WELCOME TO KAIPARA CONCERNS
HONEST JOHN 26.11.2015
Honest John is very restrained in his latest Mangawhai Focus column in respect of Judge de Ridder's District Court judgment against the Rogans. Perhaps he has been advised by the KDC's solicitors that the judgment is so sweeping that it makes superflous all legislation that imposes obligations on local authorities. It also obviates any need to pass validating legislation to correct rating errors as the District Court is emphatic that ratepayers have no right to object to the invalidity of rates.
It is ironic that the Christchurch rates validation bill is going through Parliament at the moment and it is clear that Parliament is certain that the rating errors of that council - many of which are the same as the KDC's erors - render the rates invalid, and that a validation bill is absolutely necessary otherwise ratepayers can refuse to pay the rates.
So which is right, the District Court or Parliament?
One would have thought that as Parliament passes the legislation then it would have a better grasp on the effect of non-compliance with the law and the need for validating legislation.
More of the later.
Honest John's final comment is that in respect of the 20 or so stayed cases: "They are also now liable for all rates now due".
There is nothing in the judgment that says this. In fact the status of those stayed cases is completely up in the air because the Rogan case to which they were supposed to be linked proceeded under new plaintiffs with a different statement of claim. There now appears to be no link between the cases.
The Rogans' solicitor is trying to find out the status of the stayed cases from the Court and details will be published as soon as they come to hand.
MANGAWHAI FOCUS 26.11.2015
As mentioned in earlier posts, the Mangawhai Focus has completely changed its focus (so to speak) in respect of the KDC illegalities issue. Rather than being the lap-dog mouthpiece for Honest John and his fantasies, it is now allowing all and sundry from both sides of the fence to voice their concerns and grind their axes.
Sadly, it may have gone overboard in the other direction. No doubt the over-long, laborious letter to the editor in the current edition from Dr Ian Greenwood owes its inclusion to the allegations of defamation made by Dr Greenwood. He certainly deserved a right of reply, but that does not mean a reply of Tolkien proportions.
The motivation behind including the letter from Dave Barlow is not clear. The letter is gratuitously abusive in respect of MRRA chair Bruce Rogan and seems nothing more than a generalised personal attack on him without reference to any specific issue.
DR IAN GREENWOOD 26.11.2015
The letter in the latest edition of the Mangawhai focus from Dr Greenwood headed More character attacks purportedly defending his integrity and putting the facts straight is far too long and overstated
In my previous article on this matter I made the point that Dr Greenwood would be best advised not to raise his head above the parapet. While he is clearly convinced of his ability and his personal integrity there is a large group of ratepayers in Mangawhai who do not see it that way, and, given the opportunity that he publicly presented, were more than willing to tell him a few home truths.
I suggest that the letters from ratepayers to the editor published by the Focus attacking DR Greenwood’s comments were the tip of a very large iceberg.
Many ratepayers were incensed by his comments which were simplistic, showed a lack of understanding of what the MRRA was fighting for, and indirectly supported the view of the commissioners that they are above the law. (See the post below.)
Dr Greenwood might have benefited from deeper reflection on what he had actually said and perhaps he should have considered his response with more care.
Whilst he may have exemplary credentials (recited at some length in his letter) many believe that by hitching his dinghy to Honest John’s flagship, and slavishly accepting the limited terms of reference, he made a fundamental professional misjudgement.
He appeared to many to have abandoned his professional independence and looked more like a lackey entrusted with the mission of making the EcoCare “lemon” look viable, and endorsing the options for the future that totally overlooked the feelings of resentment of ratepayers about the past.
More than anything, his adamant refusal to consider costs or any options not favoured by his bosses turned many ratepayers against him.
it is worth noting that in his letter, whilst criticising those who he suggested defamed him and personalised the attack on him, and whilst providing a worthy quote to support his stance, he cannot resist vacating the moral high ground and taking a personal swipe at Bruce Rogan.
CAN THE KDC BE PUNISHED FOR ITS ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES? 26.11.2015
In his reply letter to the Focus Dr Greenwood takes issue with the claim for damages against the KDC for breaching the rights of ratepayers and in particular the members of the MRRA.
Interestingly, in arguing that all ratepayers end up paying the damages awarded to the MRRA, Dr Greenwood uses the same argument that is adopted by the commissioners in their legal battles against the Rogans and the MRRA.
They argue that if the court accepts that they breached the law, and there is little doubt that they did, and they are obliged to refund unlawful rates, then the result would be “Armageddon” of “nuclear” for the KDC’s finances.
That means that ratepayers would end up carrying a massive burden because effectively ratepayers bear responsibility for all the stuff-ups of a council.
For that reason, the commissioners plead that the court should use its discretion and ignore the transgressions and allow the KDC to operate outside the law. Dr Greenwood argues the same in respect of damages for breaching the rights of ratepayers
But why are local authorities a special case? Such a plea would never be available to an individual, a business or any other entity.
Fines are common in everyday life. They are a punishment for breaking the law. I am sure that Dr Greenwood has paid the odd parking ticket. We all pay for speeding tickets and companies regularly get fined for breaking health and safety rules.
The law lays down that damages may be awarded against those who breach the rights of citizens under the Bill of Rights Act. The High Court found that the KDC breached the rights of the members of the MRRA (and indirectly all ratepayers) but held that in the circumstances the breach was “justifiable”. That part of the decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal and we are still waiting for a ruling.
What Dr Greenwood is saying, along with the commissioners, is that the KDC (and all local authorities) can never be held accountable in any way that affects their finances because it is the innocent ratepayer who ends up footing the bill.
The way things are structured, that is absolutely right. But that is only because those who run local government in New Zealand have decided that those who act imprudently and illegally in carrying out their responsibilities are not held accountable in any way.
Dr Greenwood and his forbears have been in Mangawhai for years and he appears in his letter to acknowledge the incompetence of the KDC. That means the chief executive at the time, his staff and the councillors.
I am sure he also accepts that the auditors were grossly negligent along with the OAG.
As a professional himself, he no doubt wonders how the KDC’s lawyers and consultants got it so wrong.
And he may not know that the Minister of Local Government was aware for several years that the KDC was persistently flouting the law but refused to take any action to rein it in.
But along with the commissioners that he has aligned himself with, Dr Greenwood believes that the responsibility for any financial fall-out should rest with the innocent ratepayers, and that those who are clearly identified as the truly guilty parties, who were major players, or allowed the debacle to happen, should escape any liability.
As a corollary to this argument, because of the financial burden imposed on ratepayers in the scheme of things that he supports, the KDC should be allowed to escape any liability for past illegalities, and should be free to flout the law in future.
The MRRA is fighting against those assumptions and the premise that ratepayers bear responsibility for all financial losses. It believes that those precepts have no basis in law. Its view is that ratepayers should not be burdened with illegal rates that did not comply with the LGRA or were set for a purpose that has been declared illegal by the High Court, and should not be responsible for an illegal debt that was entered into secretly and in breach of the law.
The MRRA believes that those who were responsible for the losses should pay, whether it is the debt or awards of damages. If that does not happen then those who run or advise or audit local authorities are free to ignore the law and their responsibilities, and effectively allow the local authority to operate outside the law.
If we allow those in local authorities to escape liability then the result is utter chaos. I invite Dr Greenwood and readers to read the comment of MPs debating the Christchurch Validation Bill to see the effect of allowing councils the latitude to ignore its obligations.
DISTRICT COURT DECISION 25.11.2015
Apologies to readers for the lack of comment on the de Ridder judgment in the KDC v Rogan case.
The MRRA litigation team have been busy with its lawyer analysing the judgment and deciding what action to take. Detailed comment will follow once decisions have been made. In the interim, some general comments.
Those who have read the decision will be amazed that the District Court has held that there is no right to object to non-complying rate demands or invalid rates in the District Court, and the only right to object in the High Court is under s 60 LGRA, and only then on very narrow grounds.
The end result is that ratepayers are bound by their obligations under the LGRA but local authorities are free to ignore their obligations.
All the checks and balances that Parliament meticulously inserted in the legislation to protect ratepayers and to ensure compliance with the purposes of the LGRA have been decreed by the District Court to be irrelevant.
The Court also acknowledged that the Validation Act completely omitted to validate the unlawful rates for the 2012/2013 year because of a blatant omission in the Act.
It seems quite bizarre that the whole purpose of the Validation Act was to validate the multiple failures of the KDC to comply with the requirements of the LGRA. But the Validation Act itself failed to do what it was supposed to do.
Perhaps it needs another validation act to validate the Validation Act? Or a simple amending act would do.
But that is not necessary. In a surprisingly broad interpretation of his judicial function, Judge de Ridder decided that he was empowered to effectively amend the legislation by filling in the gaps left by Parliament.
In his judgment Judge de Ridder is of the view that ratepayers are obliged to pay rates irrespective of their lawfulness. That is a message that he has sent out to New Zealand.
All those in local government will be cock a hoop that the free rein approach to legal obligations that they have adopted for years has now been confirmed by the courts.
KDC staff responding to the District Court judgment
For years the KDC stated quite confrontationally that anything that it did was legal (even though blatantly illegal) until a court declared it to be illegal. The District Court have now confirmed that ratepayers do not have the right in law to challenge the actions of a council. So it is game, set and match to local authorities.
At least for the moment.
Judge de Ridder has thrown down the gauntlet to ratepayers throughout the whole country. If we accept his decision then we are committing ourselves to arbitrary power beyond the rule of law.
It seems that that ratepayers of New Zealand have no option. They have to get behind the MRRA and put the question loudly and clearly to the higher courts:
Are local authorities above the law?
CHAMPAGNE CORKS POP AT KDC 13.11.2015
The Champagne corks would have been popping at the KDC on receipt of Judge de Ridder's decision in the KDC v Rogan case.
The Judge found for the KDC on just about every point that was argued which gave a clean sweep to the commissioners.
However, one cannot help thinking that that elation will be tinged with some major concerns. The KDC legal advisers are intelligent lawyers and they will have grasped very quickly that the judgment of Judge de Ridder is not one of the finest pieces of jurisprudence to emerge from the courts of justice.
Its broad sweeping conclusions that effectively state that local authorities are free to ignore the law at will without any consequences, and are not bound by the prescriptive obligations in the rating process, sadly puts the judicial stamp on the widely held local government view that local authorities are above the law.
It is ironic the in a post a few days ago I quoted Justice Harrison in a Court of Appeal decision where he said that obligations placed by Parliament on a local authority do not exist in a vacuum. They were inserted in the legislation by Parliament because they have to be complied with. Otherwise, why would they have been inserted?
Clearly, Judge de Ridder takes a different view.
The MRRA executive has advised that the decision will be appealed to the High Court and that a stay of execution will be applied for. That means that no rates or costs will be payable until the appeal is heard.
At this stage it is anticipated that the appeal will be heard in May next year in the three day fixture set down for the judicial review application by the Rogans and the MRRA against the KDC. The issues of the two cases overlap.
In respect of all the other cases held in abeyance, there has been no ruling. The District Court got itself into a real mess about these cases prior to the hearing and it now appears that they are out in limbo and would have to be individually actioned by the KDC. That seems unlikely given that the Rogan case is subject to appeal.
The KDC v Rogan ruling can be seen here.
COUNCIL OBLIGATIONS DO NOT EXIST IN A VACUUM 11.11.2015
An interesting decision has emerged from the Court of Appeal relating to the election to the Maori Statutory Board of Auckland City.
(See https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/from/decisions/judgments and go to Court of Appeal judgments: Tame Te Rangi & ors v Jackson
The selection of two mataawaka representatives (who represent Maori without tribal affiliation) was challenged by Willie Jackson on the basis that the selection body did not comply with the legislation in appointing the representatives.
Harrison J delivered the judgment of the Court and held that the selection body failed to comply with its statutory obligations because it did not follow the strict requirements of the legislation.
 The process prescribed by Parliament does not exist in a vacuum or for its own ends. The words of cl 6(2)(c) are plain and unequivocal in stipulating that the process adopted must require “the body to take into account the views of mataawaka when choosing the representatives”. The process exists for the substantive purpose of ensuring that the selection body actually takes account of mataawaka views: otherwise, it may rhetorically be asked, what is the rationale for mandating a process requiring mataawaka views to be taken into account if, ultimately, they are not?
Harrison J also heard the MRRA appeal and his ruling gives some hope that he and his fellow judges of the High Court and the District Court may view the KDC cases in the same light.
After all, to paraphrase Harrison J's question, what is the point of Parliament deciding that local authorities must take certain steps to protect ratepayers' interests, and mandating those obligations in the relevant legislation, if local authorities are free to ignore them at will?
As a footnote, this case was heard on 15 September 2015 and the decision was released on 19 October 2015, just over a month later. It is now over three months since the KDC appeal was heard and still no sign of a decision.
The District Court case against the Rogans was heard in June, and, again, no sign of any decision.
FOCUS CHANGES TACK 11.11.2015
In several posts I have remarked how the Mangawhai Focus has recently abandoned it obsequious fawning to the commissioners, and has finally presented its readers with some balance when reporting on the conflict between the government imposed commissioners and ratepayers of the district.
In a recent post (Scroll down to SOME HEADS BEST LEFT IN THE SAND) I responded to a letter to the Focus from Dr Greenwood, one of the commissioners' appointees on the new EcoCare Ponzi Scheme advisory panel, who laid into the MRRA without any understanding of the facts of the situation.
As I noted, many ratepayers were incensed at his comments, and this week's edition of the Focus includes some of the responses from those ratepayers. They can be viewed here.
It is very easy to believe that Honest John had fulfilled his mission to subjugate the ratepayers in Kaipara, and force them to pay the hapless KDC's illegal debt. After all he has the unlimited coffers of ratepayers' monies to spend, and he has the resources of this henchmen in government and his cohorts, the banks. He has also had, until recently, total control of the press, which is a fundamental requirement for all dictatorships.
Many people may have been forced to submit to his exercise of power, but they did so unwillingly. There is a huge groundswell of ratepayers who accept that the debt is illegal, that ratepayers should not pay it, that the commissioners have been instrumental in letting the guilty parties off the hook, and that they are in power solely ot protect the best interests of the banks.
While we are occupied by force, with democracy and good governance denied to us, we have little choice; but our time will come. John Key cannot deprive Kaipara of democracy beyond October 2016, and, when he does deign to allow us our basic democratic rights, the books will finally be opened and the truth will at last see the light of day.
Hopefully, before then, if we are blessed with a favourable wind, the courts of justice may respond to our pleas to uphold the rule of law, and declare that local authorities are subject to the rule of law like everyone else, and that they cannot be excused from legal compliance because of administrative inconvenience or because it would not sit well with the government's scheme of things.
SCARE TACTICS AND SECRECY IN RODNEY 06.11.2015
We have seen it all before. When there is an important issue to be decided, local councils protect their vested interests with lashings of smoke and mirrors, and openness and transparency are bundled up and consigned to the cupboard.
With the Local Government Commission suitably chastised by the recent High Court decision, Auckland City is now fighting a rearguard action to try and stop North Rodney from seceding from the Super City.
According to Mahurangi Matters, a report from the Auckland City has been presented to the Rodney Local Board and threatens higher rates and indiscriminate development as consequences of a NAG proposal to set-up a standalone Unitary Council in north Rodney.
Whilst undoubtedly there are negative sides to any secession, Auckland City, which is completely dominated by big business, is scarcely going to let one of its golden geese flee the coop without a bitter fight.
Sadly, it appears that the Rodney Local Board is considering the report behind closed doors.
THE KAIPARA DISEASE 06.11.2015
The Kaipara disease is alive and well, even in Afghanistan.
Big business throughout the world concentrates on finding essential services that it can take over and extract every bit of profit that it can, whilst being protected by governments that slavishly turn a blind eye to such profiteering.
In New Zealand successive governments refused to coral a reckless Kaipara council that allowed commercial interests to rort the people of the district with the result being a $58 million white elephant of a sewerage system that cost in excess of $58 million (no one knows the true figure) and only services 1700 properties.
The NZ Herald quotes a Washington Post report that in Afghanistan the US government built a CNG filling station that would normally cost about US$360,000, but in this instance cost US$43 million.
The US Special Inspector General - a belated government-appointed watchdog - reported:
• The project was "gratuitous and extreme" - and possibly criminal.
• Had "several troubling aspects", including US$30 million in overhead costs, and the lack of a feasibility study before the project began.
• The Pentagon essentially shut down when pressed about the programme, saying: "One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defence claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome."
• The department responsible, the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFSBO), has closed and so the Pentagon said it couldn't comment on its activities.
All of those comments resonate with Kaipara ratepayers.
The policy behind the project was clear. The gas station was intended to help Afghanistan curb its dependence on foreign petroleum products and take advantage of domestic energy.
However, as with Kaipara's EcoCare, the experts fudged all the figures and financial models. Investigators found that Afghanistan does not have the natural gas transmission infrastructure to support a "viable market" for cars that used compressed natural gas.
And, as in Kaipara, no one ever considered whether the local residents could afford such expenditure. The cost of converting gasoline-powered cars to run on natural gas "may be prohibitive for the average Afghan". The cost of converting a car is about US$700 while the average annual income in Afghanistan is US$690.
The investigators summary stated:
"In sum, it is not clear why [TFBSO] believed the CNG filling station should be undertaken."
The only difference between the Afghanistan rort and the Kaipara rort is that the US government was happy to foot the bill for its folly in the desert. Whilst in New Zealand the National government has absolved itself from its clear liability for the Kaipara debacle and is moving heaven and earth to ensure that the innocent ratepayers are dumped with the bill for government incompetence.
SOME HEADS BEST LEFT IN THE SAND 27.10 2015
Those who have narrow views, shun a broad view of their subject, and keep their heads firmly planted in the sand, would be well-advised to keep their heads well and truly buried. If they extract their heads and raise them above the parapet then they are likely to get them shot off.
The latest edition of the Mangawhai Focus has a letter from Dr Ian Greenwood who was one of the team hand-picked by Honest John to front the second version of the EcoCare Ponzi scheme.
Despite his academic qualifications Dr Greenwood impressed few with his approach to the task and allowed himself to be hog-tied by terms of reference which allowed no objectivity and consideration of the past, no broad consideration of alternative methods of waste disposal, and which prevented the team from considering the cost of the options that they were directed towards.
