Getting the Validation Bill ready for Parliament
THE KAIPARA VALIDATION BILL
WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM 07.12.13
The Commissioners are never going to take action against anyone now that Parliament has dumped ratepayers with the whole debt. They're also unlikely to rock the local government cruise ship and actually make their mates in the industry legally responsible.
But if you want to see how it should be done then see how receivers PwC operate in the Strategic Finance debacle (here). They lined up the directors for legal action and pressured them into a financial settlement. Now they are gunning for the auditors. No doubt they will have to prove negligence in court. In the Kaipara case the auditor has conveniently provided a 400 page report outlining every detail of its negligence. Open and shut.
Take a look also at the Credit Sails case where the Commerce Commission threatened all those responsible for massive losses with legal action unless they coughed up with compensation. To protect their reputations they agreed to chip in without going to court.
Who is going to make the decision to take action or will the government wait for the courts to force it?
John Fisk (PwC), are you free?
OAG VIDEO ON FRAUD 07.12.13
You will love the message at the end : “Not on this Public Service’s watch, Johnny.” Really?
VALIDATION BILL PASSES THIRD READING 07.12.13
JOEL CAYFORD 06.12.13
THE OAG FINALLY SPILLS THE BEANS 04.12.13
Much of the direct blame for the Kaipara debacle she attributed to the shocking performance of Audit NZ but tried to side-step direct responsibility for herself and the OAG. That caused outrage amongst those present. The Auditor-General is the auditor for the Council and is legally responsible for the failure of its agent and subsidiary Audit NZ.
If Audit NZ is banned from auditing in future then the AG should have done the same to her own Office.
The report confirmed what we all knew, that the Kaipara Council was totally incompetent in virtual every aspect, but the presentation and the answers to questions showed ratepayers that if the OAG had done its job properly, as both auditor and watchdog, then it could have nipped the litany of illegality that ensued in the bud.
Likewise it became apparent that if the OAG had heeded the complaints and legal submissions it received in 2010 it could have saved ratepayers from three further years of being plundered by a Council that was totally out of control.
Saying sorry to each and every ratepayer is fine, but it does not absolve the Auditor-General from her sins. She is responsible for what happened and must bear the consequences.
Yesterday ratepayers learned:
New Zealand cannot allow that to happen.
KDC ALSO APOLOGIES AND ADMITS RESPONSIBILITY 04.12.13
Kaipara District Council accepts full responsibility for the role Council played in failings outlined today in a damning report released by the Auditor-General.
"The Commissioners, on behalf of the organisation, apologise unreservedly to the people and ratepayers of the District for the multitude and extent of failures of previous Councils and previous management outlined in the OAG report," Chair of Commissioners John Robertson said.
"There is no excuse for the levels of incompetency and mismanagement exposed
The full release can be seen here.
MIKE SABIN'S RESPONSE 04.12.13
OAG PRESENTS HER REPORT 02.12.13
Details are below.
Date: Tuesday 3 December 2013
2pm – The Mangawhai Club, Molesworth Drive, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai
6.30pm – Maungaturoto Country Club, Bickerstaffe Road, Maungaturoto
The meetings are open to the public.
It is understood that the Mangawhai presentation will take place immediately the report is tabled in Parliament so there might be some delay. So those who can't make it in person can watch the Paliamentary proceedings on TV.
This is perhaps the largest inquiry that the OAG has been involved with. The consequences of the report have the potential to be MASSIVE - for the people of Kaipara, for those who are skulking guiltily in the shadows, and for the future of the Auditor-General herself, and the future of her Office.
A BIG WEEK FOR KAIPARA 01.12.13
The Auditor-General is comng to Mangawhai to present her report on EcoCare in person to the people that she has so badly wronged.
Andrew Laxon has coincidentally come out with a revealing article in the NZ Herald and has highlighted Mike Sabin's $30 million promise and the criticism of the OAG.
Meanwhile John "Steamroller" Robertson is all set to attend the Third Reading of the Validation Bill, and the passing of the Bill into law, which, in his mind, will be the final blow to the Kaipara revolt.
But there is a feeling of uneasiness in Mangawhai that something serious is in the wings. Why is Mike Sabin making such promises? And why is the Auditor-General coming to Mangawhai? Something is clearly afoot and the next few days might produce a few surprises.
THE OAG DOES IT AGAIN 30.11.13
The OAG's reputation is in ruins and it gets worse by the day with local MP Mike Sabin demanding that the OAG fork out $30 million towards the illegal debt of Council (here).
The revelations in today's NZ Herald by Andrew Laxon highlight the criticism of the OAG and the fact that the OAG is holding an independent inquiry into EcoCare but is effectively investigating itself and its off-spring Audit New Zealand.
The article also mentions that Auditing and Assurance Standards Board Chairman Neil Cherry has carried out an independent investigation into Audit New Zealand's role that will also be released on Tuesday.
Legal Eagle, along with many others like Larry Mitchell, have questioned the independence of any auditor in New Zealand because of the work that most auditors do for the OAG. But it is worse that that. In his early career Neil Cherry actually worked for Audit New Zealand.
Did he and Lyn Provost, and everyone else involved, not consider this startling conflict of interest?
The article by Andrew Laxon was entitled, In the NZ Herald itself, "Alice in Blunderland". I was left wondering who Alice was. But, given Lyn Provost's inclination to shoot herself and her Office in the foot with each decision she makes, I now know.
AUDITOR-GENERAL HEADS NORTH 21.11.13
Date: Tuesday 3 December 2013
2pm – The Mangawhai Club, Molesworth Drive, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai
6.30pm – Maungaturoto Country Club, Bickerstaffe Road, Maungaturoto
The meetings are open to the public.
Ratepayers should not expect too much. Many MPs are scandalised by the failure of the OAG to pick up the illegalities of the KDC, both as auditor of the Council and as watchdog for local government. Even worse is the fact that detailed complaints and legal submissions on the illegalities - all of which proved to be 100 per cent correct - were all rejected by the OAG, and the KDC was allowed to continue on its merry path of destroying the lives of Kaipara ratepayers.
Local MP Mike Sabin is so incensed that he believes the OAG should foot some of the bills. That is unlikely to happen when there are so many eager ratepayers happy to pay for the misfeasance of others.
Perhaps one of the most galling things about the performance of the OAG in this whole matter is that having failed miserably to do its job properly it has now taken the moral high road and is sitting in judgement of the whole debacle, and has even taken up the role of reviewing its own performance. That is a fundamental breach of one of the basic rules of natural justice and the rule of law. No doubt Lyn Provost will suggest that an independent firm has been appointed to examine the situation, but the whole inquiry is vey much like Oscar Pistorius running his own trial and getting his uncle's firm to attend to forensic matters.
This website has long lambasted the OAG and Justice Heath in his recent MRRA ruling was not slow to point out, far more respectfully than I have done, the inadequacies of an inquiry by the OAG.
Lyn Provost has now confirmed that. She gave a short briefing to an expectant Select Committee which was no doubt hoping for a list of suspects so that self-appointed Sheriff Mike Sabin could "hang'em high". Not so. This what she said:
The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) presented to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee regarding its inquiry into the Mangawhai community wastewater treatment scheme on 26 September 2013.
