A legal opinion being prepared by Quay Chambers barrister Kitt Littlejohn for ratepayers group Mangawhai Residents & Ratepayers Association (MRRA) is highly critical of Council’s recent planning and rating decisions. It states that Kaipara District Council showed “contumelious disregard” for decision-making processes legally required by the Local Government Act, when setting residential rates for the current (2012-2013) financial year.Details from the legal opinion will be provided here when it is finalised. Interestingly, the letter from John Robertson, Commissioners Chair, states that the report from the Office of the Auditor General will "not be available for several months".... This is hardly good enough.
Bruce Rogan, Chair of MRRA, which is leading a district wide rate-strike action, says, “this vindicates the position we are taking and justifies Kaipara residents with-holding their rates.”
Kaipara residents received a letter from John Roberston - Chair of Commissioners appointed by Government – with their rates demand from Kaipara Council. This letter states: “The rates were set before we took over. We had no influence over the 2012/2013 rates but we are absolutely clear that the rates must be paid.”
Rogan responds, “Commissioners need to read our legal advice very carefully. They are imposing illegally set rates. Commissioners need to decide whether they are part of the solution - or part of the problem?”
The letter from Robertson also states: “73% of Kaipara ratepayers have paid their rates in full and on time. A further 19% have made part-payments… 8.5% have not paid anything.”
More than one thousand ratepayers have joined the rates strike.
Rogan commented that some people had chosen to pay rates at last year’s level. “They reckon those were fair rates”, he said. “But many ratepayers are just waking up to what’s been going on. They haven’t touched their bank standing order yet. Most people want to do the right thing – and pay fair and reasonable rates. But the more they learn about the mess behind the scenes, the more angry they get.”
MRRA’s legal advice indicates that a High Court judicial review will be necessary to confirm the illegality of Kaipara Council’s rating decisions.
The MRRA Executive is meeting to consider the legal advice and to decide its next set of actions. Rogan commented, “we don’t want to put the council to un-necessary legal costs, but to date it has played a game of threats and bluster. We are not going to sit on our hands until justice is done and is seen to be done.”
Council Reports Available
There is a lot of information now available on Kaipara District Council's website, that hasn't been there - either for a while, or for ever. A number of special reports are available:
One of these is entitled: Ecocare - From Conception to Handover, and this includes up front the text:
This is one of four current reviews into the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme.This is a very interesting read. If you are interested in others, best place to start is the index of KDC reports, and scan down to "M" for Mangawhai.
The other three are:
1. Independent Review of rating issues, that includes the first principles review (commissioned from Jonathan Salter, Simpson Grierson)
2. Financial review, that includes costs, financing and funding issues (in-house review in the first instance); and
3. Valuation of the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme (commissioned from MWH)
The timeframe for completion of these reviews is mid- to late December 2011.
The report I found most helpful - which comes complete with a set of attachments - is one which catalogues the minutes of all of the relevant council decisions from inception, including all confidential decisions (held with public excluded). This report includes hot links to all relevant attachments that are referred to.