In his Focus letter Dr Greenwood abandons his "I know nothing of the past" approach and suddenly becomes an expert on the history of the MRRA and the KDC's less than friendly engagement.
He criticises a letter in the previous edition of the Focus from Bruce Rogan, chair of the MRRA, explaining some aspects of the legal process against the KDC, including the claim for damages.
Dr Greenwood immediately adopts the view that any penalty or damages, if imposed by the Court of Appeal, would be paid by all the ratepayers of the district, which means that the MRRA is getting a windfall at the expense of other ratepayers.
Like all of those who adhere slavishly to the view of the government and its appointed commissioners, Dr Greenwood completely dismisses the incompetence, the negligence and the sheer illegality of those responsible for the debacle because they are all gone or soon to go.
Those councillors, CEO and other staff involved in the original MCWWS decisions are no longer with KDC, and the Commissioners only have a matter of months left on their contracts, so the only people remaining who will be taught a lesson through any form of deterrent/punitive payment are the remaining ratepayers of the district who are not MRRA members.
It is quite amazing how people with the obvious intelligence of Dr Greenwood can draw a line on the past and act as if it never happened. One wonders if he would be so ready to act in that way if he himself had been the direct victim of a shoddy builder who had ripped him off or a lawyer who had misappropriated funds held on his behalf.
He is very selective on what he choses to opine.
He overlooks the fact that his mates, the commissioners, are dumping the whole of the EcoCare debt (that services a plant in Mangawhai with a mere1700 connections) on every ratepayer in Kaipara. So the residents of Dargaville, Ruawai etc are footing the bill for the Mangawhai waste..
Is he not concerned that that debt was taken out on the strict basis that only those connected were to repay the debt, and now the commissioners are placing that burden on every man woman and child in the district?
The Mangawhai endowment fund should have been invested by the council. Instead it was used to fund heaven knows what and has completely disappeared. The annual interest that accrues does not come from interest earned (because zero accrues zero interest) but the" deemed" interest is funded by every ratepayer in the district through rates.
If the fund were to be reinstated - it is not- then it would have to come from the rates paid by all the ratepayers in the district.
The list of illegalities and injustices is endless but Dr Greenwood is only focused on attacking the MRRA and exonerating his political allies. He is.not interested in the past and is eager to ensure that all those who are truly guilty are exonerated.
Perhaps he should examine more closely the roles paid by the witless councillors who allowed themselves to be duped into secretly approving the doubling of the size of the EcoCare plant and the EcoCare loan, and naively believed that it could be funded by a handful of ratepayers connected to the scheme,
He should look at the part played by the chief executive, the contractors, the project managers, the lawyers who all knew that what they were doing was unlawful, financially reckless, and in breach of the KDC's own treasury policies.
He should examine the role played by ABN Amro and the "arrangement" that it put together to breach the laws of New Zealand and suck monies out of the gullible people of Kaipara.
And, while he's at it, he should look at the role of the government that put utterly incompetent watchdogs in place; that not only allowed but endorsed the illegal Kaipara rort; that refused to take any action when ratepayers clamoured for some action against persistent illegalities; that whitewashed all the illegalities once they were proved, whilst allowing all the offenders to slip away into the shadows; and, in a final act of malevolence, dumped the whole debt and vindictive penalties on whistle-blowing ratepayers, to teach them a lesson.
Many ratepayers are incensed by Dr Greenwood's letter and he might be advised to plant his head where it functions better, back in the sand.
A MUST-READ FROM THE PROF 27.10.2015
Prof Worzel has excelled himself in his latest post in the Mangawhai Focus.
He sees Honest John as a great fiction writer based on his regular Focus column because he never mentions the fact that Kaipara is being rorted by the banks.
This is what he has to say:
While everyone complains about foreigners buying farms and excessive immigration, the guys really robbing the district (and country) to the capital equivalent of one large farm per annum don’t even live here. They sit in offices abroad, simply manufacturing debt for suckers like the KDC. It is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on this district.
The Prof is right. Honest John waxes smoothly and eloquently about the improvement in the KDC systems, about the need to provide services, and fix the roads, but steers well clear of the stark, clear reality that each resident and ratepayer in Kaipara has been forced to guarantee a massive illegal, secret loan that was frittered away on enriching the local government trough feeders.
Personal frugality means nothing. Working hard to get rid of one's own mortgage s irrelevant because the KDC has an unwritten mortgage over every property in Kaipara, and, when Kaipara is allowed to join the Local Government Funding Agency, that implicit mortgage will oblige each Kaipara property owner to guarantee the loans of Auckland, Wellington and all the other councils in NZ.
The Prof signs off with this nice summary:
Fortunately I found out early that bankers are but pawnbrokers of a more anonymous less scrupulous type, and insurance companies are merely bookmakers betting on statistical certainties but who are loath to pay out when they occasionally lose. Raised in more prudent times when the ethic was ‘If you cant afford it, don't buy it,’ I have long been free of the Debt Dragon, only to find that the KDC have illegally and in secret applied this death grip to all it's ratepayers. I invite them to inspect the $52 million loan agreement documents with the now defunct ABN Amro Bank. They will not find my signature on them.
That last sentence is the nub of the MRRA's legal argument.
If a council wants to act illegally and incur a secret debt that is outside its capacity, in breach of the law, outside its limits of borrowing, and totally contrary to the legal requirement to act prudently, and if the law decrees that, despite the illegalities, the council is legally bound by its bizarre and reckless behaviour, then so be it. But, as the Prof says. there are no ratepayers signatures on the loan agreements. The council must deal with the debt on its own.
It is a fundamental principle of law that all agreements, including loan agreements, are only binding and enforceable between the signatories. They cannot bind third parties unless they are a party to the agreement.
The only way that ratepayers can be forced to pay a loan of the council is if the council has the legal power to set a rate to meet the obligations under the loan.
Normally that is no problem, but in this instance the High Court has declared the loan agreements to be unlawful, and the purpose of the loan to be unlawful, And the law is quite clear, a council does not have the legal power to set a rate for an unlawful purpose.
So, is the KDC to face the debt on its own, or are ratepayers going to be dumped with liability by some obscure interpretation of the law?
That is the dilemma facing the Court of Appeal.
ANOTHER CONSPIRACY THEORY 24.10.2015
Another conspiracy theory has been doing the rounds of the legal profession. The MRRA's legal counsel, Matthew Palmer QC, was suddenly elevated to the bench as a High Court Judge with extreme alacrity, having been appointed a QC in only June last year. (Scroll down for previous article.)
The rumour is that his meteoric rise has some political overtones. In Friday's (23 October) NZ Herald an article in The Insider lends weight to the speculation.
The appointment of Wellington Queen's Counsel Matthew Palmer as a High Court Judge is no real surprise; many observers half suspected that Palmer would have become Solicitor-General. Cynical members of the bar say an appointment had to be made sooner rather than later, as Palmer had become a real thorn in the Government's side - most recently by leading the Official Information Act request case against Tim Grosser and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The article does not mention the Ports of Auckland case, the Basin Reserve case and others where Mathew Palmer won significant victories that have run contrary to John Key's vision of New Zealand as he believes it should be.
And, of course the Herald does not mention the MRRA judicial review which Matthew Palmer argued in August before the Court of Appeal, and where he laid down a challenge to the New Zealand justice system to either adhere to the rule of law or, effectively, allow local authorities to thumb their noses at legal obligations.
This is the biggie of them all because it has the potential effect of turning over the local government apple-cart throughout New Zealand.
The government is fully aware of the danger of the case and the nightmare of Matthew Palmer having the opportunity to present his arguments to the Supreme Court has been avoided by Palmer's elevation to the bench.
However, the battle to bring the rule of law back to Kaipara will continue unabated. After all, although we have lost our champion, it is the legal principles that we stand for that will win the day when justice finally prevails.
The other point is that "thorns in the side" at the bar do not necessarily change their approach when elevated to the bench.
MRRA'S COUNSEL ELEVATED TO THE BENCH 17.10.2015
The Attorney General Christopher Finlayson announced yesterday that Matthew Palmer QC has been appointed a Judge of the High Court.
The announcement can be seen here.
Justice Palmer will sit in Auckland.
HIGH COURT DECLARES GROSER ACTED UNLAWFULLY 14.10.2015
The High Court has ruled that Trade Minister Tim Groser acted unlawfully in declining the Official Information request of law professor Jane Kelsey and others in respect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Herald report can be seen here, and the comments of Jane Kelsey here.
Another Minister caught breaking the law
Jane Kelsey comments:
The judge's statement that 'the Act plays a significant role in New Zealand's constitutional and democratic arrangements' and its meaning and purpose must be fully honoured by those to whom it applies, is a clear rebuke to the Minister. It also sends a clear message to the government more generally that the growing unaccountability of Executive power is not acceptable in a democracy.
Those of us in Kaipara will be fully aware of the complete abuse of Executive power in relation to all the illegalities perpetrated by the Kaipara District Council and the protection afforded to the previous council and the current commissioners by an Executive that is bent on protecting the financial interests of the banks and big business whilst bending the rule of law to suit its purposes.
However, Jane Kelsey states that "the unaccountability of Executive power is not acceptable in a democracy". In a democracy? We have to remember that here in Kaipara we don't even have a democracy. That was taken away from us by John Key, and was replaced, effectively, by a dictatorship that forces the ratepayers to pay the illegal rates and illegal debts of a disreputable council.
The Sunday Herald article by Rodney Hide, referred to by Jane Kelsey, can be seen in all its glory here. The new Man of the People accentuates the weakness of his arguments by launching into an over-the-top attack on Jane Kelsey and her politics. He lifts himself to lofty intellectual heights by adding rather fatuously:
Well, the deal has now been agreed. And miracle of miracles, the sun still shines.
What an amazing insightful observation. Nature is not affected by the machinations of men.
Coincidentally, the sun also continues to shine in every country ruled by tyrants. It also continues to shine in Kaipara and in Magical Mangawhai in spite of the financial destruction visited on them as a result of Rodney Hide's total failure as Minister of Local Government to act on the warnings of ratepayers and stem the illegalities and incompetence of the Kaipara Council.
The shining of the sun is consistent and something we can rely on, even though we are bowed down with illegal debt. Democracy, the rule of law, justice and fairness are all fragile creatures that can diisappear in the twinkling of an eye, .
WHITHER KAIPARA GOES, AUCKLAND FOLLOWS 12.10.2015
Those who wield the power in local government seem absolutely determined to spend up large and fill the pockets of their mates in big business whilst ratepayers are being burdened with debts that are so extreme that they are becoming a farce.
One might have thought that the Kaipara fiasco (see figures in earlier posts) might have sounded warning-bells throughout the sector, but the money to be made out of the local government trough is too great for the greedies to resist.
With the watchdogs sleeping the sleep of the dead, with the blessing of their Paliamentary masters, ratepayers throughout New Zealand are being plundered and indebted to an extent that is quite unbelievable.
In what we believe to be corruption-free New Zealand, we look askance at countries with imbedded corruption and the "tithing" or "taxing" of individuals and businesses by financial terrorists like the Mafia. Little do we realise that what is happening in New Zealand is far worse because it affects every man woman and child, it is done with blessing of the government, and it is enforced by the law of the land.
Take a look at the Ratepayers' Briefing from the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance and absorb some of the figures. The amount of indebtedness is terrifying and that is nothing to what is in the pipeline.
Those living out of Auckland may be thankful that they are not faced with such debt. That is a problem for Jafas to face and it serves them right for electing a guy like Brown.
But, hold on to your horses. Most local authorities in New Zealand are now members of the Local Government Funding Agency (LGFA). What this means is that the debt of every member council is cross-guaranteed by all the other member councils. So all member councils guarantee Auckland's debt and the debts of every other member council.
But it is more sinister than that. The government takes the view, as we have seen in its intervention in our court cases, that ratepayers are responsible for all the debts of their council regardless of compliance with the law or whether the rates were set for an illegal purpose, or the council acted recklessly. That means that ratepayers are not only obliged to pay their own council debts, but also, because of the cross guarantee, they are also obliged to pay all the debts of all the councils in the LGFA.
This is serious stuff. If the rates are not paid then court proceedings can be issued and ratepayers may lose their homes.
New Zealanders do not realise that, by the mere fact of owning a property, they are effectively granting a mortgage over that property which entitles the NZFA to recover from them personally a share of the debt of every council in New Zealand.
This has all been put in place in the last couple of years. The big blow-out is inevitable. It is coming, it is just a question of when. And when it does come the banks will be adding penalty interest to the debt as it all spirals out of control. The poor old ratepayers will be left holding the baby while all those responsible for the debt will be free of any liability.
The only good news is for Kaipara residents is that the the KDC is so impoverished and carrying so much debt that it is not allowed into the LGFA Club. That means that we do not have to pay Auckland's bills as well as our own. Small mercies.
The other good thing is that the MRRA/ Rogan court cases may turn the whole apple-cart over, and bring some responsibility back into local government and shaft home the liability where it belongs, firmly on the shoulders of the perpetrators.
Kaipara is a warning to the whole of New Zealand, but no one is heeding the warning.
See Auckland Ratpyers Alliance website here.
FUDGING THE DEBT 10.10.2015
Honest John is at it again in his Mangawhai Focus column, Your questions answered.
The secret of being a successful snake-oil salesman is that you never let the punters ask the questions. You always ask the questions that relate to your spin and give them the answers that you want them to hear.
Honest John has been doing the rounds telling local business people in Mangawhai how good he is and how the debt is reducing, and he is churning out the same old, same old in his Focus column.
The problem with the "debt" is that it starts with a lie. Honest John will not admit to the real debt of his council. He only counts external debt, that is debt owed to banks. He does not count debt owed to ratepayers.
No one knows the amount of that debt but we know that it includes the Mangawhai Endowment fund investments, the reserve funds, depreciation funds and quite sizeable amounts that were paid by ratepayer for specific purposes (flooding etc) and were all held in trust by the KDC.
They have all gone. Spent by a profligate council on heaven knows what and they only survived as paper entries, as debts owing to ratepayers.
According to Honest John they are not real debts, and he is right in that local authorities, under accountancy procedures that would land company directors in prison, are allowed to use ratepayers' monies held in trust for other purposes, provided they have the wherewithal to pay them back.
The KDC was not so subtle. It simply stole the money. It used it to line the pockets of the rorters and rip-off merchants, and has never had the wherewithal to pay it back, or the intention of pying it back..
But no need. Honest John and his crew decided to wipe the slate clean and get rid of all the paper entries. All the stolen trust monies have been, or are going to be, terminated. The debts are going to be expunged by simple book entries.
Not a bad way of reducing debt. You select the people you owe money to who are completely disenfranchised and beaten into submission and simply tell them that you are not going to repay their debt. Hey Presto! The snake oil has vanished $20 million of liabilities.
INCREASING THE RATES
In his Focus blurb Honest John provides a chart that shows the so-called reducing debt and the rates charged. The interesting point is that for the three years from 2012 to 2015 the chart shows that rates increased from $18.7 million to $27.8 million which is close on a 50% increase. It works out at a yearly increase of over 16 per cent. No Hey Presto about that. No magical new systems, no great technological efficiencies, as suggested. Just slugging the ratepayers even harder.
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT DEBT?
How does the $26.2 million of debt allocated to future development come into this? The commissioners cannot even pay the interest on it, so most of the interest is being capitalised. Where is that shown in the accounts?
And how is that debt to be repaid? All the financial assumptions say that it is to be repaid by development contributions on future developments. But they will not be there and, even if they are, they will be used to fund plant extensions, new methods of disposal and reticulation, not to repay existing debt
The auditor put a warning on the accounts that if this assumption does not materialise then the ratepayers would have to pay through increased rates. So, get ready to be slugged again.
Honest john says that the commissioners capped the debt on their appointment. How true is that?
Let's go back to when the EcoCare loan was taken out.
According to the 2006/2016 LTP the pre EcoCare debt was $9.45 million which, given a population of 18,250 at the time, gave a debt per resident of $518. [Isn't that amazing. If only we could turn back time.]
In taking on the EcoCare debt the KDC was governed by its Treasury Policies on borrowing set out in the LTP. The Council's core debt (payable by all ratepayers) was not allowed to exceed more than half the operating income. So the income to debt ratio was 2:1.
The projected operating income in 2005/2006 amounted to $29.235 million of which $11.329 million was rates.
The maximum amount of debt that the KDC could take on was therefore $14.6 million. It already had debt of $9.45 million so that it could only borrow a further sum of just over $5 million.
So, how did it get round that problem? By a device called segmented debt whereby it could borrow outside the normal ratio if a debt was for a specific project and the debt was full self-performing. That meant that all the costs of the project, interest, capital repayments, maintenance, servicing etc were covered by the targeted rates paid by the users of the system.
The problem was that all the figures on which the calculations were based (prepared by a top accountancy firm) were not only top secret but turned out to be fantasy land stuff. The figures were unachievable but, in any case, the conditions and criteria of segmented debts, set out in detail in the LTP, and which were supposed to be rigidly applied, were completely ignored by the KDC. [Where was the auditor?]
The segmented EcoCare debt never met the conditions and criteria of a segmented debt and therefore defaulted into the core debt category and became subject to the income to debt ratio.
The final acknowledged debt ended up at around $80 million, which was about five and a half times more than the permitted debt.
When the commissioners arrived on the scene, like spiders full of spin, they did what is common practice in local government and simply moved the goalposts. They introduced a new income to debt ratio that fitted with the reality and launched a charm campaign to tell ratepayers that the crippling debt was quite normal and "manageable". They are still at it.
"WE ARE NO LONGER A COT CASE"
Honest John claims that the cot case finances are now behind us and that the "debt carried by the KDC is not out of line when compared to many other Councils".
Larry Mitchells League Table showing council debt always showed Kaipara sitting at the bottom of the table.
In an recent article I compared Hastings' "high" debt with that of Whangarei and Kaipara. Here is a chart that sets it our clearly.
Council Debt Population Debt per capita
Hastings $55 million 70,000 $785
Whangarei $156 million 84,000 $1,900
Kaipara $76 million 19,000 $4,000
$96 million (true) 19,000 $5,052.
The startling thing is that in 2005/2006 the Kaipara debt was $9.45 million and the Mangawhai Endowment fund and all the reserve funds etc were all intact.
As a result of the EcoCare debacle the debt blew out by a further $67 million dollars in ten years and all the funds held in trust disappeared.