In its presentation the OAG indicated that its report on the Mangawhai wastewater scheme is due to be published on 11 November 2013. The report will be between 200 and 300 pages in length, and will provide a significant amount of detail regarding the performance of the Council and its officers, as well as the performance of the OAG and its auditors and the role of the Department. While the report will comment on the performance of the various actors, and may contain recommendations for future improvement of service delivery, it will not determine the liabilities of the various parties.
At the Select Committee hearing the OAG indicated that nothing in its report should prevent the Committee from proceeding with its consideration and reporting back on the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Bill. The OAG also indicated that up to the time of their briefing of the Committee its inquiry had not uncovered any evidence that would lead to them referring matters related to the Mangawhai wastewater scheme to the Police, Serious Fraud Office, of (sic)the Kaipara District Council.
So it's roll up your shirt sleeves time and those in the gun should get ready for a wrist-lashing with the OAG's wet bus ticket. And their sense of shame will no doubt become intolerable when they hear endless homilies on what a tragedy it all was, BUT we must move on and put it all behind us, and learn from our mistakes.
But the truth is that the dreadful travesty of fairness and justice being played out in Wellington in Parliament, in Government and in the Office of the Auditor-General makes us all realise that the courts are the only way that this matter can be solved with any scrap of fairness.
Wellington has dealt to the people of Kaipara in exactly the same way that they were dealt to by the utterly incompetent and disgraceful KDC. It is bullying us small fry so that their mates in the banks, in the professions, in local govenerment and central government can retain the mantle of immunity for their incompetence in local government.
Kaipara ratepayers have to decide if they are going to let this happen.
SELECT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS VALIDATION BILL 17.11.13
For more details go here.
SECOND READING OF VALIDATION BILL 17.11.13
It has now been admitted by the Chief Executive, Steve Ruru, that the structure of the EcoCare scheme was actually outlawed by the Local Government Act. Under section 137 LGA councils were required at that time to retain ownership of all water services assets. However the EcoCare scheme was owned and built by a subsidiary of ABN Amro, the financier that provided the finance for the deal, and then subsequently transferred to the KDC.
Council was well aware of the requirement, which was introduced in 2003, but still went ahead with the scheme knowing that it was illegal.
This may be yet another line of attack in the MRRA application for judicial review of the decision to go ahead with the scheme.
But the revelation raises some very serious concerns about the competence of those involved in the implementation of EcoCare.
Why did Council go ahead with a scheme that it knew was illegal?
What role did Council's lawyers play in this?
And what advice did it get from the two high profile consultant firms that oversaw the project?
Are we to believe that ABN Amro, which financed the scheme and constructed the scheme through a subsidiary, did not know of this fundamental requirement of New Zealand law?
And what of the high profile lawyers that acted for ABN Amro?
Then we come to Audit New Zealand and the OAG which, as auditors, were supposed to prevent his sort of thing happening.
Not one of the parties involved appears to have had any knowledge of the law.
Or were they all seduced by the myth that was commonly accepted in local government circles that the protected transaction provisions in the LGA meant that councils' loans were guaranteed despite any illegality.
Did they believe that the loans were utterly secure and that they could flout the law with impunity?
MOTIVATION FOR ECOCARE 27.10.2013
Many have doubted that claim, citing run-off from farms as being the major pollutant.
Comparative figures are vague but it appears that there has been no improvement in water quality since the EcoCare scheme was completed.
That is not surprising given the haphazard connection programme where no proper records were kept of properties connected.
Indeed, many property owners who believe they are connected might be surprised to find out that they are still connected to their septic tank.
Council will need to check every property in the catchment area to see what its status is in the ground and not on some list of supposed connections.
It is also surprising to see that many properties bordering on the harbour are still not connected to the scheme. This includes the Mangawhai school.
Rob Stock's recent article in the Sunday Star Times - Kaipara debt shopped to rich - suggests that the EcoCare financier ABN Amro offered high returns to a group of wealthy individuals to invest in the EcoCare scheme. The proposal fell through and the financier provided the money itself.
Everything about Ecocare is rather murky but such revelations reinforce the view of many that the EcoCare scheme was a get-rich-quick scheme promoted by contractors, consultants and financiers. The pollution aspect was the spin used to promote the scheme and to suck ratepayers in.
It will be fascinating to see what the OAG report has to say about the matter. According to a recent statement from that Office the report should be out soon.
But don't hold your breathe. Destroying its own credibility is one thing that the OAG excels at.
MRRA REGROUPS 27.10.13
More information about the background and experience of the new executive members can be seen here.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 27.10.13
TAKING STOCK 21.10.2013
He started with an article in September entitled Trouble in Paradise where he outlines the history of the massive EcoCare debt in Mangawhai and the effect that it is having on locals..
He continued in October with an article (here) on the protected transaction provisions in the Local Government Act which make any debt entered into by the Council valid and enforceable even though the debt was illegal or obtained by fraud.
He cites the comments of National Party MP Judith Collins, then in opposition, when the provisions were being debated in Parliament:
"Despite all the rhetoric about accountability, despite the claim that this legislation allows councils to empower local communities, it actually states that it does not really matter, if one works at the council, because the council can do anything it likes, really. Not only that, but there is no liability! So where is the accountability? There is none."
Collins went so far as to call it "fraudulent legislation".
"The only people who are accountable are we poor people who have to pay the rates, and in this bill the Government, with the help of the UnitedFuture party, is giving carte blanche to councils . . . to do whatever they like," she said.
Words of wisdom that in hindsight have turned out to be unerringly accurate.
The irony is, however, that the National Party, that was so vocal in opposition to the provisions and to the lack of accountability, is now sponsoring a validation bill which virtually condemns any concept of accountability in local government to the history books.
ROB STOCK AND THE OAG 21.10.2013
The Sabin sponsored sanitising Kaipara Validation Bill is planning to sweep all the illegalities of Kaipara under the carpet. It would be a major embarrassment to Parliament if subsequent evidence of "unpleasant surprises" - incompetence, recklessness, malfeasance and or even fraud - emerged.
The future of the current Auditor-General, and in fact the Office of the Auditor-General in its present form, must be under a very large grey cloud, and their responses to Rob Stock's inquiries have not helped their prospects.
A glaring conflict of interest and breach of the rules of natural justice by investigating a matter in which it has been implicated is now being rebranded and dismissed by the OAG as "an overlap of interests" which "could be managed effectively".
In addition, the article states that the OAG has categorically denied that at a meeting in a motel in Kaiwaka between three OAG representatives and Legal Eagle, John Dickie, Helen Curreen and other representatives from the MRRA, Nicola White (the Assistant Auditor-General Legal) apologised on behalf of the Auditor-General for the way in which complaints to the OAG about the illegality of the Kaipara Rates had been dealt with.
A minor issue, perhaps, but one that goes to the heart of the credibility of the OAG.
The problem that the OAG faces is that in fact there was a clear apology and that it was heard by many people.
The Auditor-General needs to talk urgently to Nicola White to clarify what was actually said at the meeting in Kaiwaka.
KCRA MEETING ON WEDNESDAY 07.10.13
It is understood that chief commissioner, John Robertson, will be in attendance along with representatives from local groups and organisations.
Given the virtual dictatorship that Kaipara is operating under, this is one of the few opportunities to hear the views of the people of Kaipara and to hear John Robertson defend his actions.
