extreme weather events and said there must be a price on carbon. When asked about the meltdown of unregulated financial markets it was clear he knew about Consolidated Debt Obligations and explained how the world came to be awash with phony debt. He wanted re-regulation of financial markets and described the kiwi dollar being a “speculative plaything of international markets.” He said nobody ever gets pinged for trading the NZD but it drives up the dollar and is bad for exporters.

Asked about FTT he said “If you hear a giant sucking noise it will be overseas money leaving New Zealand”, that will be the global capital would leave in a rush. He said in a borderless and internet-enabled world economy a financial transaction tax has to be imposed by the whole global community rather than going it alone. Interesting.

On the TPPA he wants the text released so we can have a mature public debate. How refreshing that was. He was good on the GSCB and showed a lot of insight on our role in the Pacific.

Like a good Labour Party stalwart he advocated a living wage, raising the minimum wage and said that Labour was working on fine tuning Working for Families so that all children benefit.

But there were two questions which put a halt to any thought he might be the saviour of New Zealand. When asked “Would you find yourself in a position to reduce GST if you are putting up the top income tax rate?” the answer was “I hate to disappoint you but no” he said it would take five years to get the Capital Gains Tax to the stage where it raised revenue, and with all the programmes they wanted to introduce, the Crown balance sheets would be stretched thin. Well this is a huge slap in the face to working poor to keep GST, the most regressive tax of all.

So I looked up Capital Gains Tax and found most countries have it in some form. Wikipedia gives good information. Oh yes there are a few like us who don’t have it, Jamaica, Kenya and Singapore being three of them. But most countries have it in some form or other. It is sending the right signal to property investors. Australia’s and Canada’s seem similar and I guess the Labour Party is modelling theirs on Australia’s. That means they get the capital gain, divide it by two, and apply the marginal tax rate to it, which is 43%. So here we are, all these properties rise in value in Auckland 18% a year. If you sold a rental and made a capital gain of a mere $100,000 you would pay 43% of $50,000 or $21,500 in CGT. The other $78,500 you can keep for yourself. Nice. That is rightly public money, as it is society which creates the extra value on land. The whole of it should be publicly captured.

And if you sell your home and make $300,000 don’t worry you won’t have to pay a cent of that to society. So for just investment properties (and commercial and industrial properties?) you will pay 21.5% back to society and capture the rest yourself.

Capital Gains Tax in its present form doesn’t stop at gains on property. Several websites go into it at length and one is left with two impressions. The first is that there is apparently no apparent understanding of the difference in genre of land and its gifts and capital. Land and capital are collapsed together. One is a gift of Nature and one is the combination of labour and resources.

The second impression is that CGT is so complex that it will be extremely expensive to administer. Already the Inland Revenue Department has to spend $1 billion over the next ten years upgrading its IT systems and CGT will make it worse.

Neither Bomber Bradbury nor Selwyn Manning asked him exactly how he would ensure that jobs were created. And of course jobs can’t be created under this scenario. The CGT is weak and relatively ineffective and the progressive tax means that the tax burden is greater. A currency overburdened by tax and issued by private banks as interest bearing debt will surely not circulate fast enough into productive enterprise.

Only when there is a working moving currency will jobs be created. And the currency must be relieved of its burdensome and illogical taxes on work and enterprise. A lack of awareness of currency theory, linked with a lack of understanding of the difference between the gifts of Nature and the work of humans are two important blindspots. Until then wealth will continue to accumulate with private banks and landowners. It is disappointing that policy shaping up to be about redistribution, rather than creation of wealth. It is so much more important to understand the role of currency design than to artificially prop up wages. Currencies can be designed to be abundant and flow, rather than pool with the wealthy.

So are we to see a Labour Government that showed much promise yet failed to deliver on jobs? Of course. Expensive social welfare programmes, a complicated and burdensome tax regime with a very regressive GST and a money system which perpetuates the status quo will see to that. The tax avoidance industry will have a heyday. Sadly I forecast the only jobs that will be created are jobs as accountants, tax lawyers, WINZ and IT specialists in the Inland Revenue Department.