All for a lemon of a sewerage system that cannot do what it was supposed to do.
That is the burden that has been placed on every man woman and child in the whole of Kaipara to provide a sewerage system for 1700 properties in Mangawhai.
FOCUS GETS FOCUS 10.10.2015
The Mangawhai Focus is still allowing Honest John to use the newspaper as a propaganda sheet but there are signs that it has finally grasped that all is not well in the government-imposed Kaipara dictatorship.
The latest editon contains over a page and half of letters to the editor opposing the commissioners. Christian Simon has his say about the alternative sewerage systems and advises of an information meeting on eco-sanitation in early January 2016.
Both Alan Preston and Anthony Roberts voice their concerns over the commissioners rule, and Bruce Rogan puts into context the MRRA's claim for damages in the High Court.
A NEW APPROACH TO FIRE FIGHTING 09.10.2015
The Mangawhai Focus leads in the latest issue with Burning issues threaten brigade which recounts the problems faced by the dysfunctional Mangawhai Fire Brigade. It appears that because of internal strife in the local brigade there is not enough fire-fighters to man the fire trucks for a large part of the week.
Again, we hear of the refusal of Wellington to front up to the problem and a so-called "independent" inquiry that is nothing of the sort.
The NZ Fire Service has a lot to answer for. It pressed for the inclusion of the optional Fire Service Code of Practice in the Kaipara District Plan, to which our witless council agreed. As a consequence we are now seeing Magical Mangawhai being transformed into a tank farm with dedicated water tanks solely for firefighting dominating each new residence that is built.
Yet another enduring legacy of Honest John and his crew.
The irony is that we are destroying the beauty of Mangawhai to provide water to put out fires, but .......... there is not enough manpower to man the fire trucks.
Fighting the Wellington juggernauts whether Fire Service or Local Government is like pissing in the wind, and that is what we might have to resort to if we want to put our fires out.
Mangawhai Fire Fighter
See also Letters to the Editor scroll down to Brigade bullying
THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE DO TURN - BUT SLOWLY 09.10.2015
All is very quiet on the courtly front.
No word from the District Court about the KDC v Rogan case, and nothing from the Court of Appeal in respect of the MRRA v KDC appeal.
The High court Whangarei has finally set a fixture for the Rogan and MRRA v KDC judicial review. This is the note from the Registrar:
Further to the direction of Justice Thomas by her minute dated 23 September 2015, please be advised that the above matter has been scheduled for a three-day substantive hearing commencing at 10am on 9th May 2016 at the Whangarei High Court.
HERALD SLAMS PENNY BRIGHT - UNFAIRLY 09.10.2015
Those of us battling the forces of unlawfulness and incompetence have long wondered why the mainstream press has never taken up our cause or even understood it what it is all about.
All the judges faced with our claims have been highly aware that the claims against the KDC and the commissioners involve some of the most important issues relating to the rule of law and democratic rights that have become before the courts in New Zealand.
But not the press.
The New Zealand Herald has scarcely given our fight a mention and a recent editorial on Penny Bright goes some way in explaining why.
The Herald editorial of 2 October that slammed Penny Bright - Bright's free ride has cost us enough - was slanted and unfair and oozed attitude, and clearly suggested that the Herald had no room for rate "bludgers", no matter how justified they are.
The Herald's piece appears to have been founded on the premise that ratepayers have an absolute obligation to pay rates. It expressed infantile indignation at the refusal of one woman to pay "her fair share", and, of more concern, it avoided any consideration of any legal non-compliance on the part of the council, whilst denigrating Penny Bright on a personal level at some length.
Up here in Mangawhai we know a fair bit about rates. We know that under the Local Government Act there is no binding obligation to pay rates unless the council in question complies with its statutory obligations to consult in advance with ratepayers on the details of the rates.
We also know that Parliament laid down with some deliberate precision in the Local Government (Rating) Act the documentation and information that must be delivered to a ratepayer before the obligation to pay rates is triggered.
The Herald seems oblivious to the fact that a council must perform its statutory obligations to the letter of the law before it can take the moral and legal high ground and insist on payment of rates.
In Kaipara we have been bedevilled for years with a council and commissioners who have acted incompetently and outside the law and have persecuted ratepayers who are totally within their rights to withhold rates because, quite simply, they are unlawful.
The Herald needs to take a step back, stop picking on an easy target, enquire into the real issues surrounding unlawful rating in New Zealand, and present to its reader an informed, balanced, insightful series of articles on how rating practices throughout New Zealand are unlawful and how most councils are thumbing their noses at the rule of law.
THE FLAG DEBATE 01.10.2015
It is worth reading Guy Steward's article on the flag debate, the symbolism behind the flag, and the reasons why John Key is pressing for a change.
A MONSTROUS MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE? 30.09.2015
Many will have read the article on Penny Bright in today's Herald and the massive legal bills that the Auckland City has incurred pursuing her for arrears of rates.
Penny tends to polarise. To some she is a folk-hero espousing the interests of a fair and just society, and to others she is a no-hoper who should "get a life" and pay her dues.
The reality is that she has discovered the Achilles heel of local government, and all the whitewash from the Council, the defamatory put-downs, and all the legal pressure they are putting on her, is not going to alter that fact.
All local authorities in New Zealand have the legal right to charge rates but only if, and I repeat only if, they comply with the requirements of the LGA in respect of consultation and only if they comply with the LGRA in respect of rating processes and rating documents.
Unlike taxes which are levied by statutes that are unconditionally binding on all citizens, rates are only binding if they comply with the law.
Local government in New Zealand has long suffered from a chronic case of ADOTROL* disease (see below for the meaning) which has caused it to adopt procedures and documentation that are lazy, slovenly and simply fail to comply with the law. That means that most of the rates set by local authorities are unlawful.
That does not, of course, trouble the government as it has little concern for the rule of law, but if the MRRA or Penny Bright manage to get the District Court, the High Court, or the Court of Appeal to make a stand on compliance with the law, then the cat will certainly be amongst the pigeons opening Pandora's Box (if I can mix my metaphors.)
If Penny Bright and the MRRA are right then all of the rates set by most councils over many years will be in jeopardy. Those of us involved at the mine-face can see one almighty validating bill being rushed through Parliament to remedy the flouting of the law by local authorities, because, after all, that is the standard and only cure for ADOTROL in the eyes of the government.
But spare a moment for Charlotte Marsh who last month lost her house in Manurewa in a court ordered sale for non-payment of rates (see here). Everyone has presumed that the rates were valid and no doubt the ratepayer did not have the wherewithal to employ competent lawyers to present her case. But what if the rates turn out to be invalid and the order for sale had no legal basis?
No doubt the big red carpet will come out and there will be a lot of sweeping thereunder. But there will be a big bump in the carpet that will simply not go away. It will have Miscarriage of Justice stamped all over it.
Local Government fixing the rating problem
SECRETS AND MORE SECRETS 30.09.2015
Alexandra Newlove’s article in the Northern Advocate reported Whangarei councillor Stuart Bell’s criticism of public–excluded workshops.
"I don't agree with having to make decisions on behalf of our community when, because an issue has been deemed confidential, the discussion I can have with the community on it is somewhat limited."
Bruce Rogan of the MRRA responded to the article with the following letter to the editor:
Alexandra Newlove draws readers’ attention (21 September issue) to the amount of business being conducted by Whangarei Council behind closed doors.
It is a timely warning that the district’s ratepayers ought to heed.
The fiscal and human catastrophe that is the Kaipara District Council was caused almost entirely by conducting business in secret.
The Government-appointed commissioners still do most of their business behind closed doors, because they know the level of outrage they would face if the public knew what their reasoning processes really are.
Once a council embarks on a pathway that excludes the voters who put them there, the end result is both grim and utterly predictable. Public exclusion exhibits all the characteristics of cancer. Once it takes hold, it consumes the entire body.
One of the changes that we want to see to Local Government legislation is removal of the right for councils to conduct any of their business away from public scrutiny.
Almost all of the excuses advanced by councils to justify holding discussions in secret are lame at best, and more often than not they exude the stench of corruption.
It’s very simple: if they aren’t able to do things behind peoples’ backs there will never be a need to keep any secrets.
If by not having secret meetings they are prevented from bad-mouthing ratepayers, from striking sweetheart deals with preferred providers, borrowing money illegally, and from agreeing to redundancy packages for employees who should really have gone to jail, so much the better.
It would also prevent councils from keeping the legal advice they receive (paid for by ratepayers) from public view. They might be a little less keen to commit illegal acts if everyone knew before they did so that that was the path they were on.
We all need to remember that the EcoCare project ballooned out of control because of the secrecy that surrounded that project. The Chief Executive conspired with those promoting the scheme to keep everything secret from the ratepayers. Even councillors were denied access to documents and vital information that was necessary to enable them to make competent decisions.
But this was not an isolated instance. Local, Government in New Zealand is fundamentally flawed in that the elected representatives have virtually no power. Behind the facade of democracy you will find an undertaking that is run by unelected people for the benefit of big business. The power exercised by these people is almost limitless, with a lame-dog watch-dog in the Audtor-General (endorsed by her Parliamentary masters), and a government that turns a blind eye to blatant breaches of the law.
Our Local Government watchdog
AND EVEN MORE SECRETS 30.09.2015
How is that when someone goes into central government or local government their individual ethical standards become compromised and they adopt the party line or appropriate political line? Respect for the principles of law or fair play, or common sense for that matter, fly out of the window.
We have seen it in successive Ministers of Local Government who chose to ignore the blatant illegalities of the KDC, and tacitly gave Jack McKerchar and Neil Tiller the stamp of approval for their reckless plunder of Kaipara ratepayers.
The current Minister, the people's champion, the "Westie", Paula Bennett, showing her consummate poitical skills, has duck-shoved responsibility for the Kaipara Curse to the Associate Minister Louise Upston. Louise Upston has placed her head deeply in the sand, abandoned any considerations of justice and the rule of law, and has become cheerleader for the dreadful and dictatorial commissioners who are continuing to thumb their collective nose at legal compliance,
But the ADOTROL* disease is endemic throughout the Beehive. Justice Minister Amy Adams has a severe case of the disease if the NZ Lawyer is correct. An article in that magazine claims that the Minister has refused to disclose details of why the costs of renovating Dunedin's historic courthouse have leapt from $2.5 million to $15 million. Barrister Anne Stevens has slammed the secrecy saying that “scrutiny of decision-making underpins a democracy”. she added:
“[President of Zimbabwe Robert] Mugabe doesn't have an Official Information Act. You can't have accountability without transparency.”Construction, engineering and heritage experts had all slammed the $15 million price tag, she said.
“The fact is all the experts that we've had look at it say that cost has to be out of this world.”
The article also states that Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC, former prime minister and public law expert, backed up Stevens’ concerns and agreed they needed to be assessed by the Ombudsman.
“It seems to me that the minister's decision needs to be challenged,” he told The Otago Times, especially since transparency was “of great value in public affairs”.
For those of us in Kaipara, we have seen it all before. The massive cost blow-out, the secrecy, the cover up, the failure to comply with the law. The failure of government ministers to do their public duty. As Yogi Berra used to say:: "It's deja vu all over again."
*ADOTROL disease: Arrogant Disregard Of The Rule Of Law
Interestingly, while Paula Bennett dumped the Kaipara file on to Louise Upston, Finance Minister Bill English dumped the Lochinver file on to his Associate Minister - guess who? - Paula Bennett. It's the National Party's version of Pass the Parcel, or more appropriately, Pass the Hot Potato. (see Fran O'Sullivan in the NZ Herald: "Odd that Lochinver deal left up to junior".
AND YET EVEN MORE SECRETS 30.09.2015
This time it is Trade Minister Tim Groser who has been struck down with a bad atack of ADITROL. He dismissed an Official Information Act request for more information on the effects of the TPPA and law professor Jan Kelsey and other organisations have filed an application in the High Court for a declaratory judgment setting out the obligations of the government under the OI Act. See Pattrick Smellie's article.
Matthew Palmer QC, the lawyer for the MRRA and son of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, is acting for the applicants.
HONEST JOHN'S GLOSS 26.09.2015
Honest John is back with more spin in the Mangawhai Focus. He paints a cosy picture of a council performing its duties and applying rates to public services including roads and footpaths. parks and reserves and on emergency services. He expresses the desire to keep rates down.
There is no mention of the utter debacle where the KDC fleeced the ratepayers of many tens of millions through the EcoCare rort which enriched all of those who touched it and left the ratepayers to fund a masssive and illegal debt.
He does not mention that that debt will be an albatross around the necks of Kaipara residents for generations to come and that the council cannot even afford to meet the interest payments on the debt.
He stays very quiet about the fact that the KDC has stolen all of the Mangawhai Endowment Fund and other funds and reserves contributed by ratepayers. When Honest John quits Kaipara the cupboards will be completely bare.
He doesn't mention how the commissioners refused to consult with ratepayers on the illegal rates and how they pushed a validation bill through Parliament that is so inept the Judges in the Court of Appeal openly mocked it.
He keeps mum about the fact that the EcoCare scheme and the EcoCare loan agreements have all been declared illegal and yet each year he and his fellow commissioners set rates for an illegal purpose and do not bother to comply with the law in drafting the rates assessment notices and the rates invoices.
Many ratepayers will be fooled, but those who take the trouble to read the following post and understand the magnitude of the Kaipara debt will realise how Honest John and his crew are destroying Kaipara and denying it the opportunity to stand up to the banks and the government and refuse to accept a debt that was incurred by the negligence, the incompetence and the greed of others.
THE BIGGEST DEBT OF ALL 26.09.2015
In the article by Frank Newman (see below) he notes:
During the (Hawkes Bay) amalgamation debate, a key reason against amalgamation was that ratepayers living outside of the Hastings District Council area did not want to be lumbered with their "high" $55 million debt.
He then goes on to point out:
Interestingly, the Whangarei District Council with a population of 84,000 is not much larger than Hastings (population 70,000), but at $156 million its debt is almost three times higher than that of Hastings on a per capital basis - $785 compared with $1,900. That shows how seriously indebted the Whangarei District Council is.
But hang on. If those two councils are lumbered with “high” debts then what about Kaipara?
The debts of Whangarei and Hastings are true debts which consist of external debts and internal debts. Internal debts are where the council has filched ratepayers monies that have been supposedly set aside for other purposes and have to be repaid.
Honest John will not reveal Kaipara’s true debt. The acknowledged debt is around $76 million but there is an unknown amount that was stolen from various monies held in trust which is hidden somewhere behind the smokescreen that has emanated from the Council’s offices.
The Mangawhai Endowment Fund – held on trust by the Council for the people of Mangawhai - disappeared without trace during the heady days when Kaipara was plundered by all and sundry. No one knows where it went. All we know is that the money has long gone even though the commissioners persist with the fiction that it is still there (as a paper entry).
Likewise, all the reserve funds, depreciation funds and many other funds contributed by ratepayers for various specific purposes have all been gobbled up by the Council and no longer exist.
If all of these funds were to be reinstated then it might well add a further $20 million to the KDC’s debt. That means that the true debt could be as high as $96 million.
So how does that compare with the highly indebted Hastings and Whangarei?
Hastings with a population of 70,000 has a debt of $55 million which is $785 per capita. Whangarei has a population of 84,000 and a debt of $156 million - $1,900 per capita.
And the winner is ……….Kaipara. By a country mile. Its population is slightly under 19,000. With a debt of $96 million the per capita amount is $5,052.63. Based on the acknowledged debt of $76 million the per capita amount is still $4,000. That is more than twice the debt of Whangarei and over 5 times the debt of “highly” indebted Hastings.
Bear in mind that the per capita amount is for every man woman and child in Kaipara.
It is even worse than that. The EcoCare debt accounts for $58.8 million of the total KDC debt. The missing $20m million should be added to that debt as it disappeared somewhere down the EcoCare gurgler.
EcoCare proceeded on the basis that the whole EcoCare debt was to be a segmented debt. This elaborate device was invented to avoid the strict borrowing to income ratio and allowed debts that were “self-supporting” to be excluded from the ratio. Self-supporting meant that the income from those who used the system – through rates and charges – was sufficient to meet all the outgoings on the project. This meant interest, capital repayments, maintenance, operation costs etc. Other ratepayers in the district were assured that they would never have to contribute to the debt.
The whole thing was a rort from start to finish. How could a thousand or so users ever support a debt of the original $35 million plus operating costs etc? And how could they support the final debt of $58.8 million, or $78.8 million depending on your point of view?
Of course the Council and its advisers fudged all the figures and invented all sorts of scenarios to justify them.
However, despite all the promises that the project would service 4,500 connections, the reality is that the 2015/2025 LTP shows that in January 2015 - some 10 years after the original projections and 9 years after the increased projections - there were just over 1,700 actual connections to the scheme. The commissioners have also made it clear that the scheme has virtually come to an end and no more connections can be made without a new disposal method and more capital investment in reticulation.
The commissioners have long reneged on the segmented debt promise. It has been consigned to the broken promises/misrepresentations bin and never mentioned again. But if it were to be reinstated, and Larry Mitchell, the KDC adviser on the matter at the time, insisted that it be set in legal concrete, then 1700 properties would be bearing the full costs of running EcoCare and repaying the EcoCare debt of $58.8 million, or $78.8 million. That is $34,588.24 or $46,352.94 per connection for the debt, plus the interest, plus the maintenance and running costs.
The commissioners are desperately trying to salvage the Mangawhai white elephant. They are committing another $2.7 million to immediate works and will then need another bottomless pit of monies to try and turn a lemon into a soufflé. The propaganda machine is in top gear with the so-called Advisory Panel, hog-tied by its terms of reference and its attitudes, scarcely getting its head out of the sand and looking at the reality of the situation.
The ratepayers of the district need to look long and hard at the facts and the figures. They simply do not work and they will never work because the debt is too large for the people of the district, because the debt has been declared by the High Court to be illegal, and because EcoCare is a lemon and always will be.
Honest John has got a year to go, on paper at least. His aim is to stitch ratepayers up before be goes and leave behind an everlasting debt that will cripple Kaipara for decades to come. Ratepayers have to look at the figures, to take note of the level of their indebtedness, and make some very brave decisions about whether they are going to be taken for a very expensive ride, or whether they are going to draw a very firm line in the sand and say “enough is enough”.