So if you feel strongly about the Kaipara issue then it is a must that you attend. Apparently if you are there early then lunch will be provided.
Legal Eagle is negotiating the Great Barrier Reef at present and will not be there. But I would be pleased to publish comments from those who do attend.
THE WAY FORWARD 03.10.13
KAIPARA NEEDS A DECISION FROM THE COURT 03.10.13
He has inherited and adopted the double-speak of Neil Tiller and has a great ability to sound authoritative but to actually say nothing. Or to recommend an action and then do the opposite.
“Council needs the court to provide a determination on the interpretation of the protected transaction clauses within the Local Government Act. This is a relatively narrow but very important point that is being challenged by the MRRA. It is however a key point of law. It is about whether or not council can set rates to repay the debt incurred by the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme."
Note the first sentence: Council needs the court to provide a determination of the interpretation of the protected transaction clauses within the Local Government Act.
The matter needs to be resolved once and for all and only the court can do that.
We are all behind you, John. You appear to have realised at last that as commissioners you have the same legal obligations as councillors: to act at all times in the best interests of ratepayers.
That is what the MRRA case is all about. The Judge who is hearing the case is also in agreement. He said about the submissions of the MRRA that:
They raise difficult questions of public importance.
But ……and this is where the double-speak comes in ………..if a decision from the Court is that important and so vital to ratepayers’ best interests, why are John Robertson and his fellow commissioners actually doing everything that they can to block access to the court and to prevent the law from being clarified?
Why is he saying one thing and yet doing the exact opposite?
The answer is quite clear.
The words are all spin and puffery to show what good guys the commissioners are, and to suck in those who are disposed to be sucked in.
The reality is that the commissioners are doing everything that they can to block access to the Court and to prevent the Court from clarifying the law.
They are using stonewall tactics to delay the MRRA application at every stage and to increase costs to try and exhaust the MRRA’s meagre resources.
It is a war of attrition and John Robertson has a bottomless pit of money at his disposal – ratepayers’ money.
This is a cynical and calculated abuse of the judicial system. It shows how fundamentally rotten local government is in New Zealand when commissioners can ignore their responsibility to ratepayers and force ratepayers to pay debts that the commissioners acknowledge were illegal, and then use public money to block access to the courts to have the matter of liability clarified.
It is the sort of thing that you would expect in some third world banana republic, and it is an utter disgrace that it is happening in Kaipara and in New Zealand.
I should also point out that applications for judicial review have fairly informal procedural rules because the whole philosophy of the judicial review process is that the normal adversarial rules are softened and both parties are there to assist the Court to reach a decision on the precise meaning of the law and the legality of a decision.
That seems to have been completely ignored by the commissioners and their advisers. This, to them, is a fight to the death, with no expense spared.
And the real reason behind this fit of apparent madness? Quite simply the commissioners were appointed by the Minister (with the contrivance of the DIA) with the sole purpose of protecting the best interests of the banks, and to ensure that ratepayers are shafted for all the illegal debts of the KDC.
They were also appointed to ensure that the fundamental principle that underlies local government in New Zealand, that all financial burdens, whether legal or not, are the responsibility of the suckers at the end of the line – the ratepayers - remains set in concrete.
The commissioners, and those driving them, are petrified that the High Court would expose the whole concept of illegal council debts being guaranteed and ratepayers being obliged to foot the bills, as a total fantasy. The MRRA have an excellent case and there is a good chance that could be the outcome.
The commissioners cannot take that risk.
So, the recent so-called offer of settlement from the commissioners was nothing of the sort. It was simply a request to the MRRA to virtually abandon its case.
The MRRA’s counter-offer to agree to have this matter of public importance resolved by the court in February by agreement of the parties - an eminently sensible proposition that is the reasonable way forward - will be rejected.
The commissioners and the DIA will do all that they can to delay and block the application (strike-out application, and an appeal) and destroy the MRRA by exhausting its funding or by creating dissension in its ranks (note John Robertson’s recent comments), or using any other underhand trick to stop ratepayers’ access to the law and justice.
But they can only behave like that whilst they have funding from rates to pay their lawyers’ fees.
Until ratepayers make it perfectly clear to the commissioners that they are acting without any support from the community then they will carry on in the same way.
Time to get tough. Time to adopt a way forward. Time to insist that the commissioners comply with the wishes of the community.
And if they don’t, then time to starve them of money.
THE WAY FORWARD 29.09.13
1. The powers behind the scenes should sack the commissioners. Their appointment was suspect. They have failed to comply with their terms of reference, are arrogant, autocratic and incompetent. Their decisions to launch the validation bill and to defend the MRRA claim are ridiculous and probably illegal. They have completely lost the trust of ratepayers.
2. Replace them with a single, independent commissioner who is competent at restructuring companies and has the trust of all parties. Give that person the task of resolving all the problems facing Kaipara according to the law and fairly and equitably.
3. Cancel the Validation Bill. It is an insult to the rule of law, is fraught with problems, and is a complete waste of money.
4. Resolve the important question of liability for legal debts by agreement through the High Court. The costs should be met by the DIA on the basis that this is a matter, according to the judge, of public importance, and that the legal situation is unclear and the government should be responsible for clarifying the law (not the ratepayers of Mangawhai). The banks should be involved and pay their own costs. Much better for all the legal brains to work together to resolve this public issue.
5. Get some financial/liquidation experts in to assess the true financial situation of the Council (not the fairy-land mumbo jumbo that Steve Ruru concocts). Is KDC a viable proposition? How can the debt be sorted and ……………
6. Assess liability for the debts and take action against those responsible. Obtain all the info accumulated by the OAG. Haircuts all round with ratepayers taking responsibility for a “fair” proportion of the debt.
7. Get in some independent legal experts to assess the incredibly complex legal situation that the Council is in and how this can be resolved. Effectively the KDC is operating outside the law and there will have to be draconian legislation agreed to by all to bring it back into the legal fold. (Note that the current validation bill is nothing but a Band-Aid that does nothing to resolve the real issues facing the KDC.)
8. Interim measures should be put in place to get the show on the road. Draw a line in the sand on the past. Freeze the debts until the problems have been sorted.
9. Reach an interim agreement on matters of illegality and get the rates rolling again:
• Agree that all rates in the past are valid but exclude all EcoCare rates until that issue has been resolved.
• Set a general rate for the current year that is fair and based on pre EcoCare rates.
• Amend the LTP to reflect the situation.
• Put together a super validation bill that encompasses all of the problems and puts the KDC on the legal road again.
10. All to be done in full cooperation with ratepayers through a ratepayers’ liaison group.
Such a solution could be put in place very quickly. The only sticking point is that the powers-that-be believe that they have the aces up their sleeves and can force the ratepayers into paying the illegal debt.
But do they? The pendulum would swing if ratepayers became united and initiated a general rate strike to starve the commissioners of money, and if it becomes apparent that the MRRA‘s application to the court is right on target. Nothing like the prospect of the local government apple-cart being overturned to attract the attention of government.
LARRY’S LATEST LAMBAST 29.09.13
Larry prepared two financial reports for Jack McKerchar when he was Chief Executive and is very au fait with the financial situation of the Kaipara Council.
