NZ from orbit

The New Zealand record of Land Value Tax (LVT)

... in practice!
by Bob Keall

N.Z has developed from scratch under the impetus of L.V.T. in various forms. As a pioneering colony, even before 1840, it had no inherited ‘establishment.’ In order to grow, it needed more colonists and global trade for its primary products1. It inherited the British structure through the Treaty of Waitangi, but the components were multi-national:

—Danes in Dannevirke and Norsewood
—Scots in Dunedin and Waipu.
—French in Akaroa.
—Brits from “the first 4 ships” in Christchurch.
—Germans in Brunner.
—hoi polloi in Wellington.
—Irish on the West Coast.
—gold miners from China everywhere

Exigency was resolved with “No. 8 wire.”

The Treaty [of Waitangi] of 1840 imposed Crown leasehold initially.2 In 1878 came a “Land and Income Tax Act” under Sir George Grey. From 1896, with the right to a poll, Land Value Rating spread rapidly.

By 1920 the Land Tax accounted for 10% of the Budget. In 1969 the Public Bodies Leases Act regularised a significant feature of Local and Central Govt. By 1982 Land Value Rates had been adopted by poll in 90% of municipalities and accounted for 80% of Local Govt. revenue. Without these charges land would have been half as dear again.

In 1931 Napier was flattened by an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 which lasted 2½ minutes! Rebuilt with the impetus of L.V. Rating, it is now an Art Deco city with guided tours for local and international tour parties.

If, after W.W.I. global Socialism and the Welfare State appeared to work here, it was because it was propped up by the dynamism of L.V.T. in all its forms. The positive base enabled the colony to survive a global Depression, to play a significant part in 2 World Wars, and to contribute global leaders in all areas of academic, social and sporting life:

—Rutherford, the atom.
—The All Blacks, Rugby.
—Malone, Chunuk Bair.
—Blake, The America’s Cup.
—Keith Park, “The Kiwi Who Saved Britain.11
—Alan McDiarmid, Nobel Prize, Nanotechnology.
—Freyberg, Gallipoli and later the Western Desert.
—Bob Charles, golf.
—Hillary, Everest.
—Ray Avery, inventor of technology to produce low cost intraocular lenses
—a Govt. Valuation Dept, which could value the whole country's land value every year.3

These examples came from very humble origins “down under” to become Knights of the Realm. There was certainly no inherited privilege. Rolland was nominated by a wide section of the community&mdashmedicine, sport, social, Local Government. Those (even in the Labour Party), opposed to Henry George, offered him an insulting token minimum award. From his own high ground he rejected it, closing that door.

In 1958 a Royal Commission on Local Government Finance endorsed Land Value Rating. Rolland’s admin’ prescription was just 50 years ahead of its time.

In the 1960’s, Rolland published a series of Rating Bulletins on topical Rating issues. Up to 8000 copies each time went to Councillors encouraging them to adopt L.V. Rating, or to retain it. The Bulletins included a map, instructive at a glance.

In 1973 Rolland wrote “Rating In N.Z.”4—a review of at least 90 years of it, ignored by Georgists globally but embraced by the profession here from the Minister down. By 1985 it was out of date. In his blindness with a detached retina, he dictated a revision. The book was endorsed by the Valuer-General, Vince McGlone, as “essential for anyone involved in the subject.” It was widely distributed to Local Govt. from the Minister down. It was also distributed to eminent Georgists around the world as a record of over 90 years of Land Value Taxation, in practice. It caused “not a ripple of response” as he quietly confided (characteristically), devastated as he was. The same empirical disparity persists today! And the “Whitehall”syndrome.

In 1980 Rolland wrote “Te Ara Tika“—the case for Crown Leasehold.10

In 1985 he proposed, on the evidence, L.V. Rating be made mandatory and the Land Tax be ascribed to Regional Local Govt—which would have entrenched the Land Tax and neatly separated the two forms of revenue. That historic initiative was subverted by the New Right Labour Cabinet under the influence of the World Bank.5

In 2007 a “Rates Enquiry Committee”6 recommended Capital Value Rating on no evidence whatsoever, compared with our submission for Land Value Rating replete with evidence and the “conclusion” of a 1989 Internal Affairs Dept. Committee.

In 2008, our Submission to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance was framed on Rolland’s Submission in 1958. The Commission’s Report was essentially in line with our Submission i.e; Rolland’s work 50 years before, specifying the amalgamated structure. That the Commission’s Report (and by inference ours) was dismissed before the ink was dry, in favour of a New Right hi-jack agenda, is a further indictment of the subversion since 1985 of our success hitherto.

In 2009 the Royal Commission made no recommendation on Rating because of the ambivalent Terms of Reference given to it (by a Labour Govt.), obliquely recommending “the findings of the Rates Enquiry Committee”! Govt. plans to impose Capital Value Rating on the new Supercity will divide the City and unseat the Govt7.

There is also a subversive move at the C.E.O. level of Central and Local Govt. to promote C.V.5

This truncated record and the supporting notes deserves the attention of any serious Georgist! Australia has a similar record i.e; Canberra, but it is a larger country with three tiers of Govt.

Despite the subversions since 1990 and the Credit Crunch of 2008, a significant degree of Land Value Tax persists to soften the global impact here, and to provide a springboard to reverse the trend.

The earthquake in Christchurch and a similar real prospect in Wellington (Dominion Post 7.12.10) makes it imperative to reverse the subversion of L.V. Rating since 19858. Penalising improvements is no way to re-build after demolition.

Settling the Rating base in Auckland will resonate around the world9.

Over the last 170 years N.Z. has been where the old world has yet to go.

Links to follow.
  1. First wool and hides then, with refrigeration, mutton, beef and dairy products. Coal came much later.
  2. “The Treaty”— Where to From Here? (pdf, 610kB).
  3. Q.V on the Qui Vive.
  4. Rating in N.Z—in hard copy only.
  5. Memorandum to the Labour Caucus. A Short History of the L.V Rating Association.
  6. Submission to the Rates Enquiry Committee.
  7. A.T.A. (Auckland Transition Agency) Our Submission.
  8. “Te Ara Tika”.
  9. Lord Arthur Tedder, 1947.