FRANK NEWMAN ON AMALGAMATION 25.09.2015
Take a look at Frank Newman's article on the Hawkes Bay coffin-nailer for Super-Cities.
He makes the following comment:
Rousing people usually requires the relentless commitment of conscientious and committed individuals who are prepared to sacrifice their time, and usually their money, for the cause. Fortunately there are such people in the Hawke's Bay. They did a good job countering the misinformation put out by the Yule lead group and the LGC.
Compare that with Kaipara. We have an imposed dictatorship put in place by, and supported by, the government, that is dedicated to acting in the best interests of the government and the banks. It has access to a bottomless pit of money - the rates - which it is free to use to stymie ratepayers' legal challenges, and to create an almost impenetrable wall of propaganda.
The article goes on to say:
I have no doubt that had the LGC persisted with its amalgamation agenda for Northand, that too would have been defeated, and by an equal if not greater margin than was the case in the Hawke's Bay.
True, because each ratepayer would be given a vote. However,at present we are forced to endure the dictatorship thrust upon us because John Key's government has denied us our democratic rights whilst at the same time it compels us to pay our local taxes.
Hawkes Bay may be lauded as a victory for democracy but in Kaipara that means nothing. We have no democracy. It has been deferred for another year. And the chances of it being restored next year are minimal. John Key cannot afford to let the people of Kaipara have their say on what happens to the illegal debt. They might tell him where to shove it.
BENDING THE RULE OF LAW 25.09.2015
The government has been caught bending the rules again. It has been revealed that Work and Income has been underpaying beneficiaries since 1998 by delaying payment of benefit after a stand down by one day later than the date of entitlement.
Note that this is a blatant failure to comply with the law of the land. What the government has done is unlawful and beneficiaries are legally entitled to the monies they are owed
The amount owing could run into millions but Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has downplayed the amount the mistake could cost the Government in unpaid benefits, and said it would not be a “huge amount”.
However, the government is introducing retrospective legislation to change the law so that it does not have to pay the underpayment. The Minister advised that the amendment to the law would line up with what was happening in practice.
I suggest that you read the last sentence again.
The Minister advised that the amendment to the law would line up with what was happening in practice.
What it means is that if this government gets it wrong and fails to meet its clear legal obligations, it simply retrospectively changes the law to tie in with what it has done.
Legal compliance means absolutely nothing. The Key government simply moves the goal posts.
That is of concern, but, perhaps more importantly than that, National is not at all squeamish about its contempt for compliance with the law and observing the rule of law. Political convenience and cost are the ONLY considerations.
Would John Key and Anne Tolley carry on like that in their own personal life? If they regularly exceed the speed limit and are finally given a ticket would they press Parliament to change retroactively change the speed limit so that it was in line with what was happening in practice.
And what happens when the boot is on the other foot?
Say, for instance, if the government makes an OVERpayment. Would it apply the same reasoning as it does to underpayments?
It turns out that the Novopay debacle more than 2000 teachers were allegedly overpaid because of defects in the system. Most have repaid the overpayment but now the government is looking to sue those who have not repaid the overpayment.
No suggestion of retrospectively changing the law in line with what happened in practice
HAWKES BAY SHATTERS DREAMS OF KEY AND BENNETT 18.09.2015
John Key’s dream of local government in New Zealand consists of a few unitary authorities effectively run by, and for the benefit of, big business, with a thin veneer of democracy in the guise of ratepayer elected councillors who have absolutely no say in what goes on, together with ratepayers footing the bill for all the debts of councils irrespective of whether they are compliant with the law or financially prudent.
But that dream is slowly crumbling. The unitary authority scheme, which the supposedly independent Local Government Commission (LGC) under the abrasive Basil Morrison unashamedly tried to force on New Zealand, has taken another mortal blow with Hawke’s Bay’s rejection of amalgamation into a unitary authority.
The abrasive Basil Morrison
That follows quickly on the heels of the LGC announcing that it would not pursue amalgamations in Northland or Wellington.
Hawkes Bay Today reports the response of Local Government Minister, Paula Bennett:
In reaction Local Government Minister Paula Bennett said Hawke’s Bay residents’ decision to keep their current local government structures shows the value of letting communities decide.
“I have consistently said that it is up for communities to decide what they want local democracy to look like in their towns and cities,” Mrs Bennett says.
“No matter what the structure is, New Zealanders’ expectations of local government are quite clear. They want their local leaders to focus on promoting strong regional growth, spending ratepayers’ money wisely, and provide outstanding customer service."
None of which, of course, applies to Kaipara. Where is “the value of letting communities decide" evident in Kaipara? And why can other council districts have the choice of what local democracy looks like when poor old Kaipara is denied any democracy at all. Thanks to Paula Bennett.
The people of Kaipara and the people of New Zealand need to recognise that Paula Bennett has betrayed the cause of democracy in Kaipara. She is possibly an heir apparent to John Key and much of her popularity rests on the perception of her being a “Westie” with a grounded, honest approach to life. That is the image that she strives hard to maintain. She showed her political nous by side-stepping the poisoned chalice of Kaipara by dumping it on to her Associate Minister Louise Upston.
Louise Upston is doing the dirty work for Paula Bennett and imposing the sort of democracy on Kaipara that many totalitarian states would be proud of.
What we need to remember is that Louis Upston is a puppet whose strings are pulled by Paula Bennett. Upston has taken on the role as Cheerleader for Honest John. She is a bit like one of the courtiers in the Emperor’s New Clothes fairy tale extolling the virtues of the fine livery that the emperor is supposed to be wearing.
Well, isn't he wise, isn't he fair! Look at his charm beyond compare!
Our Honest John is all together
But all together, he's all together
The most remarkable commissioner that I have ever seen
(With apologies to Danny Kaye)
But it is back in Wellington that Paula Bennett is making the decisions. She is fully aware that the Kaipara debacle came about because of the failure of the Key government (including successive Ministers of Local Government and John Key himself) to heed clear evidence that was presented to them again and again by concerned ratepayers that the KDC was persistently flouting the law and was out of control.
That is absolutely undeniable, but truth will never get in the way of politics. Paula Bennett will do everything within her power to ensure that the ratepayers of Kaipara are shafted and forced to pay the the whole of the illegal EcoCare debt. And, until that deal is stitched up, she is going to deny the people of the district any smidgen of democracy.
"It is up for communities to decide what they want local democracy to look like in their towns and cities."
But not in Kaipara!
LOCAL GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION SCAM 14.09.2015
Tonight, Monday night (14 September 2015), 9pm on Face ( access ) TV. Sky network channel 83
NZ's MASSIVE Local Government Corruption Scam, Paradigm Episode 2
Bruce Rogan (Mangawhai Ratepayers) and Penny Bright interviewed by Vinny Eastwood.on council corruption in New Zealand.
See the promo video here.
See Bruce Rogan's rates revolt speech here.
ECOCARE (PONZI SCHEME) MARK 2 14.09.2015
After months of unadulterated propaganda put out by the Mangawhai Focus relating to the future of EcoCare and the Commissioners' hand-picked panel, it has finally added some balance with a letter from Christian Simon slating the proposals. He ends with the comment:
Dear Commissioners, I strongly advise you not to use the final report of the Advisory Panel as an ongoing consultation process to prefix mandatory connections. When there is no proper reason for mandatory connection, not moneywise and not for the environment, then it would be a crime to do so. Don’t promote a last century technology and nail the community to this, imposing more debt only to create another playground for consultants and corporations. You can be sure that this would create your next court case. This time the ratepayer will not wait till the millions have disappeared.
COURT OF APPEAL 14.09.2015
Kaipara Lifestyler: See Paul Campbell's excellent article here
Mangawhai Focus: Some surprisingly balanced reflections on the future of Kaipara in Ed Said - What future for Kaipara? See also the Focus' summary of the Court of Appeal hearing under Rates appeal hearing well fought. Again, a fairly balanced view except for the opening comment:
Following an earlier decision in the High Court which found in favour of the Kaipara District Council......
We need to remember that the High Court found:
1. That the decisions to enter into EcoCare and the loan agreements, and the project contract and the loan agreements themselves, were all illegal.
2. That the Validation Act breached the NZBORA rights of ratepayers by denying them the right to judicial review.
However, the High Court went on to find that the loan agreements were enfoceable against the council (not disputed) which entitled the council to set rates for an illegal purpose to meet its lawful commitments (disputed).
The High Court also held that the limitation of the rights of the ratepayers was manifestly justifiable (disputed). Effectively this meant that the rights of ratepayers had to bow to the "general good".
Those last two issues are the basis of the appeal.
COURT OF APPEAL 28.08.2015
From: GRAHAM MACKENZIE
Congratulations to the MRRA and Clive Boonham for an outstanding court case. I like many of our community sat respectively through the hearing.
The issues are very clear, is it reasonable to expect our local and national government to act within the law.
The Kaipara District Council acted unlawfully some 66 occasions leading to a catastrophic debt which can never be repaid. The unelected Commissioners have acted without competence thus adding the problems. The MRRAs case is compelling.
We await the Judges' judgment and a negotiated settlement.
COURT OF APPEAL 28.08.2015
The first cab of the rank to report on the Court of Apeal hearing in Wellington was town planner Joel Cayford, who was once on the executive of the MRRA. His detailed comments on the hearing can be found here.
See also: John Weekes at NZ Herald
COURT OF APPEAL - LEGAL EAGLE COMMENTS 28.08.2015
Legal Eagle's comments on the Court of Appeal hearing can be seen here,
WHO WAS THE LONELY MAN IN WELLINGTON? 28.08.2018
Those of us who attended the Court of Appeal in Wellington had a good time. We have fought this battle for justice for a long time and, finally, we had our day (or two) in court. The people of Kaipara need to take a bow for fighting the battle for so long and for putting their trust in the MRRA and its legal team in its quest to bring the rule of law back to Kaipara. There was some wonderful camaraderie forged out of a shared and just commitment.
However there was one solitary, lonely man who appeared to have lost his way and tumbled into court by accident. He was ever-smiling and tried desperately to engage with others, but without success. He seemed terribly lonely and only managed to engage with the legal counsel for the KDC.
It must have been a salutory lesson for Honest John to see so many MRRA supporters in Wellington and in the Court in Auckland and realise that the MRRA and its supporters have not lost their way. His ears must have glowed when the incompetence of the KDC was recited at length by the court, with pained, unbelieving expressions from the judges. And he knows that it is not just the previous council that made an art form of incompetence and illegality, because the Commissioners have carried on in the same tradition. Even the Validation Bill drafted by the commissioners and their legal team raised the eyebrows of the judges because of its glaring incompetence. The rating documentation vetted in detail by the commissioners highly paid legal advisers has proved to be almost as bad and legally non-compliant as the previous council's. Another major court battle looms. With all that, and the bank yapping at the door, these are not good times to be a commissioner and it would have been a lonely few days for Honest John in Wellington. But I am sure while he was there he could have gained some succour from his two foremost cheerleaders, Louise Upston and Lynn Provost in Wellington. In their eyes Honest John can do no wrong.
BRUCE ROGAN ON MIKE HOSKING 28.08.2015
Hear Bruce Rogan on Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB
ABUSE OF LGOIMA PROCEDURE 28.08.2015
The abuse of legal requirements by Honest John and his crew continues unabated with a refusal to comply with a LGOIMA request (Official Information) to provide a copy of legal advice.
Bruce and Heather were a test case in the District Court in respect of the numerous legal proceedings that the commissioners have filed against good, honest citizens of the district who have refused to pay their rates on the basis that their rates invoices and rates assessment notices do not comply with the law in many respects.
Those invoices and assessments were vetted in detail by the KDC’s solicitors who overlooked simple failures to comply with the obligatory requirements of the LGRA.
Late last year we had Honest John and his crew thumbing their collective nose at the KDC’s policy on penalties remission, and on the decision–making processes in the LGA when they made a predetermined decision to remit certain penalties as a sop to Parliament, even though such an action was outside the ambit of the KDC’s own policy on penalties remission.
They advised that they had a legal opinion on the matter, but refused to say whether that advice supported their decision, and they refused to provide a copy of that opinion following a LGOIMA request by Legal Eagle.
Local authorities use the claim of legal privilege to prevent any legal opinions seeing fresh air. That way they can pretend that the opinion justifies the action that they have taken when in fact the opinion may in fact advise that the action is unlawful.
We have to remember that lawyers are hired guns and act in the best interests of their clients. In this case, their clients are the commissioners and their lawyers give advice solely on the basis of instructions received. A legal opinion will therefore be tailored towards the desired outcome.
In Jack McKerchar’s days I obtained copies of the KDC legal opinions which, in most instances, he kept secret from not only the ratepayers but also the councillors. At times there was one opinion for publication to rebuff ratepayers’ claims, and then another for Jack himself with the real advice.
On one occasion Jack McKerchar advised the councillors that a legal opinion from the KDC’s solicitors had confirmed that his documents were legally correct and that Legal Eagle’s allegation of non-compliance were ill-founded. A letter to the firm involved soon confirmed that they had not given such advice and had never seen the KDC’s documents.
If the commissioners had nothing to hide, and a genuine legal opinion could help resolve the situation, then it would be foolish to hide it away, but one can take it virtually as read that the commissioners have a massive amount to hide.
In this particular instance I sought a copy of the legal advice received earlier this year in respect of the legality of “oldest debts first” policy included in rates assessment notice and rates invoices, and a copy of the annual legal review for the rates notices which had been issued, and which gave them a clean bill of health. That is, despite oodles of fundamental defects.
Both applications have been declined.
I am not sure who Honest John uses for legal advice and who is responsible for the annual legal review but I can give him some free advice, and which is not privileged: Whoever gave the rates notices a clean bill of health, does not know what they are talking about and should be fired. If fees were paid for such advice then the commissioners should be demanding a refund of ratepayers’ money.
But one good thing came out of the wood-work. The letter declining the LGOIMA request was actually signed by the Chief Executive, Jill McPherson. This is one of the first occasions when she has “fronted” and put her name to a letter. Perhaps there has been a shift. We were all numbed by the total disregard that the commissioners showed for legal process when they put up Alison Puchaux, a recent employee, as a witness in the District Court and she was unable to answer most questions in cross examination because of her limited experience. It was a hot seat to occupy, and it is a seat that the Chief Executive should have occupied, earning her salary and defending the actions of her council.
HANNAH ARENDT AWARD 28.08.2015
Those who did not attend the presentation to Bruce and Heath Rogan last Saturday missed a treat. Christian and Ulla Simon put on a splendid evening to highlight the contribution of Bruce and Heather towards the fight for democracy. There were displays, speeches, good food and refreshments and some convivial conversation. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the address of guest speaker Chris Sellars - Prof Worzel of the Mangawhai Focus - who presented some amusing but thought-provoking comments. But, in the true tradition of Kaipara, even he denied us the democratic vote. He told the audience that he was going to give them the choice of a short poem or long poem to round off his address, but that he had decided on the long one. We were all pleased he did. It was a bit of Banjo Patterson, a bit of Sam Hunt, and a lot of Chris Sellars. It was delightful.
It was heart-warming to see such a large crowd of staunch people who had come from all over the district, and some from Auckland to show their appreciation for, and their solidarity with the Rogans and the MRRA in their fight for fairness and democracy. It was reiterated time and time again that it was not the MRRA that had "lost its way" in its pursuit of fairness, justice and democracy but the three autocrats who forcibly govern Kaipara with the purpose of protecting the interests of the banks and those in local government and do not give a jot about the people of the district.
Regardless of what happens in court, ratepayers in the district and all over New Zealand are beginning to realise that local government in New Zealand is a flash-back to feudal times where those with the power are free to do whatever they like without any effective legal controls or requirements of prudence or legality, and the peasants at the bottom of the pile are compelled by the law to pick up the bills.
BRUCE AND HEATHER ROGAN TO BE HONOURED 22.08.2015
Don't forget this evening:
Mangawhai Library Hall from 5 p.m. on Saturday the 22nd of August 2015.
Bruce and Heather Rogan to be awarded the Hannah Arendt Award for their work in defence of justice and democracy.
BUS TO COURT 22.08.2015
For those who want to go to the Court of Appeal in Auckland by bus to see a live video of the Wellington Court of Appeal hearing, see the details below from the MRRA.
Final details for Bus to Court.
Bus leaves The Club (Molesworth Drive) at Mangawhai at 7:45am, Tuesday morning and approximately eight minutes later from somewhere around the Smashed Pipi.
More the merrier
There will be spare seats, so if you know anyone who wants to go to Auckland for the day for shopping or sightseeing, or to use their Gold Card, they can do it for $25.00 return. They just have to show up.
If you want to be picked up ring Barbara on 4314420 and tell her exactly where you will be. The bus is stopping to pick up a passenger at Hatfields Beach, but it could pick others up along the route..
LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE 18.08.2015
We have the venues in Wellington and Auckland (see below). We have the judges: Harrison J, Miller J, and Cooper J.
The legal submissions have been filed by the MRRA, the KDC and the Crown.
David Goddard QC, Matthew Palmer QC, and Paul Rishworth QC are all ready to give it their best shot.
Honest John may put all sorts of spin on this court case and the motives of the MRRA in an attempt to justify his own conduct, and whitewash his incompetence, but it is perhaps one of the most important cases relating to the rights of ratepayers to come before the courts in this country.
The simple question is whether a local authority can flout the law, ignore its legal obligations, and set a rate to meet an unlawful activity. (The decision to proceed with EcoCare has already been declared to be illegal by the High Court.)
COURT OF APPEAL WELLINGTON, 25 AND 26 AUGUST 2015 18.08.2015
This information is from the Court of Appeal:
We will make sufficient seating available in Courtroom 2 at the Court of Appeal, Corner of Molesworth and Aitken Streets, Wellington.
If it assists, as changes can sometimes occur for a variety of reasons at the last minute, I will let you know immediately. Also, your members can check the Court of Appeal daily list from approximately 4pm on the day prior at: http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/business/calendar/daily-lists
This list is also displayed in our Court foyer. If a change did unexpectedly become necessary, it would be to the High Court which is only two buildings away from this Court.
The Court calls the case at 10:00am in the morning. The Courtroom will be opened at 9:40am to allow everyone time to be seated well in advance of 10:00am. We adjourn for 15 minutes at approximately 11.30am, and the lunch adjournment is from 1pm-2.15pm. We finish at 4:00pm.