He calls for a fully independent and thorough investigation. Ratepayers concur. That should have happened when Jack McKerchar resigned in 2011. Over two years has passed since then and the paper trail has no doubt disappeared over that time.
The reality is that Kaipara is never going to go forward until independent experts are brought in to examine the problems, assess the situation, and then take remedial action in conjunction with the ratepayers.
OFF KEY COMMENTS? 27.09.13
Several readers have referred me to the speech and commented about John Key’s wisdom when abroad but his failure at home to uphold the legal rights of New Zealanders and his rather selective approach to the rule of law.
For years now he has ignored the Kaipara situation, presumably on the basis that, like a bad-smell, it will eventually blow away.
If John Key was truly interested in the rights of New Zealanders then his United Nations speech might have been a speech about Kaipara.
I suggest that you read the Herald article and then read my own version, set out below, of what John Key might have said as equally as forcefully about the deplorable Kaipara situation.
Prime Minister John Key has mounted a scathing attack on the failings of his own government and the Office of the Auditor General, saying they get bogged down in arcane detail and had become hostage to the interests of those who wield the power in local government.
Mr Key has just delivered a statement to Parliament, launching in with a strongly worded statement about the need for reform of local government in New Zealand, and criticism of the stubborn behaviour of those running local government for resisting reform.
He used the lack of action on Kaipara as an example.
"The rationale for local government reform is clear. Local authorities have grown since 1945. Over the same period, the sector watchdogs - particularly the OAG - have become hostage to their own traditions and to the interests of the most powerful."
He said while it was possible to blame the previous legislation for the government’s failure to act between the 1950s to 1990s, "that does not wash today."
He said the Kaipara situation showed that local authorities had assumed more power than they had under the legislation - and the fear of changing the status quo was enough to stop any of the governmental watchdogs from interfering.
National is bidding to be re-elected in 2014, and Mr Key said: "New Zealand is not advocating revolution, but we are asserting that councils can and must do better in the way they conduct their business. That is the approach the National Party will bring to Parliament if we are elected next October."
"There is no point in being part of Parliament simply to make up the numbers. Sometimes, you have to speak up and shine a light on what is going on, or not going on, even when that may be inconvenient to others."
He said that Parliament was a place for representative from throughout the country to meet, talk and try to find solutions, but often those discussions were so arcane they hid the issues they were meant to resolve.
He said the failures in local government were due to local authorities and their leaders, rather than Parliament itself. The first was Kaipara, which had failed to adhere to legal obligations (and committed 32 pages of illegal actions). The leaders of the watchdog organisations were also to blame.
“Parliament would not also have been a powerless bystander to the Kaipara tragedy for over seven years if the lack of agreement and resolve between the OAG, the Ombudsman’s Office, the DIA and the government had not shielded Mayor Tiller’s regime in Kaipara."
Mr Key called for Parliament to take strong action by passing a resolution against Kaipara for its persistent flouting of the law.
"These are crimes against the rule of law.”
He said he was pleased that Parliament had accepted unequivocally that illegal procedures were followed in Kaipara.
"Those responsible must be brought to account. Those that try to cast doubt on those conclusions make themselves look foolish and do a disservice to Parliament
Mr Key said parliament should respond to the use of illegal rates and procedures.
"It must find a means to hold those responsible to account, and establish an effective mechanism for the cancellation of all illegal rates and actions in line with the law, and with equity. The resolution must also provide for the protection of the ratepayers of the district."
MRRA GRABS THE HEADLINES 25 .09.13
The commissioners’ antics are looking more and more desperate. Their strike out claim was simply part of their plan to block any court action and to try and burn off the MRRA with high costs. It had absolutely no merit. Likewise their appeal against Heath J’s decision illustrates more than anything their stubborn refusal to have this matter heard by the court.
Justice Heath said that there is an important public issue at stake. It beats me why this does not go straight to court with the consent of both sides. Then and only then can we really start resolving the problems of Kaipara.
It also beats me why some ratepayers are still paying rates knowing that they are being used to fund lawyers to validate the illegalities of the KDC and to prevent ratepayers having access to the courts.
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT LIABILITY FOR THE KAIPARA DISASTER 25.09.13
Ratepayers are fully aware that there is a total conflict of interest in the OAG holding this inquiry when everyone accepts that the OAG’s failure to supervise the KDC properly was one of the main reasons for the debacle in the first place.
The whole process of the inquiry is a subtle way of defusing the issue. It is has taken about 18 months so far and the final report is still not on the horizon. No doubt when it does finally see the light of day it will smack a few wrists but add that life has moved on and that there is no point in crying over spilt milk or dwelling on things that are no longer relevant. By then the peasants of Kaipara will have been dealt to by the commissioners and Parliament
Not only that, the OAG has absolutely no power to actually DO anything, to fine anyone, to take any legal action or to punish anyone. It just reports. If the politicians agree with the findings they mutter a few pleasantries in that direction, and if they disagree or, if they find it politically unpalatable, they simply ignore it. I referred in an earlier post to Justice Heath’s comments on the matter and the comparison of such a report with a ruling of the High Court.
The other reason for the delay is no doubt the fact that time is fast running out for legal action to be taken against the OAG for negligence. The longer it delays any finding then the better chance it has of any proceedings falling foul of the Limitation Act. In other words, it is too late to take any legal action.
That should not deter ratepayers. The reality is that the machinery of government has failed abysmally to protect the best interests of ratepayers. It is a long standing convention in the Westminster system that central government can delegate its powers to local government provided that it provides appropriate protection for ratepayer from the excesses and illegal actions of local authorities.
The Kaipara case encapsulates the total failure of the government in this regard. The two main watch dogs, the OAG and the DIA, have failed abysmally and have, in the eyes of many, become a major part of the non-compliance and dysfuctionality problems in local government. There is absolutely no doubt that the Kaipara problem and the massive illegal debt and the complex legal quagmire that has resulted would never have happened if those agencies had done their jobs properly.
As government has failed its moral and legal obligations to ratepayers it should be taking on board the responsibility for the resulting chaos and financial disaster and must bear the costs for putting things right.
Perhaps it is a sign of the current state of democracy and disregard for the rule of law in this country that the government can dump responsibility for its own failures on an innocent sector of the community and no one finds that questionable or abhorrent.
THE COURTS ARE WAITING FOR KAIPARA 25.09.13
It is ludicrous that those responsible for running local authorities can run multi-million dollar business and yet they appear to have no obligations and can escape all liability while the financial losses they have incurred because of their incompetence are dumped on innocent ratepayers.
There is a barrow-load of obligations at common law such as duty of care and fiduciary obligations that should apply but, like everything in local government in New Zealand, those in the box seat can get away with anything, until the courts step in and draw a line in the sand.
The Kaipara case may result in a few lines in the sand. Besides Justice Heath laying down some rules of responsibility and liability, some of the senior judges must be salivating at the thought of having an opportunity to bring back the rule of law and the principles of equity to local government in this country.
The KDC’s utter disregard for the law over many years, the OAG’s pitiful performance, and the KDC and the DIA trying to use Parliament to oust the jurisdiction of the courts must be like gauntlets flung at the judiciary.
Likewise, the OAG’s “independent” inquiry into the Kaipara debacle must tickle a few judicial sensitivities when it is commonly accepted by all and sundry and including the OAG’s own master, Parliament, that the OAG is a major suspect.