Banks culpable in Auckland housing crisis

The following letter was sent to the editor of the Listener but not published, so we publish it here.

Absent from the vigorous discussion of the Auckland housing crisis on The Vote (Sept 11, TV3) was mention of the role of banks in creating this crisis. They stand to gain billions not just from the rising price of houses but from the eventual crash.

In a January 2013 seminar IMF economist and former Barclays Bank manager Michael Kumhof makes it clear that the role of banks is not intermediation but to create credit and control its supply.

“The key function of banks is money creation not intermediation. What that means is that it becomes very easy for banks to start or lead a lending boom even though policy makers might not, because if they feel that the time is right, they simply expand the money supply. There is no third party involved, just the bank and the customer and I make the loan.”

Yes the banks have started a lending boom in Auckland, rewarding staff who issue more loans. Banks find it more profitable to row the economy between easy money and tight money then “laugh all the way to the bank when it finally collapses”. Loan to value restrictions will not help.

Alan Dudson, an Auckland accountant, says “In Auckland it is not uncommon for residential real estate investors to own five, 10, 20, 50, or even 100 houses.”

And all the while Government collaborates by making the interest, insurance, rates and maintenance tax deductible. So Dudson says there is hardly any tax to pay.

When we have a government and opposition both blind to the true role of banks, banks are almost in complete charge. A tax policy favouring property investment and making it easy to hold land without financial penalty will see to that.

The opposition solutions are little better. A capital gains tax doesn’t hold down prices when too weak and just keeps land off the market when it is strong.

It can only end in tears.

1. Michael Kumhof
2. Alan Dudson. NZ Herald Let’s stop subsidising property investors.

Deirdre Kent
Spokesperson New Economics Party

Derivatives for Dummies

This I found on the web. Sorry I can’t acknowedge the writer. Others seem to have put it on their websites too. I asked a meeting of 35 people in New Plymouth the other day how many people know what a derivative is and only one person put up her hand. It is worrying that the shadow economy of at least $700 trillion is at least ten times as big as the real economy yet so few understand the shadow economy.

A financial reporter in Australia said in 2009 all banks are exposed to toxic derivatives. If 1% of these contracts default because third parties get into trouble, the whole shareholder wealth would be wiped out and the banks could be broke.

So here is the derivatives for dummies piece. Nice and easy.

Derivatives for Dummies

An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit . She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi’s “drink now pay later” marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi’s bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit .

By providing her customers’ freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for whiskey and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi’s gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALCOBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don’t really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation’s leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi’s bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since, Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALCOBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks’ liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi’s bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms’ pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her whiskey supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations. Her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the Government.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-alcoholics.

New Paradigm economics for jobs in a post fossil fuel economy

I have uploaded a revised version of the slideshow on new paradigm economics. This is similar to the first one, yet addresses the question of how you get a financial incentive built in to an opt in scheme. It also comes after realisation that an opt in scheme will need to operate under current law. Homeowners will negotiate a land fee payable to government and agree under contract law. We no longer talk of leasehold land, though it is rather similar. This one suggests we burden the title with a covenant while the title remains with the property owner.

The other change is that we are not referring to Zeals but are talking about a tradeable tax credit. We don’t use the term land rental or land rent much, but talk about a land fee or land rates. These terms indicate more accurately that the fee is payable in exchange for the value provided by society in the services to the site.

We have also returned to the idea we had in the first place, that of mortgage relief. If the government pays for the land and effectively takes land out of the market, then the homeowner’s interest payments to the bank reduce while they have some precious new currency to spend. It naturally flows towards productive enterprise or the relief of more private debt e.g. student loans. So it is an ideal policy for first home buyers.

Since posting it, I have realised only one more thing. The land fee will rise or fall depending on the zoning of the land.