Courtroom 2 is on level one of this building. There is a public lift to that level. The toilets are on the ground floor, to the left of the glass dome.
I note some Court protocol for information. Entry and exit to the Courtroom should be avoided (where possible) when the judges are speaking, but is fine when the lawyers are speaking. Only water is allowed in the courtroom (no food or other drink), and no note-taking is permissible in the public gallery without seeking permission from the Court Registrar (who will seek permission from the bench). No hats, tidy dress etc. which I'm sure your members will be aware of.
The Auckland courtroom, being used to view the hearing, technically becomes part of the public gallery, so the same protocol applies to those observing in Auckland.
I hope this assists. (Signed Fiona McDonald, Registrar)
COURT OF APPEAL, AUCKLAND 25 AND 26 AUGUST 2015 18.08.2015
Update from Bruce Rogan of the the MRRA - Court of Appeal 25-26 August 2015
Confirming the good news, we CAN have the Auckland Court of Appeal hearing centre. The court will arrange for the video feed and there will be no charge to us.
Please consider your availability to attend these sessions, and please, if you are based in Auckland, invite your friends to come along and watch. What happens here is relevant to everyone who pays rates in New Zealand (but especially Aucklanders!).
There are now enough people to justify it, so we will organise a bus to go from Mangawhai in the morning and bring everyone back at night. This will remove the need for people to take their cars and find parking. You will get dropped off at the door of the court, and picked up from there for the return. Will someone please volunteer to be bus monitor. I won’t be here (in Wellington), and John Bull is going to be staying in Auckland for those days. (phone me on 02108180162 please)
The court has given precise information about where the Auckland event will take place. The sitting times are 10.00am until 4.00pm. The court sometimes extends its sitting hours if it deems necessary.
For those making their own way to the hearing here is the information you need:
Level 11(eleven) , 280 Queen Street. Unichem sign indicates you are at the right address. Smith and Caughey are across the road. Take escalator to level 2 then go to the lifts behind the marble wall. You can also enter 280 Queen St from Lorne St. Opposite Khartoum Place. Salad bar called Revive to left of the stairs. If you enter from Lorne street you are already at level 2.
If you have not already done so please reply if you will take advantage of the bus from Mangawhai. Please simply say BUS and number of seats required. If you have non-email friends who would like to use the bus can you please send us details on their behalf.
BRUCE AND HEATHER ROGAN TO BE HONOURED 18.08.2015
This message comes from the MRRA
Notice of Meeting.
Mangawhai Library Hall from 5 p.m. on Saturday the 22nd of August 2015..
Over recent years the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association have maintained a relentless and well organised campaign seeking justice on behalf of our community.
Their efforts have been and continue to be stymied, from the highest levels, by organisations such as the Office of the Auditor General, by Parliament, and by Ministers of Local Government whose real responsibility it is to uphold and enforce the laws that were designed to protect us, but who have instead twisted those laws into weapons to attack the community. In this they have been aided and abetted by a complicit local media, and even by elements within our own community.
The German Philosopher Hannah Arendt observed that it is the inaction of otherwise good people that creates the environment in which abuses that would ordinarily be unacceptable are committed and tolerated.
Her studies into the dynamics of power and the human condition were interrupted when the Nazis took over German Universities in 1933 and she was forced to flee to New York where she continued her work until her death in 1974.
The Hannah Arendt Prize is awarded to those doing substantial work in defence of justice and democracy.
In the spirit of this award we would like to honour the efforts of the Chairman of the MRRA Bruce Rogan and his wife Heather to show our gratitude at a gathering to be held at the Library Hall this coming Saturday at 5.00pm. Nibbles and refreshments will be served.
Everyone is welcome, and we hope it is a time to put our differences aside while we take an hour to recognise that our democracy is precious above all personal and parochial considerations.
There will be a few short speeches, and anyone who would like to address the meeting will be invited to do so, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions about the up-coming court proceedings next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hon Sec MRRA
Please reply to: email@example.com
MINISTERIAL LA LA LAND 04.08.15
Some readers are seriously troubled at Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston's gushing loyalty to her new "bestie", Honest John. She is reported in the Mangawhai Focus and the Kaipara Lifestyler for her lavish praise for the competence of Honest John and his team and the widespread support from ratepayers.
We have seen it all before. That it is how politics works. We have seen how Serco was awarded and "exceptional" commendation for its running of Mt Eden - just before the proverbial hit the fan. Everyone knew about the corruption in FIFA and yet all the officials covered it up.
Those of us who have been battling the Kaipara disease for many years remember referring legal submissions on the persistent and outrageous illegalities of the KDC to the Auditor-General. She imperiously swept them aside even though every allegation subsequently proved to be absolutely correct. One got the distinct impression that the OAG - the so-called watchdog of local government - did not care about the illegalities, and that its employees did not even have a basic grasp of the law relating to rates.
We now read the column of Rodney Hide in the Sunday Herald where he is the voice of common sense and fair play, But many of us will remember him as the Minister of Local Government who ignored endless complaints and legal submissions, who turned a blind eye to Kaipara's illegalities, and gave the Mckerchar/Tiller Council a free-hand to to plunder the ratepayers of the district.
He is one of the reasons that the government should be putting its hand in its pocket to pay for its part in the debacle.
Louise Upston, Rodney Hide, and all the others who played the role of Minister and mouthed the words that others wrote. They are mere pawns in the game of politics. They do as their masters tell them.
And talking of pawns, one has to look at the role of the the local newspapers who publish press releases on highly contentious local matters as factual articles. Where is the balance? Where is the integrity?.
BENEATH THE SURFACE 04.08.15
Honest John, Chair of Commissioners, has his own column in the Kaipara Lifestyler where he churns out his self-justifying propaganda. He calls it Beneath the Surface, which is an odd name for somone who boasts of his integrity, transparency and good governance. It sounds very murky, secret and out of sight.
Given his predeliction for pursuing ratepayers through their banks or through the courts, one can see him as a Great White Shark circulating beneath the waves ready to snap up a stray ratepayer.
In the latest edition under Court Updates he advises that the Council is "still tied up in Court proceedings related to matters of history". That of course, is not strictly correct. He uses the word historic to refer to the illegal rates set by the previous Council and which were supposedly validated by the Validation Act. He likes to maintain that since he and his mates arrived in October 2012 everything has been kosher and above board and that all the rates set by the Commissioners have been legal.
The Rogan defence team pointed out in the recent District Court case that all the rates invoices and rates assessment notices issued by the Commissioners for the last three years are invalid. And, if the Court agrees, the setting and assessing of their rates are also unlawful.
The adding of penalties to the rates arrears of both the KDC and the NRC are also in breach of the Rating Act.
The KDC acknowledged in the District Court, after receipt of a legal opinion, that its "oldest debts first" policy was illegal. Regardless of that it still included the policy in its rates invoices. However, the KDC maintains that it has now fixed the illegality and a legal compliance review has confirmed that the current rates notices are legally compliant.
Legal Eagle has made an Official Information request for copies of the legal opinion and the the legal compliance review. It will be interesting to see if Honest John breaks the surface and openly and honestly shares the real facts with ratepayers, or whether the truth is left well-hidden Below the Surface.
CROWN INTERVENES IN COURT OF APPEAL 30.07.15
Clearly there is some consternation in the Beehive in respect of the MRRA Court of Appeal case which is due to be heard in less than four weeks.
The Crown through the Attorney–General sought leave to intervene in the proceedings just a week or so before the MRRA was due to file a copy of its pleadings.
The “Crown’ is not of course the Queen but the government in power, John Key’s National Party. Clearly the government is concerned that the MRRA may be successful in its appeal and is bringing up the big guns in a last ditch attempt to sway the Court.
The government is being represented by Paul Rishworth QC, a highly respected academic who was called to the inner bar and specialises in Administative Law.
The KDC, naturally, did not oppose the application to intervene. The MRRA left the matter to the discretion of the Court itself after pointing out the delay in intervening, the tightness of the two day schedule, and the extra costs involved for a ratepayer group.
In its decision the Court of Appeal held:
 We think that intervention is warranted here. The Attorney is not interested in all of the issues that may arise on the appeal, but those listed above are matters of high principle. We think the Court is likely to benefit, as the High Court evidently did, from the Crown’s perspective notwithstanding the expertise of leading counsel for the parties, and intervention can be permitted on terms that should add little, if anything, to the appellant’s burden.
The outcome is:
The Attorney may appear by counsel at the hearing, but will be called upon only if the Court wishes to hear from counsel and there is time available;
This case is of massive importance for citizens of the is country as it pits the limitless power of Parliament against the rights of individual New Zealanders enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA).
Parliament passed legislation validating the illegal EcoCare rates whilst the MRRA was before the High Court challenging the validity of those rates. Heath J held in the High Court that Parliament breached the rights of ratepayers under NZBORA, but that it was a justifiable exception to the right. Justifiable exceptions are allowed where the benefit to society outweighs individual rights.
The MRRA is challenging that justifiable exception finding and wants a declaration that Parliament breached the rights of the MRRA ratepayers.
So far no court in New Zealand has made such a declaration and the government no doubt has intervened in the case to try and persuade the Court not to issue such a declaration. It would not look good if John Key’s government was declared by the Court of Appeal to have breached the rights of New Zealand citizens.
However, Paul Heath has spoiled the party. In a decision last week in the High Court he declared that the government had breached the rights of prisoners by passing legislation denying them the right to vote. The case – Taylor and Ors v Attorney–General – can be seen on the Courts of NZ website. Scroll down to High Court judgments and click on the case name.
It is worth a read and includes all the legal argument that, perhaps, would have been appropriate in the MRRA v KDC in the High Court.
The MRRA case is one of the most important cases involving the rights of ratepayers in New Zealand to come before a higher court. The decision from the Court of Appeal is going to tell us whether the rights of ratepayers, supposedly protected by NZBORA, the LGA and the LGRA, are real or illusory, and whether local authorities in New Zealand are required to comply with the rule of law.
MANGAWHAI ENDOWMENT FUND'S DAYS ARE NUMBERED 29.07.15
The Bream Bay News reported in its edition of 23 July 2015 that it is inviting donations from those who want to contribute to a permanent legacy for the long term benefit of Waipu.
It’s a good job that Waipu is not part of Kaipara otherwise the endowment fund might go the same way as the Mangawhai Endowment Fund. That fund was supposedly held for the benefit of lands adjoining the Mangawhai Harbour. However, it was not invested separately and during the wild days of the McKerchar/Tiller regime disappeared down the financial gurgler along with countless other millions.
The Mangawhai Endowment Fund - now called the Mangawhai Endowment Lands Account (MELA) - is now a myth. A small amount is still held in properties but the rest is simply a book entry. Each year the commissioners go through a charade of allocating the interest to just causes. But there is no interest because the fund does not exist. Council simply pays what it calculates would be interest if the fund existed and takes the monies from rates paid across the district.
The commissioners treat the loan as an internal debt which means that it is not taken into account when calculating whether the Council is solvent or not. But if the debt, supposedly held on trust by the KDC, is to be repaid then it can only be repaid by raising an external debt, which all ratepayers will have to pay, interest and all.
In a report to the KDC from Linda Osborne of 30 June 2015 the position was stated as follows:
The MELA account is listed as a reserve in the accounts of Council. No cash fund exists
The report recommended that the present situation where the capital is protected, decided by ratepayers back in 2001, should be abandoned and replaced with the following:
Option B of spending all of the interest without protecting the capital would allow more funds to be available for community distribution. It would also allow Council to spend more effectively to reduce the capital and positively benefit Mangawhai.
Behind the weasel words, what is the purpose of this new approach? Whatever it is you can guarantee that it is not for the benefit of ratepayers. One can only presume that it is a way of running down the capital of the fund so that this embarrassing part of Kaipara’s history is finally expunged.
And remember that it is not the fund that is being run down because there is no fund to run down. Every payment that is made to ratepayers ostensibly from the “fund”, whether in the form of interest or capital, has to be paid by ratepayers throughout the whole district in rates, and then it is paid to the chosen few.
So who decides how the fund is to be spent. The Osborne report suggests that the commissioners have sole power:
Council is the legal holder of MELA and therefore has the jurisdiction to decide how it is spent, ensuring it is for the benefit of the Mangawhai community and/or environment.
You may argue, quite rightly, that the KDC are the trustees and may have the fund vested in them but they have a legal obligation to consult with beneficiaries, the ratepayers.
Now follow this carefully and see how the commissioners manipulate consultation to secure their own ends.
The report states:
Discussions have been held with the current MELA Committee who are also members of the Mangawhai community. The Committee have the delegation to allocate grants and are in agreement with Council’s alternative approach.
Let’s look at this comment closely as it sums up the dishonesty and the appalling governance of the commissioners.
The MELA committee, who are in agreement with the commissioner' approach, consists of:
Chair: John Robertson (Commissioner)
Members: Joanna Roberts, Alan Russek, Richard Booth (Commissioner)
Linda Osborne states that the current MELA committee are members of the Mangawhai community. Not true. Two members are but commissioners Richard Booth and John Robertson have nothing to do with Mangawhai.
The report states that the committee are in agreement with the Council’s approach. That it scarcely surprising when two of the members of the committee are commissioners, and the other two were appointed by the commissioners.
But what of the views of ratepayers?
As they are the recipients of MELA, the Mangawhai community may have strong opinions on how it is spent, especially if it affects the amount that local groups can access for funding purposes. Given there would be more funds available to allocate to the community it is thought they would view this decision as favourable.
So there is no intention to actually consult with ratepayers. All decisions are to be made by three unelected commissioners who consult with a committee of two of the unelected commissioners and two unelected ratepayers selected by the commissioners.
A resolution confirming the new approach was passed unanimously by commissioners Robertson and Booth at the June council meeting – no doubt wearing their hats as commissioners and not committee members. Commissioner Winder was absent attending the Rogan hearing in Whangarei.
Legal Eagle has presented his concerns about what he considers to be theft of the Mangawhai Endowment Fund to the Auditor-General. No doubt there will be the usual resounding silence.
Associate Minister Louise Upston, who heads Honest John Robertson’s Cheerleaders, is not so silent. She recently visited Kaipara and met with the MELA committee and other groups. She commented:
“I was impressed by the great work that these groups are doing in their communities using their creativity to help make each of their towns vibrant and inclusive places.”
What she did not do is ask the people of Mangawhai about the creative accounting that has led to the theft of their endowment fund and the complete failure of her favourite three smart boys to include ratepayers in any consultation process about the future of the fund.
URGENT MESSAGE FROM THE MRRA 28.07.15
Court of Appeal 25-26 August 2015
I have been in contact with the Court and discussed the widespread interest through our community in these proceedings.
We know of some of our members who are going to go to Wellington to be present at this important test of our democracy.
There is limited space for the public at the Court of Appeal, but the Court has offered to try to find a bigger venue to accommodate more observers, if required..
If you are going to go to Wellington for this hearing could you please let me know by return email so that we can get an accurate estimate of the numbers attending. Please let me know again even if you have already done so. Reply with the word WELLINGTON and the number attending. Do this today if you can please.
In addition, the Court has kindly offered to create a video link to the Whangarei court so that those who want to follow proceedings without incurring the cost of travelling all the way to Wellington can do so.
There is quite a lot of work involved in setting this up and the Court is anxious to know how many people would like to take advantage of this offer before committing resources to making the arrangements, and so that a suitable venue can be booked. Reply with the word WHANGAREI and the number attending. Do this today if you can, please.
If there are enough interested we will organise a bus again.
This case is of importance to every ratepayer in Kaipara, not just our membership, and it has implications for everyone who owns property, pays rates, or pays rates indirectly through rent, wherever they live in the country.
The Court will consider some fundamental questions that bear on our civil rights and the relationship between the bureaucracy and the people. I cannot guarantee the outcome, but I guarantee it will be among the most interesting two days you ever spend. Three of the most astute legal minds in our country will give their undivided attention to the arguments that you have made it possible to put before them. You deserve to be there and see it unfold.
I would like to record my appreciation to the Court for its willingness to assist people to attend this hearing.
Bruce Rogan, Chair MRRA.
Bruce Rogan can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org Please pass this message onto anyone you know who might be interested..
ANOTHER JUDICIAL REVIEW 28.07.15
The KDC and the NRC had little response to the Rogans' defence in the District Court that their rates invoices and rates assessment notices were legally non-compliant ant that the Rogans, therefore, had no legal obligation to pay the rates.
The two councils also struggled to justify the fact that that the NRC has failed to set its rates correctly, and unlawfully delegated the power to assess its rates to the KDC. If correct, which it appears to be, that makes the NRC rates completely invalid for those years.
The only argument that they could put forward was that regardless of such fundamental defects ratepayers were still obliged by section 60 of the LGRA to pay the rates unless they issued proceedings in the High Court.
Not being silly, following the case the Rogans, along with the MRRA, filed an application in the High Court for a judicial review of the KDC's and the NRC's rating decisions.
No reply has yet been received from either council but there will be some deep consultation with their legal advisers. The rating documents are riddled with legal errors and one has to wonder how the Commissioners themselves, with such broad experience in local government,and their top-notch legal advisers could make such a hash of things.
But no worries, Louise Upston still reckons the Commissioners are doing a great job . It's all a bit like Serco who were adjudged to be doing an exceptional job at Mt Eden.
OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS ILLEGAL 28.07.2015
Those who witnessed Alison Puchaux of the KDC giving evidence on in the District Court may recall her being cross- examined on the series of letters between her and the Rogans about the “oldest debt first” policy which the KDC has included in its rates invoices and rates assessment notices for the last couple of years.
The policy was introduced as part of the computer programme adopted by most councils and to put pressure on ratepayers to pay the arrears as well as the current instalment. It is all part of Local Government New Zealand’s policy of gouging as much as it can out of ratepayers.
Let’s make no bones about it, it is thoroughly illegal because it denies ratepayers the fundamental right, protected by the Rating Act, to pay the current instalment only by due date without incurring a penalty. Arrears do not have to be paid and no penalty is incurred if they are not paid.
Earlier this year, Bruce Rogan, a first-class tennis player in his time, served up what he thought was an ace. He advised the KDC that it had no legal authority to apply such a policy.
Alison Puchaux, the KDC Revenue Officer who has been delegated the odious task of suing ratepayers, volleyed the ball back with the statement that embodied the combined legal expertise of Robertson, Winder and Booth. She stated that the oldest debts first policy was a policy of the KDC and that “our statutory authority comes from the Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002”.