RELEVANCE OF HEATH J’S DECISION 10.09.13
Mr Justice Heath quickly realised the extent of the KDC’s illegal activities and how difficult it is going to be to remedy them:
This proceeding demonstrates how badly things can go wrong when a democratically elected Council assumes significant financial obligations to an arm’s length third party without disclosing the extent of the borrowing to its ratepayers.
Those who read the decision and the Judge’s dismissal of the case put up by the commissioners must wonder why they squandered so much of ratepayers’ money on claims that simply could not be substantiated.
One also wonders why ratepayers have to bear the burden of paying for the law to be clarified. The Judge acknowledges that the meaning of the provisions in the LGA “raise difficult questions of public importance”. If that is the case, why are Kaipara ratepayers having to foot the bill for both sides when it is of public importance to clarify the issue?
The commissioners have been making a lot of the fact that the MRRA should not have issued proceedings in the first place and that they, the commissioners knew best.
Ironically, they argued in court that the MRRA’s case should be struck out because the MRRA had DELAYED in bringing legal proceedings. Heath J would have none of this and suggested that the KDC itself knew of the issues and had ample time to take remedial action.
The court also put the OAG report in perspective. It steered clear of criticising the inquiry because of its fundamental breach of natural justice but it did point out the implicit shortcomings of an OAG review:
Dealing collectively with the other discretionary grounds advanced, I accept Mr Palmer’s submission that declaratory relief could vindicate the ratepayers in a manner that might not otherwise be possible. There is, I perceive, a real difference between a solemn declaration made by the High Court, exercising its supervisory jurisdiction over statutory powers of decision made by public officials, confirming a particular state of affairs and (for example) a report issued through the Office of the Auditor-General. Without wishing to understate the value of a report from the Auditor-General, it does not carry the same authority as a decision of this Court. Any judgment of this Court will be given after full argument from both sides, contain transparent (and publicly available) reasons and be subject to rights of appeal.
Those who repose their faith in the OAG report – if and when it emanates – should heed the words of Heath J closely. Only the court can give independence and certainty.
TIME FOR SANITY? 10.09.13
“Pursuant to Section 46 (3) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, the following meeting has been set down for 10am, Friday 6 September 2013 and is open to the public. The meeting has been scheduled to consider one item being the Judicial Review proceedings. This item will be considered in public-excluded session.”
In two very simple lines there is a complete contradiction. A meeting that is open to the public to consider one item and that item is to be “considered in public-excluded session”.
These are the folk who we are entrusting with our monies.
I understand that the meeting was subsequently cancelled. The commissioners are going to take further legal advice to see where the court case might lead before rushing into decision-making.
That is a good move. Since they were placed in power in somewhat questionable circumstances to replace the previous legally elected Council, they have made some rather unwise decisions, and that is being generous. Their decision to rule as autocrats rather than embracing the community was a major blunder especially given the warnings of Greg Gent in the report of the Minister’s review team about the absolute necessity for engagement with the community.
The bulldozing of the Validation Bill against the will of the people will not go down well with Parliament and the Bill itself is doomed, given the revelation of the KDC’s knowledge of the illegalities and its stubborn refusal to comply with the law. And, even if Parliament pushed political expediency to the limit, the Act that emerges from this questionable process will almost certainly not pass the scrutiny of the Court. The dog’s breakfast will look a little tidier but it will still not achieve the purpose that the commissioners and their lawyers believe that it will achieve.
Why did the KDC’s lawyers and Parliamentary Counsel take the impossible road and try and turn a dog’s breakfast of 32 pages of illegalities into legally complying rates when Parliament had the power to scrap the rubbish and set fair and honourable rates de novo that would have had the support of all ratepayers if handled properly?
Heath J pointed out very succinctly, if the commissioners and their advisers are listening, that they are completely on the wrong track. If they and Kaipara are to get out of this mess then they will need to rethink the whole strategy of dealing with the illegal debt of Kaipara.
It is now time for the legal advisers of the Council, the DIA and the government to get together and reach a workable compromise with the people of Kaipara. No one objects to paying fair rates that provide necessary services to ratepayers. Ratepayers would agree to that. The rates for repaying illegal debts are another matter and those in charge will have to look at some way of making those who are clearly responsible for the financial and legal debacle legally liable. An expert in liquidation would offer some very useful advice and the Credit Sails approach* might be appropriate here. Ratepayers would chip in and pay for the value of the EcoCare plant in the ground but those who illegally squandered monies have to be held responsible for the monies they borrowed illegally and expended without appropriate procedures being followed.
*Credit Sails: The Commerce Commission advised those parties that they considered were involved in the loss of shareholders monies to voluntarily agree to pay a set sum otherwise legal proceeding would be issued against them. The required monies were pain in full with no need for litigation.
TWO QUESTIONS 10.09.13
Ratepayers have to ask themselves two questions here:
1. Morally and equitably, who is right? Should ratepayers be obliged to pay rates for actions that the council acknowledges were contrary to the law?
To me that is not a difficult question to answer. It goes against all sense of fairness for an organisation not to be responsible for the losses caused by its own illegal actions and to be able to dump liability on an innocent party – the ratepayers. I am sure that most people would agree.
2. Legally, who is right? That is more complex. The law is not always fair. In this instance the LGA gives some protection to banks that lend to councils on the basis that the whole debt could be invalid if there was non-compliance with the law, and that would discourage banks lending to councils. But unfortunately the provisions were loosely drafted and the meaning of the law is uncertain.
That is the whole point of the MRRA legal claim, to clarify the law to see who is responsible for the illegal debts of a council. The Judge has acknowledged that it is a genuine legal claim and a matter of public importance.
Morally the situation is beyond doubt. Legally, the Judge has said that it is an important decision to be made by the Court. He has also made absolutely clear the shortcomings of any report that comes from the OAG.
THANKS TO ALL 30.08.13
WHO SHOULD PAY? 30.08,13
Why should ratepayers be dumped with those costs? There is no mandate from ratepayers for such predictable wastage and the majority of ratepayers would be opposed to the commissioners’ action. We have no democratic vote and perhaps we should be voicing the slogan of the American colonies – “no taxation (or rating or incurring legal costs) without representation”.
The arguments of Counsel for the KDC were based largely on the detrimental outcomes to local government in this country if the MRRA’s case was successful. In other words the KDC’s case was based on the best interests of the DIA and the government. It was nothing to do with the ratepayers of Kaipara. That being the case the government should foot the bill for the costs of Simpson Grierson and David Goddard QC and should also meet the costs of the MRRA. Why do ratepayers in New Zealand have to pay for all the incompetence, negligence and hidden agendas of those who run local government in New Zealand?
If Messrs Robertson and co had to dig into their own pockets to cover the costs of their ridiculous forays into trying to refloat the doomed KDC then we might have a totally different approach. But like everything in local government they have a bucketful of cash to draw on (thanks to ratepayers) with absolutely no personal responsibility for their actions.
WOULD THE VALIDATION BILL FIX THE PROBLEMS? 30.08.13
The saga of the KDC is littered with utter incompetence from every direction. The only party that was not incompetent was the ratepayers, and ironically they are the ones, as the government sees it, who must pay for the inadequacies of others. Lawyers from many different firms were privy to the incompetence. Imagine 30 odd pages of illegalities and not one of the high powered lawyers employed by the KDC picked up a single one of the errors.
Take the EcoCare contract and think of the top firms that were engaged to represent all of the parties involved including international financiers, and yet not one of those lawyers knew the basic requirements of the LGA in respect of consultation and decision-making and the need for a statement of proposal before making any decision, or if they did, they turned a blind eye to it because local authorities in New Zealand operate outside the common-law and statue law when they borrow monies.
I have seen opinions from top lawyers relating to the KDC’s conduct that show a staggering lack of basic knowledge of the law relating to rating and local bodies. We have even seen the toing and froing as to whether the current LTP is valid and the feeble claims of John Robertson that he has a legal opinion – which he won’t show - that states that the LTP and the rates are valid BUT “for the avoidance of doubt” he is has included it in the Validation Bill. That is just puffery. Everyone knows that the LTP and the rates are invalid and that effectively the commissioners are operating outside the law. Hopefully soon the High Court will expose the Emperor’s new clothes and the strutting of the commissioners will be exposed for what they are.
But have the KDC solicitors and the Parliamentary Counsel got the Validation Bill right? It is probably the most complex validation bill to go before Parliament and my view is that they have made some fundamental errors that will mean that the Bill does not achieve its purpose.
Some of the illegal rates have been omitted for a start and it also appears that even with the validation of some illegalities some of the rates do not comply with the requirements of the legislation. This means that even if the Bill proceeds then ratepayers may challenge the validity of the rates because not all the illegalities have been included in the Bill.
Imagine all those legal cost – how many hundreds of thousands? - and the lawyers still get it wrong and we are back to square one.
Remember the days before the commissioners arrived when Steve Ruru announced that ratepayers and Council were going to work together to resolve all the issues and sort out the rating mess together. John Robertson, shortly after his arrival, put an end to any consultation or cooperation and is now reaping the harvest of his arrogant disregard for the rights of ratepayers.
Imagine what we could have achieved with cooperation, competence and integrity.
PROOF OF THE PUDDING 30.08.13
The commissioners know that they have absolutely no legal case and would be laughed out of court. But that does not stop them threatening and cajoling and putting out misleading information through the local propaganda sheets.
Let us know if you have been sued.
RATEPAYER CONTRIBUTIONS 30.08.13
ROBERSTON AND CO STRUCK OUT 30.08.13
Those ratepayers who are still paying rates to the illegal regime led by the commissioners must now reassess whether they should continue to pay rates that are clearly illegal to a local authority that has no legal power to collect rates or fees of any kind, simply because it does not have a valid LTP. Given the High Court’s approach in this matter it would be sensible to withhold all payments until the High Court makes its final decision on the matter.
Chief commissioner, John Robertson, continues to dig a big hole for himself by asserting that that the current rates are legal when the Department of Internal Affairs has stated quite clearly that the current rates are invalid and it is beyond any shadow of doubt that the LTP is invalid. John Robertson’s assertion that the inclusion of the current LTP in the validation bill is simply to “exclude any doubt” is not correct and Mr Robertson is well aware of that. In law things are either valid or not. There is no half-way house. Parliament has made that clear to Mr Robertson but he still repeats the same mantra to try and suck in those ratepayers who are sitting on the fence.
Ratepayers who believe that rates need to be paid so that roading can be attended to need to look at the reality of the situation. The biggest expenditure for Council is the debt bill and the interest that was illegally incurred by this Council. And if roading is so important then why is the Council wasting massive sums of money on expensive lawyers to validate the past illegalities and to try and prevent the court from making an adjudication on the matter.
Ratepayers need to stop paying rates, join the MRRA and pressure the commissioners and the government into reaching a quick settlement of this matter.
And, by the way, well done Bruce Rogan and the MRRA.
SELECT COMMITTEE SUBMISSIONS 30.08.13
Further submissions will be made in Wellington next week.
It will be interesting to see how well democracy works in New Zealand and see how Parliament deals with the conflict between the rule of law and political expediency. This case is of massive importance. Kaipara may be a backwater that it is generally irrelevant to life in New Zealand but the way that Parliament deals with the Kaipara problem will provide a massive insight into the health of democracy in this country.
INPUT REQUIRED 30 08 13
COMMISSSIONERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PROFLIGACY? 29.07.13
There is little doubt that the Department of Internal Affairs and Minister acted outside their legal powers in appointing a Review Team when the legislation at that stage did not give the Minister that power. There is also evidence of undue influence brought to bear on the Kaipara Councillors by the Review Team and the DIA to force them to ask for commissioners to be appointed and to pressure them to adopt the 2012/22 LTP.
The appointment of the commissioners also has to be scrutinised to ascertain if the commissioners were appointed in compliance with the legislation.
There is also little doubt that the commissioners failed to comply with their terms of reference to consult with ratepayers on the options for dealing with the illegal rates. The Minister and the DIA may be satisfied with the commissioners’ total failure to comply with the TOR but the High Court will no doubt take a much stricter line. It may well decide that the commissioners failed to comply with their terms of reference and that their decision to launch its validation bill was ultra vires. If that is the case then the commissioners might personally have to wear the costs of the validation process and all the legal fees that they seem so keen to incur, no doubt because they believe that ratepayers are footing the bill.
Because the Council no longer has a valid LTP the commissioners have no power to set, assess or collect rates or to make any other charges. They also have no policies or rules to guide their actions.
Effectively this means that they have no decision-making powers and every decision that they purport to make is ultra vires because they are no longer operating as a local authority under the LGA.
Thus, their decision to defend the MRRA application for review was utterly ultra vires and the commissioners may well be held personally responsible for the legal fees of Simpson Grierson and the counsel that has been appointed.
What the Minister the DIA and all those involved in local government in New Zealand do not realise is that things are about to change. The Emperor’s new clothes - the fantasy world of legal liability in local government - are going to be exposed for what they are. For years the enforcement authorities have treated local authorities as being exempt from the law on the mistaken understanding that ratepayers have to foot the bill for all the incompetence and misfeasance of councils. The DIA and the Minister have been able to exert their superior power to bully ratepayers into submission and force them to pay the bills whilst allowing local authorities to ignore the legislative requirements. The banks, which have abdicated all care in the area, have been given a free ride.
The High Court now has the opportunity to restate the legal position and make it clear that the local authorities are subject to the law and must comply strictly with the requirements of the legislation. Any failure to comply will incur personal responsibility for those responsible for the decision-making of a council.
Pleas in mitigation that this was accepted practice and endorsed by the regulatory authorities will be irrelevant and carry no weight with the Court.
The banks who are happily funding local authorities in the belief that there are thousands of ratepayers guaranteeing any loans need to get their lawyers to look very closely at the legislation and perhaps insist on personal guarantees from councillors and commissioners.
Commissioners and councillors need to reassess their legal liability. It only needs one legal decision to make them personally responsible for their actions, in very much the same way that company directors are being held responsible. There is effectively no difference between the two and the courts will no doubt take the opportunity to clarify the law and outline and legal responsibility of the decision-makers in local authorities.
It is interesting that it was Justice Heath who recently defined very clearly the legal obligations of company directors, and it is Justice Heath who will hear the MRRA application for review.