Not a bad return for a Council that makes an art form of ignoring just about every provision of those Acts.
The problem is that it is not a policy of the KDC and never has been. It is included in the rating documents without any legal authority. And, more than that, it cannot be a policy of the KDC because, rather than being authorised by that Act, it is directly contrary to the provisions of the Rating Act.
When Bruce Rogan replied with a volley to the corner, Alison Puchaux faltered and hit the ball into the net. She replied weakly that that “the policy was the common practice of in the local government sector and in other commercial organisations”. However, “in the circumstances” she advised that the KDC was prepared to accept the monies received in payment of the instalment.
In other words, the KDC backed down. No one could find out why the KDC backed down, what the “circumstances” were, or whether the suspension of the illegal policy was permanent.
In the District Court we found out what the true story was. In the witness box Alison Puchaux revealed that Honest John, besieged by the Rogans and many other ratepayers wanting a response to this issue, obtained a legal opinion and found out that, yet again, that he was waltzing in the wind of illegality. But instead of fronting it and admitting the error, yet again, he tried to bury it with local government double-speak and, true to form, left the offending policy in the subsequent rates invoices for the 2014/2015 rating year.
Even after the blatant illegality was exposed in the District Court in the Rogan case, including an acknowledgement from the KDC’s own solicitors that it was illegal, the policy is still included in the new rates assessment notice and rates invoice for the 2015/2016 year that have just been delivered. (It is under Arrears.)
So what goes? Is Honest John cocking a snook at the law and the courts? Does he think that with Louise Upston, Associate Minister, heading his Cheerleaders and endorsing his every move, that he is bullet-proof and beyond the law?
Whatever his motivation is, he is taking great risks as he steers the SS Kaipara into very murky waters. The inclusion of an illegal policy in the rates assessment notice and the rates invoice could render the documents invalid and the KDC would be forced to reissue them in compliance with the law.
ANOTHER ILLEGALITY BACKDOWN 28.07.15
Those who were at the Rogan hearing will also recall that Honest John backed down on the inclusion of legal fees for the recovery of rates arrears in rates invoices. This was another attempt to illegally gouge monies out of ratepayers.
There was a howl of objections from those billed and the KDC, after a quick referral to its solicitors reissued the invoices without the offending charges.
They were on very dangerous ground and no doubt their solicitors told them so. The Auckland City Case against Penny Bright failed in the District Court because that Council illegally tried to recover legal fees through its rates invoices.
PARLIAMENT RESCUES LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGAIN 22.07.2015
Many councils throughout New Zealand have stuffed up big time by not renewing bylaws that enabled the issue of speeding tickets. As a result many illegal tickets have been issued. To resolve the problem Parliament’s Chinese laundry worked overtime and in three hours went through all the stages of a validation bill and declared the illegal to be legal. Several thousand illegal speeding tickets were retrospectively validated. See the Stuff report and Herald reports.
The fault was discovered by the Kapiti Council and possibly affected up to 25 councils and possibly road controlling authorities, such as the NZ Transport Agency.
Yahoo News' Peter Wilson reports:
"This is to rectify a cock-up by this government and probably the last one as well," said NZ First's Denis O'Rourke.
"It's a case of just plain ineptitude - the old law didn't do what was required of it, people didn't follow the procedure under it, and now the government is trying to make new law out of bad old law."
Denis O'Rourke seems confident that this is tha last cock-up that Parilament will fix. If only. The Kaipara Validation Bill has turned out to be a testimony to legal incompetence with its shonky drafing. Likewise, the unlawful rating processes of Honest John and his team were highlighted in the recent Rogan District Court case and he will be begging his mates in Parliament to come to his rescue, yet again, with another Bill to gloss over his incompetence.
BASIL GETS THE BRUSH-OFF 03.07.2015
The decision of Local Government Minister Paula Bennett not to renew the tenure of Basil Morrison as a Local Government Commissioner (NZ Herald, Simon Hendery) has been warmly welcomed by many.
He was supposed to be the impartial chair of the LGC with the task of considering the views of ratepayers in respect of unitary authorities. However, with his imperious manner, he appeared to make no bones of the fact that he intended to impose unitary authorities on ratepayers whether they wanted them or not
As the article says:
In his role at the commission, he was criticised by some anti-amalgamation campaigners as an appointee of the pro-amalgamation National-led government, with a mandate to push through merger proposals.
This is how Rod Emmerson saw him in his heyday:
One of the most concerning things about John Key's regime is that impartiality and conflict of interest, the back-bones of a fair and just society, have largely been discarded. How was someone like Basil Morrison, who could not hide his glee at the prospect of imposing unitary authorities throughout the country, given a role that demanded impartiality?
It is on a par with the Auditor-General's "independent" inquiry into her own incompetence.
And how could John Key make that MP from somewhere north of Auckland, whose name we cannot mention, chair of the Parliamentary law and order select committee knowing the "family issues" that he was facing?
But, let's be thankful for small mercies. Basil has gone, and so has the spectre of a Northland Unitary Authority.
Who is next for the chopper?
Could it be someone in Dargaville who is spending ratepayers money on lawyers and legal actions like there is no tomorrow. Behind the silky words is a portfolio of underachievement and failure, and a local authority that he has led to the brink of financial ruin.
How long will it be before Paula Bennett tugs on his strings and moves him discreetly to his next junket.
KDC v ROGAN 03.07.2015
Honest John got his wish. He assembled his legal forces in Whangarei to deal a mortal blow to the rating rebels once and for all. He lined up his big guns. They fired, but all we saw was a puff of smoke.
For once it was a case of all smoke and no mirrors.
The two day battle in Whangarei was an interesting insight to justice in New Zealand. Heather and Bruce Rogan were on trial but the reality is that the rule of law was on trial and the justice system in New Zealand.
It did not start well with a packed court room of MRRA supporters and about 25 people excluded because of insufficient seating. An over-zealous security guard seemed to go out of his way to provoke trouble, but senior court staff intervened and with the consent of Judge de Ridder, allowed supporters to sit in the jury box. They had the best seats in the house.
Sadly, many others, who had come a long way and were involved in the stayed cases, were excluded.
I say that Heather and Bruce Rogan were on trial but if you read the Northern Advocate you would believe that in fact it was the Rogans (the nit-pickers) who had brought the action against the KDC.
The Northern Advocate's coverage of the hearing was quite unbelievable. Although their reporter sat in court for some time he got just about everything arse about kite.
We have been sadly let down by our local newspapers in the fight for justice in Kaipara. The incompetent reporting from the Advocate illustrates perfectly how local authorities can thumb their noses at legal compliance knowing that the fourth estate - the press - will never hold them to account.
This was a simple case of debt collecting. The Rogans had not paid their rates and the KDC were suing for the recovery of those rates.
However, as in all debt collecting cases, the KDC had to prove that the debt was due and payable. As this was not a contractual debt - an amount agreed by the parties - but a statutory debt arising our of charging a tax (rates) under the Rating Act, the KDC was obliged to prove that it had complied with statutory procedures.
Complying with the statutory procedures means delivering rates assessment notices and rates invoices that comply with the Rating Act.
When Parliament passed the Act it mandated that those documents must "clearly identity all" of a list of information, to satisfy one of the stipulated purposes of the Act, to help "ratepayers identify and understand their liability for rates".
Honest John and his crew clearly did not think that compliance was necessary because the rates assessment notices and the rates invoices issued by the KDC are riddled with incorrect information and much of the mandatory information is simply missing.
To use Honest John's own expression, both documents are a "dog's breakfast".
The KDC had no real answer to the non-compliance of its documents. It suggested that the Rogan's and other rate strikers were nit-pickers and that the information requirements, like the legal requirement to include the address of the NRC in the documents, were onerous and that the Rogan's could work them out for themselves.
The KDC's biggest gun was section 60 of the Rating Act which is both a draconian and unintelligible piece of legislation. It states that an "owner" must not refuse to pay rates on the grounds that the rates are invalid unless the person brings proceedings in the High Court.
The argument runs that even if the rates were patently invalid, the Rogans were not allowed to use the illegality as a defence because of section 60 ,and because they had not filed proceedings in the High Court. (The application for judicial review to the High Court, now before the Court of Appeal, does not count because that was filed by the MRRA and not the Rogans!)
The Rogans countered by stating that they were not attacking the validity of the rates themselves but the KDC's failure to comply with the statutory processes that created the liability to pay the rates. The Rating Act states quite clearly that the delivery of a rate invoice creates the liability to pay rates but it further stipulates that the rates invoice must include the statutory information. If the invoice is defective then there is no liability.
The KDC also tried to argue that the Validation Act validated just about everything. It did not. It only validated the specified rates, which are basically the EcoCare rates, and the intense scrutiny of the Rogan's legal team raised serious questions about whether the Validation Act actually validated anything.
In short, that argument by the KDC was a total fizzer.
The poor NRC came off worse. The NRC, to its credit, has played no part in the KDC's ruthless hounding of ratepayers but was, nevertheless, dragged into court.
The KDC sued the Rogans for arrears of rates but, quite astonishingly, failed to reveal to the court that some of those rates were NRC rates.
The Rogans put up the simple defence that the KDC had no legal power to sue on behalf of the NRC.
At first the KDC ignored this because they had believed that it did have the power to sue on behalf of the NRC. However, about 10 days prior to the trial it applied to the Court to have the NRC joined as a co-plaintiff.
In spite of the lateness and the prejudice to the Rogans, the Court, somewhat surprisingly, granted the application. The Rogans' legal team were therefore put under immense pressure to scrutinise the NRC rates.
It did not take long for the legal team to discover a rich seam of illegalities in the NRC rates. Not just procedural irregularities, but substantial failures to comply with the rating process that could render the NRC rates invalid.
The NRC counsel (the same as the KDC's) tried to gloss over the fundamental errors and argued, in any case, that section 60 applied and the Rogans could no plead the invalidity of the NRC rates without applying to the High Court.
Of course, the decision was reserved. Judge Keith de Ridder advised that, because of the complicated nature of the case, and the pressure of other work, it could be "some time" before the decision was released.
The issue to be decided is, fundamentally, whether the Rogans are allowed to plead the patent illegalities of the rating documents and establish that they are not liable for the rates, or whether section 60 means that, in the absence of an application to the High Court, a local authority can enforce payment of its rates even thought it does not comply with statutory requirements.
There was a real kerfuffle about the stayed cases in the week before the trial.
These are cases where ratepayers are being sued by the KDC and have adopted the same defence as the Rogans and which were transferred to the Whangarei Court.
Originally they were linked to the Rogan case but some time ago Judge de Ridder ordered that they were all "stayed", pending the outcome of the Rogan case. That means that they are held in abeyance until further notice.
Quite out of the blue, Honest John and his crew, in pursuit of their pound of flesh from all victims, not just the Rogans, applied to the Court at the last minute, despite the stayed order of the Judge, to enter judgment against all the stayed cases prior to commencement of the Rogan trial. They spent a small fortune in swearing and serving affidavits on all stayed defendants.
The application was, of course, in breach of the District Court Rules, and following pressure from legal counsel for the Rogans, and the solicitor for the stayed cases, an agreement was reached, and confirmed by the Court, that the stayed cases would remain stayed until the outcome of the Rogan case was decided.
DISTRICT COURT CASE 29.06.15
Finally. We get another day in Court. The case KDC v Bruce and Heather Rogan will be heard in the District Court, Whangarei tomorrow at 10 am before Judge de Ridder. It is scheduled for two days.
It has not been an easy road to get to this stage and there have been all sorts of hurdles put in our way by the KDC. Their wastage of money is quite unbelievable but they are determined to extract the last pound of flesh from ratepayers.
The Rogans have an excellent defence and this will be an interesting test to see if the rule of law is applicable in Kaipara, and perhaps in New Zealand.
It is ironic that the Rogans are in court as the defendants but in fact they are there to represent the rule of law. They refuse to pay illegal rates billed through non-compliant documentation to a local authority that has made an art form of flouting the law.
My apologies for the lack of posts on this site for some time but we have put all our energies into the legal case for the defence. We will know very soon whether those efforts were worthwhile.
A big thanks to all the people who have supported the MRRA in this battle, both morally and financially. You have stuck in there against all odds because you understand how important this battle is. It could not have happened without your support and Bruce and Heather and all the team thank you.
KEITH LADBROOK 10.06.2015
In the Dargaville and District News Keith Ladbrook asks in the letters to the editor what happened to the $178,000 dollars contributed by Te Kopuru ratepayers for the local wastewater scheme. He wants an answer from the Council.
That's an easy one. Along with all the other funds collected for such projects it was stolen by the KDC. It disappeared down the big Kaipara gurgler that consumed tens of millions of dollars. No one knows where it went or what it was used for.
The KDC faced up to this a year or so ago, under pressure from the Minister of Local Government, and decided to write of all such sums of money (because they didn't exist any more!) and acknowledged that communities would be forced to pay again for sevices that they had already collected money for. At the same time they confirmed that all the reserve funds and the Mangawhai Endowment Fund had also disappeared without trace.
In the real world those responsible would be in prison but, in the rarified world of local government where those in charge are free to thumb their nose at the law and financial prudence, such behaviour is allowed. They call it internal borrowing. It has quite strict guidelines which, of course, are ignored by the Council, its auditors and the Auditor-General.
When the Commissioners finally leave there will be nothing in in the cupboard. If ratepayers want to reinstate their funds then they have to borrow them. Imagine if the bank stole your money that you had on deposit and told you that if you wanted it back you would have to get a loan from the bank, repay the loan and pay interest on it.
That's why we have laws, to protect people from such rorts.
WORZEL'S WORLD 10.06.2015
In his article Worzels World - Losing Democracy in the Mangawhai Focus the Prof laments the further loss of democracy in Kaipara.
What happened to "No taxation without representation"?
LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION BACKS DOWN 10.06.2015
Great news for Kaipara. The Local Government Commission is not proceeding with a unitary authority in Northland. See the report here.
We may have lost our democracy for another year but at least the government has backed down on a further act of folly. Amalgamating three bankrupt councils into one and expecting it to function was never going to work.
Well done all of those who raised their voices to object. This outcome shows that we do have a voice and that voice will be heard if enough of us make a stand for what is right.
Basil gets the boot from Kaipara
MUSINGS ON FIFA 09.06.2015
We all knew about the corruption in FIFA. We knew that Qatar and Russia had both secured the World Cup through bribery. But we also knew that FIFA was too big to challenge. Anyone who dared to raise a mere whisper of corruption would be dealt to.
Some rorts in this world are like that. The News of the World with its phone tapping culture was so out of control, and so powerful, that no one dared stop it. Bribery in cricket was the same. The revelations of endemic leaky buildings were stifled for many years by those with vested interests, with whistleblowers being denigrated with slurs and accusations of self interest.
Local government in New Zealand is the same. It is riddled with incompetence, negligence, corruption, cronyism, financial impropriety, legal non-compliance, with abuses of the rule of law and natural justice all thrown in.
Those of us who have fought long and hard against these injustices in Kaipara have realised that the rot goes through to the very heart of our society. Everyway you turn for help you meet the same arrogant disdain for the basic principles of law, justice and fairness.
The governmental institutions that are supposed to protect the rights of the people are in fact complicit in the whole rotten business of local government and actually work to deprive the people of New Zealand of their rights.
There appears to be nothing that we, as mere ratepayers, can do about it. We protest, we go on rate strike. We march. But at the end of the day those in local government know that they are too big too challenge. The DIA and all the others that drive local government know that we cannot resist the Behemoth.
Many ratepayers in the district have realised that and accepted that they cannot beat the system. Big business has completely taken over local government and will do so more and more as Basil Morrison forces his unitary authorities on to the country. Ratepayers will be have no say in anything and will be become nothing more than open wallets with the sole purpose of funding the enrichment of those who are members of the trough-feeders club.
But there is hope. And that hope is going to appear in Whangarei on 30 June, just three weeks away. On that day the KDC is fighting a pitched battle with Bruce and Heather Rogan in the District Court over their failure to pay rates over the last few years.
It is a hugely unfair battle as the KDC has all the resources that we as ratepayers pay for, and it has the backing of the government, Local Government New Zealand, the banks, big business, and the DIA.
It is very one-sided. But the good thing about of all this is that rules of battle are not based on the self-serving travesty of legal compliance that the KDC dishes up but on what the law of New Zealand says. For the second time only, we ratepayers are going to have an opportunity to challenge the KDC on its legal compliance.
In the High Court case, Heath J declared that the EcoCare scheme was illegal and that all the loan agreements were illegal but, unfortunately, they were caught by the protected transaction provisions in the LGA. He also held that the EcoCare rates would have been illegal if it had not been for the Validation Bill.
This time, in the District Court, the issue is whether the KDC rates assessment notices and rates invoices are compliant with the strict requirements of the LGRA. They are the documents that create the legal liability to pay the rates.
Those documents, under close scrutiny, are beginning to look rather shonky, and with only a few weeks to go it is too late for the commissioners to call upon their mates in Parliament to rush through another validation bill.
In any case, the current local MP, Winston Peters, is not going to be as accommodating as the well-known New Zealander whose name we're not allowed to mention.
This simple debt-collecting case could well be the turning point for local government in New Zealand. It will tell us once and for all whether local authorities in New Zealand are free to flout the law, ignore their legal obligations, and effectively do as they please without any reference to legal compliance, or whether they have an obligation to comply with the law of the land, to the letter.
It will be a big day for the ratepayers of Kaipara. It will be a big day for the people of New Zealand. And it will be a big day for the rule of law in this country.
The hearing is scheduled at the District Court, Whangarei (the same building as the High Court) for 30 June and 1 July. More details will be provided closer to the day.
CAN WE HAVE RECEIVERS PLEASE 09.06.2015
When I explain to people why we are battling the KDC and fighting to ensure that ratepayers do not have to pay the illegal debt, the inevitable question is : Well if ratepayers don't pay the debt then who is going to?
It comes from the brainwashing that we are subjected to, that ratepayers alone have to foot the bill for the incompetence of local authorities.
It doesn't happen elsewhere. Out there in the real world those who are incompetent and negligent are pursued in the courts. Directors who misrepresent the financial situation of companies can end up in jail.
The Financial Markets Authority is now, according to today's Herald, flexing its regulatory muscle and keeping those in the financial markets on the straight and narrow.
But none of that applies to local government. Councillors and commissioners are free to make any promises they wish and come up with any baseless financial assumptions and remain confident that they are never going to be charged with misleading ratepayers.
Auditors have a set of rules that allow local authorities to do things that would result in company directors facing the courts.
The so-called regulator of local government - the Auditor-General - slept through the Kaipara debacle, woke up to hold her own independent inquiry into her own incompetence, and then fell into another slumber that rivals that of the Sleeping Beauty.
In the real world, when a company goes into receivership or liquidation the receivers or liquidators get stuck in. They work out who was responsible for the failures of the company and they pursue them mercilessly. In the past I have quoted examples but the Herald reports today on the directors of Dominion Finance and North South Finance being pressured to cough up over $10 million.
That is what should have happened with Kaipara. Contributions from Councillors, the Chief Executive, Beca, the KDC lawyers, the OAG and Audit New Zealand, with a chip-in from the banks, would have achieved a very acceptable outcome.
But there were no receivers and the commissioners appear to have let all those responsible off the hook. The Councillors have gone, Beca has gone, we have heard nothing about Bell Gully. And no news on Jack McKerchar and the OAG.
Good on yer, ratepayers.
Kaipara, it's your turn soon
PROMINENT NEW ZEALANDER 08.05.2015
Stuff reports as follows (here):
A prominent New Zealander facing 12 charges of indecent assault will stand trial in April next year.The man appeared in the High Court on Thursday, where Justice Paul Heath confirmed the man's continued interim name suppression through to trial. A trial date of April 4, 2016, was set.The man has pleaded not guilty to all charges and was excused from attending a trial call over in June.Most details of the case are suppressed to protect the identity of the alleged victims....
WINSTON PETERS AND LOUISE UPSTON 29.04.2015
Winston Peters' questioning of Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston about the reappointment of the commissioners can be seen here.
THE GOLF COURSE AND THE ADVISORY PANEL 27.04.2015
All this hoo-ha with the advisory panel is a "pre-consultation". It seems the commissioners have such a poor relationship with ratepayers that they have appointed the advisory panel to act as intermediaries to assess the feelings of the ratepayers.
The problem is that, as usual, the commissioners have stuffed up again.
Instead of fronting the issue openly, they brought out the good old smoke and mirrors, and once again got offside with the people.
We all want a solution to the sewerage problems, but handpicking a bunch of yes men (and woman) who will do the commissioners bidding, was not a good start. Most of them have no sewerage experience, and boy does it show.
At the meeting at the Golf Club on Sunday everyone was begging for local John Dickie, a qualified, and internationally experienced water engineer, to be part of the action. He is not on the commissioners' list of favourites and did not make the panel cut.
Ian Greenwood, the spokesperson, has softened his views. The vow of silence on the past and the cost of the proposals is now more gently enforced. He even acknowledged the massive outstanding debt and expressed the wish that some kind person should get rid of it.
Even the top secret words - Harrison Grierson - were mentioned a few times. The cat is now out of the bag. But why on earth did they have to shroud all this in so much secrecy. Why not lay the cards on the table and open up a discussion about all options for the future.
And while they are at it, why avoid the elephant in the room, the debt, and why shun away from any talk of future costs like startled rabbits.
Questions about costs were parried away. "The commissioners want to know what option you want. The cost comes later."
What arrant nonsense. This is a bankrupt Council with ratepayers who are hocked to the eyeballs for generations and they are being hard-talked into another scheme where costs are not mentioned and which sounds remarkably like the last Ponzi scheme they got sucked into.
Using the golf course as a disposal field for the treated effluent appears to make good sense, just as it did back in 2005. It didn't happen then because the KDC opted for the Brown's Road farm which appears to have offered some fine rewards for those involved.
The farm was never suitable and $11.5 million was spent on a lemon of a disposal field.
The other problem is that we still do not know whether the processing plant is up to scratch. There are all sorts of vague ideas floating about and the advisory panel seem to think that the comments of the Auditor-General that it is "running well" is all the confirmation that is needed. In this neck of the woods a commendation from the Auditor-General almost certainly means that it must be shonky.
Sooner or later the commissioners and the panel will have to answer the big question. Is it a lemon or not?
NO DOUBTING THOMAS 27.04.2015
Ted Thomas, a retired judge of the Court of Appeal and a former acting judge of the Supreme Court, has contributed an article to the NZ Herald leaving no doubt as to where he stands on the wharf extensions in Auckland.
Judges do not and cannot give any opinions on legal matters, but retirement loosens the constraints somewhat.
Ted Thomas says that he was appalled that consents were given for the wharf extensions without public notification. In language that will be familiar with the readers of this website, he says:
The council has permitted the pillage of open harbour space under a planning regime which effectively gives the company carte blanche to do what it feels commercially driven to do within the port precincts.
The fact the port is at the doorstep of the city seems to have been the mouse in the room.
I guess that mice are more easily overlooked than elephants.
He also alludes to the Holcim white storage dome that received a a non-notified resource consent last year. It is as high as a nine to ten storey building and dominates the harbour landscape.
He has some interesting remarks about the legal process, especially as they come from a retired judge
The current legal proceedings are but the skirmish before the battle. Ports of Auckland will spare neither resources nor money in fighting its case. It will be represented by the best lawyers money can buy. Economists, planners, port administrators and other purported experts, some no doubt from overseas, will be called as witnesses. Port users will be organised to support the application with all the vigour that short-term profit-driven thinking can generate.
He sounds almost as cynical about the legal system as some of us are. He concedes that council juggernauts are almost impossible to stop. They have a bottomless pit of money, usually supplied by taxpayers or ratepayers, and are well placed to win any legal war of attrition.
It is good to see the judiciary getting stirred up about the inequities in the application of our laws and the lack of level playing-field in having access to the courts.
Let us hope the judiciary listens hard when the MRRA cases come before the District Court and the Court of Appeal in the next few months.
A VICTORY IN THE HIGH COURT 27.04.2015
The Northern Action Group in Rodney has won its first battle in respect of secession from Auckland City. See here.
The group wants Northern Rodney, which runs from Puhoi to Wellsford and Warkworth, to break away from Auckland City and set up its own local authority.
To quote the notice sent out:
The High Court has upheld the Northern Action Group’s appeal against a Local Government Commission decision refusing to assess an application to de-amalgamate North Rodney from Auckland Council. Justice David Collins has found that the Local Government Commission acted unlawfully in rejecting the application. It turned what should have been a simple filtering exercise into a mini-inquiry and irrelevantly took into account submissions by the Auckland Council.
The group now has to produce evidence of community support throughout the Auckland City area and then the matter is to be referred back to the Local Government Commission to assess the merits of the application.
The important thing is the warning shot that it fires across the bows of local government.
It is an unwritten rule that local authorities can do anything they like, legal or not, until a court declares the action or decision to be unlawful. But, of course, legal action is outside the pocket and stomach of most people so local government has free rein to flout the law.
A case like this send tremors through the local government establishment because it is a reminder that the rule of law, although a shy and timid creature and expensive to coax out of hiding, does have some real teeth when it is let loose.
THOUGHTS ON THE TARNISHED GONG 27.04.2015
The plaudits heaped on the commissioners by the local newspapers for the gong the Council received (see A NOT SO SHINY GONG below) highlights the fundamental problem facing Kaipara.
The Lifestyler lauded the Council for its "top recognition" and the Mangawhai Focus praised the commissioners for their "prestigious award".
The problem is that all the information printed was lifted directly from a press release put out by the commissioners and carefully crafted to mislead readers.
The "propaganda" had its effect. Almost all readers would have been impressed and convinced that Honest John and his mates were doing a top job, and that those who criticised them did not know what they were talking about.
That's what good propaganda does. It sucks you in and once you are sucked in it is extremely hard to concede that you were duped.
There is also a fundamental need to believe that those who run central government or local government are driven by honourable motives, are competent, fair and transparent and operate in accordance with the rule of law.
We would hate to think that those in whom we invest our trust are as corrupt and incompetent as those in the third world countries that we look down on.
There is a fundamental yearning in New Zealand to believe that our government is good, and there is a massive reluctance within us to believe otherwise.
We are a fertile ground for propaganda to take root.
Those who read this website know that the reality is different.
What the propaganda about the gong did not tell you is:
1. The commissioners were so incompetent that in January 2014 they came within a whisker of losing accreditation for issuing building consents. That is in spite of Peter Winder being the go-to expert in New Zealand on accreditation. He was appointed as a commissioner in October 2012 and had almost a year and a half to recognise and fix the problem. He completely missed it, yet at the same time earned himself $50,000 for doing an independent report on the same problems for the Christchurch City Council.
2. The Christchurch problem was all over the news. The commissioners managed to keep the Kaipara debacle completely secret. The Christchurch chief executive resigned following the publication of the Winder report which held him personally responsible. In Kaipara, those responsible, chief executive or commissioners, were not censured in any way.
3. The story of the award is quite incredible. Peter Winder applying for an award, that was sponsored by Peter Winder's firm and for which Peter Winder was a judge.
It is even better that the farce of the Auditor-General doing an 'independent" inquiry into her own incompetence in respect of the KDC auditing.
So when the truth is known, what do we have? We have commissioners who are not only incompetent but who cover up their incompetence and then promoted themselves as being highly competent by securing a 'prestigious" gong.
What does that add up to? Incompetence, dishonesty. lack of integrity? It sounds very much like a third world country to me.
But, those people who have not read this website remain convinced that the commissioners are totally competent, that their competence has been recognised by an independent award, and that they are the best thing since sliced bread.
That is the fundamental problem in Kaipara.
DEMOCRACY DOWN THE DUNNY 25.04.2015
As expected, Associate Minister of Local government announced yesterday that the commissioners' appointment will be extended for another year until October 2016.
She states that it was clear to her on her visit to Kaipara that there was widespread support for the commissioners.
It is all rubbish, of course. As we know, on her visit she refused to meet with opponents and only met with handpicked invitees who supported the commissioners.
Louise Upston carries the can because Minister Paula Bennett does not want to mar her CV and her no-nonsense "Westie" image with the crushing of democracy in Kaipara.
But, those two are just pawns in the whole game. The responsibility for the decision lies with John Key.
The commissioners were put in to bring the rebel ratepayers to heel, to ensure that the ratepayers were dumped with all of the illegal debt, and to ensure that John Key's mates in the banks can get their full pound of flesh out of the Kaipara ratepayers.
John Key is personally petrified that if justice and the rule of law prevails in Kaipara then it will be the first domino to fall and his new feudal system, that he has surreptitiously imposed on the people of New Zealand, will start crumbling around him.
The date for the announcement was carefully calculated. it was withheld during the By election. Denying democracy is not a vote winner, especially with Winston lurking. But time was running out with only 6 months to go before the scheduled return of democracy. The decision had to be made. And what better time than a Friday before a long weekend when everyone would be caught up in the Gallipoli 100th anniversary.
No doubt it was lost on John Key that he was again denying democracy and the rule of law to the people of Kaipara, while, at the same time, he was in Turkey celebrating the Anzacs who gave their lives in defence of the same democracy that he is now denying us.
It will be interesting to see how the people of Kaipara will react. Will they take it lying down or will they send a message to John Key that he cannot ignore.
Note: In his speech at the Istanbul Peace summit yesterday John Key, spoke of the threat of ISIS, and added:
We are also a small country with a fundamental interest in supporting stability and the rule of law internationally.
How about supporting the rule of law at home, John? And why not start with Kaipara?
A NOT SO SHINY GONG 24.04.2015
Far be it from me to want to take the gloss of the achievements of Honest John and his crew. However, the report in the Kaipara Lifestyler advising that the KDC receiving a gong for its high performance, raised some doubts.
Fran Mikulicic, general manager regulatory and acting chief executive Jill McPherson at the Society of Local Government Managers Awards
Those of us who know the KDC know that "high performance" only exists in the rhetoric of Honest John.
So, dig a bit deeper.
The Lifestyler article reported that the KDC was Highly Commended for its entry in a prestigious Society of Local Government Managers Awards in Wellington. Note the name.
As usual, the Lifestyler article was taken almost verbatim from a press release from the Commissioners.
In that press release Honest John is reported as follows:
John Robertson, Chair of Commissioners, on hearing of Council’s success said “The Commissioners are delighted to see the hard work of the staff being acknowledged in this way”.
So, dig a bit deeper behind the smoke and mirrors.
If you look on the SOLGM website you will find that the awards are not just the SOLGM awards, but.....wait for it...........
The 2015 McGredy Winder SOLGM Local Government Excellence Awards®
No doubt you will recognise the Winder name, and it belongs to Peter Winder, one of the three Commissioners.
This is what it has to say about McGredy Winder:
McGredy Winder & Co
Founded by Peter Winder, we offer tailored services in strategic planning, policy, advocacy, facilitation, issues management, economic development, communication, management, business improvement, and governance.
But there's more. Wait for it.................
The judging panel consisted of 5 judges. One of whom was:
Director of McGredy Winder & Co
Incidentally, One of the other judges was someone well-known to Kaipara ratepayers:
Controller and Auditor-General of the Office of the Auditor-General
To summarise, the KDC under the stewardship of Peter Winder (and two other commissioners) won a gong for its high performance in awards sponsored by Peter Winder's firm, with Peter Winder as judge.
And yet if you look at all the publicity about it you would never know that Peter Winder had any involvement.
That pretty well sums up what the commissioners' regime is all about. They are about as transparent as 2 metre-thick concrete.
THAT WINDER NAME AGAIN 24.04.2015
Peter Winder's name rang a very big bell.
Do you recall in 2013 there was a crisis in respect of the accreditation for issuing building consents in respect of the Christchurch City Council? The chief executive, Tony Marryatt, was stood down, a crown manager was appointed, and your very own commissioner Peter Winder was appointed to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.
The investigation found that the problems with accreditation rested with the chief executive, and soon afterwards the chief executive resigned with a very handsome payout. (What's new?).
So while Peter Winder was acting as the independent expert in Christchurch, what was brewing in Kaipara?
We don't know the details because, unlike the Christchurch fiasco, the Kaipara fiasco was kept top secret by Honest John and his mates. But what we have now discovered is that while Peter Winder was busy sorting Christchurch out, his own bailiwick in Kaipara was having exactly the same problems with its own accreditiation.
It all culminated in the KDC receiving an IANZ report dated 6 January 2014 highlighting 13 CARs (corrective action requests), 15 strong recommendations, and 6 recommendations. The KDC was given a three month timeframe to clear the CARs and an early audit was imposed requiring 3 months of clear records by the last week of July 2014.
The application for the gong says that Kaipara, like Christchurch, was on the cusp of losing its accreditation for issuing building consents. The application calls it a "Burning Platform". Kaipara as an operational council was in severe jeopardy.
So who was responsible for this shameful state of affairs? The chief executive Steve Ruru? If so, why was he not held to account for his failures, as Tony Marryatt was in Christchurch. He was effectively forced to resign for similar failures.
Or was it the commissioners who had been appointed in October 2012 specifically to fix the problems of Kaipara, and by January 2014 had had ample time to identify the problems facing the KDC?
The commissioners were appointed for their individual expertise, and one has to ask why Peter Winder, the acknowledged expert in this field, who was busy earning money pointing out defects in Christchurch in 2013, completely overlooked the same problems under his own watch in Kaipara.
The non-compliance was huge and must have been startlingly obvious, but our much vaunted in-house expert failed to pick it up.
But what is worse, the commissioners, including Peter Winder, decided to keep mum about the whole thing. While publicly boasting of their competence and expertise and the new excellence that they were imposing on the KDC, they performed like a bunch of charlatans, and hid their incompetence behind a wall of smoke and mirrors.
So, going back to the gong, we need to look at the real facts.
Peter Winder, the expert in accreditation, failed to pick up the dire accreditation problems in Kaipara. Peter Winder and the other commissioners hid the problems from the ratepayers. When the problems were fixed, Peter Winder, with his fellow commissioners applied for a gong for excellence in fixing the secret problem. The gong was sponsored by Peter Winder and Peter Winder was one of the judges.
NAME SUPPRESSION 23.04.2015
The Northern Advocate and the Bay of Plenty Times reported this week that a person appeared in court on Monday on 12 charges of sexual assault against two complainants. He was remanded on bail to appear in the High Court next week.
All details of the case were suppressed.
The case was not included in either of the papers' on-line editions.
PIGTAILS AND DIRTY POLITICS 23.04.2015
Things get worse for John Key. The Daily Blog, which broke the story on the waitress and the pigtail, has now suggested that the story in today's NZ Herald was obtained by "dirty tricks". See the Daily Blog article here.
See the historic pigtail pulling on Campbell Live here.
WHERE WAS THE AUDITOR? 22.04.2015
The interesting thing about Alex Swney's fraud is not that he did it but that the auditor did not pick it up. He ripped off $2.5 million from Heart of the City without the auditors spotting anything untoward. It sounds all too familiar.
INTERESTING SNIPPETS 22.04.2015
Just a couple of things that caught my eye.
In his cosy letter accompanying the latest rates invoice, Honest John makes the following comment:
As you plan ahead, you will be interested to know what your rates will be in the next finacial year. I cannot advise these yet, but I can provide you with background on the process as we consider priorities for council expenditure.
The comment is, of course, meaningless. The Plan has told us what the percentage increase is, so it should be an easy matter to calculate the rates that each of us will have to pay. So why does considering "priorities for council expenditure" delay calculating the rates?
Surely if the rate increase is already fixed and is being consulted on, then it is a simple matter to equate the expenditure with the income from the rates?
And how can ratepayers be consulted on the Plan and rate increases when there is no accurate information on what those increases will be?
Things are never what they seem with Honest John and his crew.
There appears that there will be some serious changes in the rating proposals that ratepayers will not be advised of until much later. By that stage the Commisoners will have already gone through the consultation process, so they can tick that box and simply adopt the changes.
They can't go through the consultation process again as there will not be time. The Plan has to be adopted and rates set before the end of June.
The other matter that drew my attention was a comment in one of the local rags that the Council meeting in June, when the Plan is adopted and the rates set, is being put back a week to 30 June. This is, so we are told, to allow more time for the audit of the Plan to be completed.
Interesting. One would have though that there was tons of time between now and June for the auditor to ink his rubber stamp and endorse the Commissoners' financial fantasies.