The lid of Pandora’s Box of local government is working its way loose and is about to be blown off.
ROGAN’S RESPONSE 29.07.13
Saturday, 27 July 2013v
One of my many problems is that I talk too much.
I am very lucky to have a wonderful friend who by his actions from time to time reminds me why he is a wonderful friend. He is very wealthy, because he is very energetic and focussed on what he does.
He owns multiple properties in the Kaipara and elsewhere. He has made very significant contributions to the Litigation costs of the MRRA.
At the Annual Plan hearings he offered to come into the council at no cost and fix all the problems, and he offered to do it in three to six months at the outside. They would not even look at him let alone respond (I was there). Tonight he rang me and told me the following:
He received a letter from this Paul Cresswell minion.
This is what he said in reply:
Dear Mr Cresswell,
Since you ask, No, I do not have financial difficulties, it is you that has the financial difficulties.
When you get your shit together, I will get mine together and start paying rates, but until then try whistling.
SINGAPORE EXCELLENCE 28.07.13
If we had asked the Singapore experts to construct a sewerage system for us in Mangawhai then you can bet your bottom dollar that it would be state of the art, that it would work, and that it would be cost effective and affordable.
We have to ask ourselves why we tolerated the incompetence of the previous council for so long, and why we are putting up with the same snake-oil treatment for the Kaipara debacle from a new bunch of incompetents when it is absolutely clear that the patient is terminal and radical and expert intervention is needed.
PIRATES IN DISGUISE 28.07.13
I can only wish that it were that easy in Kaipara. The pirates there are heavily disguised but they operate in much the same way as the Somali pirates. They operate totally outside the law of the land. The only difference is that in “civilised” New Zealand they operate with the blessing of the authorities.
TO PAY OR NOT TO PAY 28.07.13
Let me make the following points:
1. The KDC is operating outside the law. It has, by its own admission in the Validation Bill, no valid LTP which means that it has no power to set, assess, or collect rates or any other charges. It has no more legal power than the Mafia. It simply threatens people and is allowed to do that because the Police, the Commerce Commission, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Minister and the OAG are not doing the job that they are supposed to do and are allowing the commissioners to act outside the law.
2. To bring an action to recover rate arrears the KDC will have to prove to the court that it has the power to set, assess, and collect rates. It cannot do that.
4. The fact that the KDC has applied to Parliament to validate the rates is irrelevant. The rates are invalid until (and if) Parliament validates them.
5. The commissioners know that the rates cannot be enforced in court but they are illegally misleading ratepayers (which in itself is a breach of the Fair Trading Act). They do this because they know that the government and the regulatory authorities treat local authorities as having unlimited powers and not subject to the rule of law. Fortunately the courts see things very differently and will enforce the rule of law. That is why the commissioners, the Department of Internal Affairs and the regulatory authorities are doing all they can to block access to the courts.
6. The Minister has confirmed (see posts below) that the financial projections of the commissioners are utter rubbish and that development contributions will never be used to repay the illegal debts. That means that ratepayers will be socked again and again, year after year, to pay the illegal debts.
7. The only way that ratepayers can bring the madness to a halt is to stop paying any monies to the Council immediately. The only way we can get government to sit up and listen is to make it impossible for the KDC to continue functioning. Painful yes, but absolutely necessary. Kaipara is bankrupt and has massive financial and legal problems which no one knows how to fix. Allowing the desperadoes to continue is utter madness. Kaipara needs radical assessment and intervention from experts. Band-aids soaked in snake-oil are not going to do the trick.
8. All ratepayers across the district need to get in behind the MRRA. A few people have issues with the MRRA for various reasons, but this is the time when everyone needs to support the Association. Most other organisations have succumbed to the persuasive charms of the commissioners and their baseless and misleading promises, and the local newspapers have become nothing more than propaganda sheets for the KDC. The MRRA has kept its focus and it is the one chance that we have of bringing back the rule of law to Kaipara and bringing back some competence and integrity to local government in the district.
9. In short, do not pay one single cent to the Council. Write to the commissioners and tell them where to stick their illegal threats. Join the MRRA and contribute to its fighting fund. And go to the High Court in Whangarei on 16 August. It is a massive day for the future of Kaipara and it is a massive day for the rule of law in New Zealand.
LATEST FROM LARRY 27.07.13
MINISTER OPENS UP 27.03.13
Here are some quotes with some comments:
The first goal, having the books in surplus, is about good financial management. It’s simple economics: spend less than you earn, and keep your borrowing under control. In this regard central and local government should be on the same page.
BUT WHAT ABOUT KAIPARA?
Both taxpayers and ratepayers expect us to be sound economic managers of their investment in us.
BUT WHAT ABOUT KAIPARA?
I am pleased to see one of the lowest average annual rate rises across local Government in recent years. Well done.
BUT WHAT ABOUT KAIPARA?
Unless we can demonstrate significant service improvements (ratepayers) will not (and should not) stomach significant cost increases.
BUT WHAT ABOUT KAIPARA? Illegal debts and illegal spending of monies and yet you expect the ratepayers there to “stomach” the massive rate increases. Is Kaipara an exception to the rule?
I see the financial prudence regulations as part of our commitment to help promote excellence in local government financial management. I think the benchmarks will be useful to you.
They will provide elected members with early warning signals of risks, which will help to avoid the need for central government intervention in the way that happened in Kaipara
BUT central government intervention in Kaipara has been an utter disaster. The incompetence and the illegalities of the past have simply continued. The culture of incompetence and no accountability and dumping on ratepayers has to end.
TREMAIN ON DEVELOPMENT CONTRIBUTIONS 27.07.13
Another issue which is at the forefront of both central and local government is housing affordability. As part of our work in this area we are reviewing the framework within which Development Contributions are set.
I am keen to see development contributions made more transparent and more tightly confined to infrastructure used in the development.
Whaleoil has praised those comments
Local Government has been ripping us all off for years. Spending frivolously and charging erroneously it has operated in a vacuum with no transparency and with unfettered discretion when it should have been tightly constrained to performing specific functions and roles and limited to quite clear guidelines on expenditure, income and the relationship between the two
Kaipara ratepayers will endorse those comments wholeheartedly. But they will also be concerned that these are just words from the Minister and wonder why the Minister is allowing his own commissioners to commit a massive rort on the people of Kaipara in their latest LTP and annual plan
Kaiparaconcerns has pointed out time and time again that the commissioners were misleading ratepayers with their proposals in the latest LTP that development contributions raised in the future would be used to pay off a massive part of the illegal debt. The Minister has now confirmed, as expected, that that will never happen. Development contributions will have to be tied to specific infrastructure for specific developments. The use of the contributions to pay for the reckless and illegal spending of the past will not be countenanced in any way.
This means that the all the financial projections of the commissioners are, and always have been, utterly wrong and misleading. As I have said before, if these guys were company directors they would be facing criminal charges for misleading investors. It is an absolute disgrace that in the local government sector they can make such baseless projections with impunity, knowing that they will be given the seal of approval by the OAG and that their financial imprudence will be endorsed by the DIA and the Minister.
And we all know that the result of all this is that the ratepayers of Kaipara will be in the gun for paying the illegal debts for generations to come. And the cowboys in charge will have long ridden off into the sunset, with their wallets bulging, to new pastures where they can inflict their staggeringly modest talents with utter impunity on another group of hapless ratepayers in New Zealand.