Or could it be that the auditor, like many of us, has finally cottoned on to the fact that the KDC is in dire straits financially. For starters, It is apparent that the Council does not meet the Auditor-General's test for a "going concern", which is the test that is applied to local authorities. It must be able to meet its commitments out of income for the foreseeale future, without government assistance.
Quite simply, the KDC cannot meet its current debt repayments and has parked $26.2 million, on which it can't even pay the full interest, at the bottom of the garden in Never Never Land. It has stripped the cupboard bare of all the reserve funds held for other purposes. As for government assistance, it would have gone down in a screaming financial heap if the government had not come to its rescue and validated six years of persistent illegalities.
Something is cooking, but at this stage we don't know what.
SABIN CLOCK KEEPS TICKING FOR KEY 22.04.2015
If you are quick enough you can catch Matthew Hooton's article Sabin clock keeps ticking for Key in the NBR. It may be padlocked soon behind a paywall.
The article raises the spectre of the Sabin allegations being known before the 2011 election. (No misprint in the date)
The article states:
But Mr Key’s government stands accused of somehow covering up after Mr Sabin, with Labour leader Andrew Little going so far as to say he believes Mr Key is lying.
John Keys handling of the situation is severly criticised and tha article ends with the comment:
The risk for Mr Key is that if the full Sabin story becomes known in a week, a month, six months or a year, it will look as if his government covered it up not just through a general election campaign but then again through the by-election as well. The clock keeps ticking.
MORE ON THE LEMON 22.04.2015
The EcoCare Mark 2 proposals have proved to be ridiculous.
The so-called members of the advisory panel (who know diddly-squat about sewerage, so how can they "advise"?) have shown themselves to be autocratic, arrogant, and uninformed, and voluntarily hog-tied by their ridiculous terms of reference.
Remember that the panel members were handpicked by John Robertson and Jill McPherson, and anyone who had voiced any comment about EcoCare - effectively the experts - were excluded from selection. And no peeking into the past was allowed.
No one has been impressed with the blinkered approach, and the sense of predetermination exhibited by the panel, and the air of "we know best". Their autocratic approach was best shown by the requirement to lodge feedback forms within a few days of the open day held on Easter Saturday.
They came across as salespeople selling a product with all the appropriate spiel and sales pitch, without revealing who was driving the whole thing behind the scenes.
How can you have any proposal when the three elephants in the sewerage system are completely ignored.
The whole thing is a masterminded by Harrison Grierson, and the proposals have nothing to do with the purity of the harbour or the safety of future generations. That is simply sales spiel to suck ratepayers into another Ponzi scheme.
Why did Honest John not reveal that Harrison Grierson were wheeling this wheelbarrow?
Why did Honest John cover up, yet again?
If Harrison Grierson have something important to say, why did they tell it to inexperienced intermediaries and then get them to front it? Why did they not tell the ratepayers directly?
Christian Simon has shown the way with alternative systems. His attendance at the open day, which brought out the worst in the advisory panel, and his stall at the Village market, have stirred considerable interest in the problems of sewerage, and the alternatives for dealing with those problems.
The word around town is that the Commissioners have yet again overstepped the mark, as they did with their shifty proposal to sell Sellars Reserve and other crucial land in Alamar Crescent.
As usual, the Commissioners talk of transparency and consultation, and then, behind the smoke and mirrors, they head off on their pre-determined course.
The online feedback form is a bit like the application form for a free holiday anywhere in the world offered to Russian dissidents. Just two questions:
Would you prefer 3 years in the gulag? or
Would you like 36 months in the gulag?
This whole thing is a scam. It is trying to suck ratepayers into selecting an option so that the advisory committee can report back to the Commissioners that that is what the people want. That is your consultation. And you will get it at a massive price. Just like Ecocare Mark 2.
The best approach is to write to the advisory panel and tell them in no uncertain terms what you think of them and their pathetic game. That the KDC cannot contemplate any more capital expenses until there is an independent audit of its finances to see if it is effectively insolvent.
And tell them that no money should be spent on EcoCare until an independent engineering assessment is done to see if it is a lemon.
Don't let them tell you that the Auditor-General said that it's OK in her report. She is supposedly the auditing expert in New Zealand and yet she failed to pick up any of the rorts that hallmarked EcoCare. Would you trust her expertise in sewerage systems?
DON'T TRUST A WORD THEY SAY 22.04.2015
The Commissioners make out that if the ratepayers are consulted, and agree to something, then that is what they get. It's all rubbish. In local government the council can tell any lies it likes, mislead the ratepayers in the most criminal way, and those who are responsible for the lies and misleading information suffer no consequences.
In the commercial world any such dishonesty would end up in court with perhaps a gaol sentence to boot. But in local government it is the unwritten rule that councils can fib their way through any project and when the world comes crashing down, the council gets off scot free and the ratepayers carry the can.
When you hear promises from the Commissioners and representations about the financial soundness of the KDC remember your history lessons.
The original EcoCare scheme was supposed to cost only $35 odd million, all up with everything, and service 3,500 sections. Any cost overruns were to be carried by the contractor. The debt was to be segmented which means it would be ring-fenced to those who were connected to it.
All lies. The representations had no basis when they were made. They were lies then and they are lies now.
Double the cost, overruns paid by ratepayers, only 1600 connection capacity, and a large part of the debt is being carried by ratepayers across the whole district.
Don't listen to the silky-soft words of Honest John when he says things are different now. This is the game of local government. It is a rort from start to finish where ratepayers are sucked dry and the big boys have carte blanche to tell any porkies they want. If you have any doubt, then look at Auckland. Totally out of control and heading for disaster, where the big boys are free to do what they want, and the ratepayers simply sign the cheques.
LAST RESORT FOR SABIN 21.04.2015
Mike Sabin has found that there is life after Parliament and has scored himself a nice little number that seems bizarrely unsuited to his qualifications, experience and personality. See the NZ Herald for details here.
Is it coincidental that he is working for a Chinese company when there are all sorts of Chinese whispers going on about his past activities?
Surely, by this stage, everybody knows what he is charged with.
The only people who do not know are John Key and all the members of the National caucus.
ECOCARE MARK 2
"It's your turn now!"
ADVISORY PANEL EXPOSED 14 04.2015
Local authorities have an obligation to consult with ratepayers on all options. This is what the Local Government Act says,with highlight added:
77 Requirements in relation to decisions
(1) A local authority must, in the course of the decision-making process,—
(a) seek to identify all reasonably practicable options for the achievement of the objective of a decision; and
(b) assess the options in terms of their advantages and disadvantages; and
(c) if any of the options identified under paragraph (a) involves a significant decision in relation to land or a body of water, take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral land, water, sites, waahi tapu, valued flora and fauna, and other taonga.
Someone forgot to tell Ian Greenwood and his fellow advisory panel members at the sewerage open day at the Mangawhai Domain. Architect and alternative sewerage systems expert Christian Simon tried to offer an alternative option to the extension of the EcoCare lemon. He got the boot. Scroll down to AN ALTERNATIVE GETS THE BOOT 08.04.2015.
He was forced to leave the Domain, owned by the people of Mangawhai and not the Council, and, when he set up his display outside, a wall of advisory panel sympathisers formed a wall around him and visitors were ushered away from him.
Ian Greenwood was seriously miffed and complained about Christian Simon interfering with this team's right to display their options without any opposition.
I wonder what right that is. Perhaps it is the long standing right in Kaipara, established as de facto law by long usage, for the Council and its supporters to pull the wool over the eyes of ratepayers, to mislead them and lead them up the garden path with fanciful schemes that have nothing to do with the best interests of the community but incidentally result in the enrichment of those involved with them.
TIME TO 'FESS UP 14.04.2015
Now that Harrison Grierson has been exposed as the eminence grise behind the proposed extensions to the EcoCare sewerage scheme, it is about time that the advisory team members, including the Commissioners and the, chief executive, Jill McPherson, came clean and revealed their connections with that firm.
Who is the project manager? He is not on the advisory panel. Is he an employee of Harrison Grierson?
Answers please! Transparency and all that.
IT'S NOT BECA 13.04.201
Legal Eagle got it wrong. He thought he could smell Beca as the driving force behind the EcoCare extension scheme. In fact the whole propoal is being engineered by one of the other monotithic enterprises, Harrison Grierson.
Not that the Commissioners would reveal that to you. The thick veil of secrecy is cast over everything that they do and the ratepayers of the district are being manipulated again to suck more money out of them in the latest version of the KDC Ponzi scheme.
Harrison Grierson are well entrenched. This project is well under way, and, in true KDC style, the cake is baked and out of the oven, and the consultation with the ratepayers is simply a formality, a marketing ploy, that will put the icing on the cake and dress it up so that Louise Upston can wax eloquent on how wetll "her boys" in Dargaville consult with the community.
On 25 March 2015 the New Zealand Land Treatment Collective held its annual conference and discussed “Seasonal Impacts of Wastewater Management”. One of the speakers was Angeli Paglinawan from Harrison Grierson and her topic was:
Potential effluent disposal options to cater for growth at Mangawhai
You can see the overall strategy. Suck them in with the absolute necessity of keeping the harbour pristine. Don't digress one inch into lateral considerations of whether it may be cows and run-off, not humans, creating the problems. Create the need. Then create fanciful arguments about population growth and the other need.
Don't let them sidetrack you with "the past". That is gone, dead and buried and the fact that the ratepayers have already paid an extortionate price for an expansion that was promised to provide 4,500 connections, must be buried at all costs.
Block any talk of options like small self-contained sewerage systems. This is all about EcoCare, the giant lemon. EcoCare has to be extended. Any other option wouldnot meet the primary target of the whole proposal, and that is to enrich the trough-feeders.
And, what ever you do, don't mention the cost of all this. Suck them in first, and then hit them with the cost later. It worked last time.
ADVISORY PANEL BACK-TRACK 11.04.2015
The EcoCare advisory panel have responded to harsh criticism of their unreasonable, autocratic actions by extending the date for submisssions on the proposed extension of EcoCare, slated by some as the new Ponzi scheme.
Here is the announcement on the KDC website:
Thank you to all those that attended the Open Day, Easter Saturday. Due to public demand for more time to consider all the questions and give them full consideration, the Advisory Panel have extended the reponse date to 24 April 2015.
Ratepayers should take note that their complaints about the panel's behaviour had an immediate response. There is a lesson to be learned. If enough of us get off our butts and challenge the autocratic actions of the Commissioners and their acolytes we can make a difference.
BECA'S TRACK RECORD 11.04.2015
Ratepayers in Kaipara will be very aware of the role that Beca played in the EcoCare fiasco. Beca was not only the adviser and consultant to the KDC but the EcoCare joint project manager. If you read the harsh criticism of the management of the project in the OAG's report, you will wonder if in fact there was any management at all.
The project was ill-planned, the KDC and its planners and advisers out of their depth, with the project simply being out of control. No one really knew what was going on and the contractors were virtually free to charge what they liked.
It is frightening for those of us who believe that contractors on the international stage must have some basic competence in their area of expertise, to find out that they were out of their depth.
EcoCare was not a one-off. Bernard Oarsman reported on a similar blow out in a sewerage scheme in Masterton in 2011, and guess what? Beca's name crops up again. This is what the writer said about Beca:
Rates are expected to rise a cumulative 19 per cent in the next two years after it was revealed last week that Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner underestimated the cost of the wastewater project by at least $5.1 million.
At Monday's meeting, before a gallery of about 50 spectators, Masterton District councillors moved to explore legal action against Beca and to look for savings in the $30 million project by an independent scrutiniser at the consultancy firm's expense.
Explore legal action? That certainly rings a bell. But I imagine that nothing came of it, just as nothing came of the hollow promises of the Commissioners to pursue Beca in the courts. Beca is too big and too important a cog in the local government machine to sue. And, remember, the first rule in local government is that you never do the dirty on your fellow feeders at the trough.
Local government is an unregulated, frenzied feeding ground for all the corporate piranhas because it creates wealth for those who matter in our community, and the prey that they feed on, the ratepayers, seem to be quite content to be the victims of such mayhem.
Is Beca doing a reprise of its EcoCare role? Is it behind the advisory panel's clumsy thrust to force EcoCare Mark 2 on to the hapless ratapayers of Kaipara? Is it coming back for a second bite of the very juicy cherry?
PLEASE READ THIS
This is an important time for Kaipara ratepayers. You may not know it but you are being consulted on the future of the EcoCare sewerage scheme and the proposals put forward by the Commissioners' advisory panel.
Those proposals entail very expensive extensions to EcoCare, that are not based on a rigorous assessment of the sewerage system, and are going to create massive more debt for ratepayers.
You are being asked to complete a questionnaire and return it by this Friday 10 April 2015. Like all questionnaires that emanate from the KDC, it is carefully designed to lead you into selecting the proposals that they are promoting.
Ratepayers are encouraged to read the following posts and then let the advisory panel know if you do no accept their proposals and that you insist on a fundamental and rigorous assessment of the current sewerage system and a cost analysis of all options, including stand-alone-options, being undertaken before any further steps are contemplated.
MEETING WITH THE ECOCARE PANEL 08.04.2015
Last week several groups were invited along to view a presentation by the KDC advisory panel on the proposals for the extension of the EcoCare scheme, now dubbed the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme (MWWS).
I have in the past been extremely critical of the panel, its selection, its terms of reference and of the propaganda-laden articles that it has published, courtesy of the Mangawhai Focus.
I was interested to see how the panel would measure up in real life.
The members of the panel are very sincere and clearly very talented, qualified and experienced. They have enough letters after their names to make up a complete alphabet.
BUT.......there appeared to be a lack of intellectual rigour and simple down-to-earth nous, which one would expect from such a band of highly qualified people. They seemed more like members of a religious sect with esoteric ideals and principles that are untouched by facts and common-sense.
They appear to have taken on board the ridiculous terms of reference set by the Commissioners without any objections; they refuse to look into the past, which, in a case like this, is the key to the future; and they have embraced a slick marketing campaign with expensive props for the EcoCare proposals that raise serious questions about their integrity and their motivation.
Clearly the strategy is to promote the purity of the harbour as the main goal, which is what the proponents of the original EcoCare rort did. The main goal then was, in reality, for those involved to make money out of the wretched ratepayers, and the purity of the harbour was the catch-phrase for sucking everyone in.
That appears to be the modus operandi again, even though there is evidence that the purity of the harbour has not improved because of EcoCare, and that the biggest danger to the harbour is from cows and not humans.
But the advisory panel is not going to let facts get in the way of a good marketing strategy and the profits that will be available to those unknown personages who are promoting the proposals.
There are indications that some large eminence grise is behind these extension proposals. In the previous scheme, that proved to be such a debacle, Beca was the brains and the driving force that led us down the path to ruin. Now that the Commissioners have pulled the plug on taking legal action against Beca, has it re-entered the fray to have another bite at the golden cherry?
The panel members had everything off pat. They all made a point of saying that they applied for the positions on the panel. They were not tapped on the shoulder because they are mates of the Commissioners, as many have suggested.
The protestations sounded contrived and unbelievable. They are the mates of the Commissioners and are at one with their strategies. Is it not true that those who had voiced any concerns about EcoCare were barred from the panel?
They are adamant that the plant is capable of untold connections and disingenuously quote the report of the OAG as its source. They know as well as all of us that the report was a whitewash of what took place in Kaipara and any comments in the report on the viability of EcoCare are vague and have no engineering merit whatsoever.
My suggestion that there should be an independent engineering assessment of the whole of scheme - plant, reticulation and disposal - before making any decisions about dealing with sewage, was treated as bordering on heresy. The project director blustered that it would be too expensive and would I be willing to pay for it personally?
He didn't seem to get it, that they were investing a small fortune in marketing their vastly expensive proposals to build on the EcoCare lemon without even checking to see if the foundations were safe.
Another of their mantras is that they are promoting the proposals for the good of the people, but they shun any knowledge of the massive existing debt and the cost of their proposals is a no go area. They squirm when costs are mentioned and when asked how ratepayers can afford to meet the current EcoCare debt AND the new debt to fund their proposals
They say, as one, that the cost of the proposals would be too expensive to cost at this stage. They just want ratepayers to tell them which option they prefer.
Like all good salesman, they lure you in without telling you the cost. Once they have got you on the hook they can reel you in. Worry about the cost later. That can be fudged and hidden. Just like with EcoCare Mark 1.
CONSULTATION - YEAH, RIGHT 08.04.2015
Believe it or not, you have had you consultation and now you have to give the panel your feedback by this Friday 10 April 2015.
The public demonstration of the proposals was last Saturday at the Domain and you are given only a week in which to make your views known. This has come as a surprise to everyone and the suspicion is that the panel wishes to close down consultation before ratepayers have the opportunity to voice their concerns.
The questionnaire can be viewed here.
The whole of the questionnaire is geared to the EcoCare scheme being extended and asks carefully constructed leading questions with that outcome clearly targeted.
The whole of this consultation is a farce and ratepayers need to let the advisory panel know that.
What to do with our sewerage system is an important issue but such serious issues are never going to be resolved under John Robertson and his Commissioners because of their total lack of transparency, their disdain for genuine consultation, and the fact that his strings are being pulled by others who do not give a proverbial about the best interests of ratepayers .
The viability of EcoCare, the viability of the KDC itself, are vital issues that must be answered honestly before Kaipara can go anywhere. That means getting advice from genuine independent experts who can tell us the truth about the financial viability of both the KDC and EcoCare.
We need to send a clear message to the advisory panel that we do not want any part of their nonsense. We refuse to consult on their preposterous proposals and will not join in their games.
But don't just think it. Do something about it. Send them an email and tell them what you think, and do it by Friday at the latest.
AN ALTERNATIVE GETS THE BOOT 08.04.2015
Local architect Christian Simon is seriously opposed to the advisory panel's proposals because the panel and those unknown people who are driving the panel are asking the wrong questions. Christian believes that we need to reassess our sewerage needs and ask whether the current scheme is salvageable and whether stand-alone schemes are a better option.
Christian set up a stall at the advisory panel's open day, to present some true alternatives to ratepayers, but was asked by the panel to leave under threat of the police being called.
That pretty well confirms what many of us think about the panel
The details of Christian's proposals are available in some shops in Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai Village and Kaiwaka..
His responses to the panel's questionnaire is available here.