Chris Tremain needs more than words. If he really means what he says then he needs to tackle the Kaipara issue, get rid of the current commissioners and get in the real experts to tackle the root causes of the Kaipara problem.
PARLIAMENT NEEDS TO ACT 20.07.13
For too long the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), the Minister and the regulatory authorities have done all they can to support the crumbling façade of local government in New Zealand by pretending that the Kaipara Council is operating within the law when clearly it is not.
The Kaipara Council ran amok for many years and would have continued to do so, with the blessing of the Minister, the DIA and the regulatory authorities. It was only the actions of ratepayers that has brought the illegalities out into the open. But the illegalities have not stopped. The commissioners under the direction of the DIA are continuing to operate outside the law and do so without the Minister, the DIA or the regulatory authorities taking any action to curtail them.
This is a bit like the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the emperor’s magic clothes. Sooner or later, one hopes, the regulatory authorities and the government are going to wake up to the fact that the Kaipara Council is in fact an illegal entity operating without any legal powers.
The question is: Will Parliament adopt the same blinkered attitude?
Kaipara ratepayers would like to ask Parliament two simple questions:
1. Why is Parliament even considering a validation bill when the plans and rates that it is proposing to validate are the subject of a judicial review that was before the High Court before the validation bill was filed with Parliament? Has Parliament never heard of the separation of powers?
2. How can Parliament even consider a validation bill proposed by the Kaipara Council when that Council acknowledges in its Validation Bill that it has no valid LTP, as required by the Local Government Act, and is operating outside the law?
In other words, does the Rule of Law exist in local government in New Zealand?
BANKRUPTCY FOR COUNCILS 20.07.13
That myth has no legal basis but it has encouraged an incredibly cavalier approach by banks (that do no due diligence) and by their lawyers (who presume that the loans are guaranteed but without actually checking the legislation carefully).
Kaipara ratepayers are challenging the flimsy assumptions in court and all New Zealanders need to offer support as this is an issue that affects all ratepayers in New Zealand.
We have the bizarre situation where company directors are being faced with tighter regulations in respect of their responsibilities with both criminal, statutory and civil law sanctions, and yet their equivalents in local government – councillors - are given a free card to perform to the most appalling standards. Likewise the CEO’ of local authorities are regarded as having no liability for incompetence, negligence or downright dishonesty.
Why the difference? Because ratepayers are, in the eyes of government, obliged to pay for the incompetence of a council’s elected members and employees.
Kaipara ratepayers are challenging that and asking the High Court to decide if ratepayers are responsible for debts illegally incurred by their council.
If you want to support the MRRA’s action then contact the MRRA and contribute to its fighting fund for fairness in local government.
CAMPBELL LIVE 20.07.13
It has been a huge challenge trying to get the rest of Kaipara to see that the problems we face are not specific to Mangawhai, and it has been an even bigger challenge to get the rest of New Zealand to see that what has happened in Kaipara places the rule of law and the fundamentals of our democracy in peril.
Many of you will have noticed that Campbell Live have taken on the role that we really should expect our serious fraud office and our Auditor General to undertake- questioning the actions and decisions of those in power who have royally screwed up in the discharge of their responsibilities.
I am delighted to tell you that Campbell Live is going to update their story on Kaipara and Mangawhai, and they want to talk to residents on camera who have been harmed by the actions of this terrible unelected and unlawful council.
If you have experienced large rates increases (whether you are paying them or not), if you have been treated shabbily by anyone from the commissioners on down, and you are prepared to discuss your plight on camera, please either email me or phone me on (09)4315413 and I will pass on your contact info to Campbell Live.
If you would prefer to go directly to Campbell Live email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please act on this request without delay- it is a truly FANTASTIC opportunity to bring our plight to the nation’s attention. Everybody with a TV who can afford the outrageously expensive power to operate it watches Campbell Live these days. Let’s make exposure of the criminality that is destroying Kaipara the most memorable Campbell Live ever, and let’s take this perfect opportunity to expose the terrible destructive legislation that Robertson and his gang are trying to ram through the House.
Some of you might not have caught up with the fact that Winder- Robertson’s number two, has been seconded to delete democracy from Christchurch. He, of all people, is looking into the behaviour of the CEO. Personally I was wondering who in the government had noticed that Peter Winder has two faces, and that he can suck on two ratepayer/taxpayer teats simultaneously.
I notice there has been no announcement to the effect that he is no longer drawing a daily stipend in the Kaipara.
I’m running a book on what Winder will recommend and my money says that he will be telling Minister Tremain that elected councils no longer work in Christchurch and it will need to be replaced by a small hand-picked commission of redundant politicians and ex CEOs, to be paid for by the ever-diminishing number of ratepayers still struggling to survive there. But I am biased, as you know.
SUBMISSIONS ON THE BILL 07.07.13
This is not the time for an ad hoc, ill-considered band-aid.
A guide to making a submission, with ideas for content, can be seen here.
OAG SHOWS ITS TEETH 06.07.13
Auditor-General Lyn Provost has told the
Ms Provost said a review of the P-card reconciliation for February this year found a "significant number of transactions that have been paid were yet to be authorised or coded".
She urged the council to quickly address the concerns raised in the report "as this exposes council to the risk of inappropriate expenditure being incurred without approval".
One wonders what the Auditor-General was doing when the Kaipara Council went on an unfettered spending spree for many years and tens of millions of dollars of inappropriate expenditure was incurred without approval.
And while talking about urgency, what about the report on the EcoCare inquiry which has now taken close to 17 months?
AUDITOR'S SIDE-STEP 06.07.13
SUBMISSIONS TO SELECT COMMITTEE 05.07.13
The Commissioners are advising MPs that there are is only a small vocal minority opposing the BIl, and ratepayers need to show Parliament that the Bill is actually opposed by the majority of ratepayers in the District.
Legal Eagle will put some of his own submissions on the website in the next day or so to show the sort of issues that are relevant to Parliament.
Remember that you have until 25 July to file a submission, and it can be filed on-line.
MRRA MEETING 05.07.13
Our next meeting will take place on 7 July 2013 at the Recreation Centre Insley St, 1:30pm.
Looking at the weather, and the fact that none of the politicians we asked to front have the courage to do so, we have decided to defer our march until later in the year.
FINANCIAL PROJECTIONS OR FANTASIES? 05.07.13
I have pointed out in the past that if company directors included the same income projections based on growth assumptions in a prospectus then they could be facing a jail sentence for misleading investors.
This is what Dr Jill McPherson, Kaipara District Council’s new general manager of planning and community, wrote to a ratepayer:
It is important to note that growth projections are only projections and that what happens in practice will likely vary from what was originally projected.
"Will likely vary". In other words the figures mean nothing.
In respect of the quantum of Development Contributions received it is acknowledged that these are lower than projected so far this year. However, there are a large number of possible connections identified for completion in the next few years.
Actual figures lower, but possible connections. Not much comfort there.
If Council is becoming concerned about the level of risk that it is carrying in relation to development contributions then it can change the sources from which it is seeking to fund that revenue. Once a decision has been made to fund growth related expenditure from a source other than development contributions it cannot, however, then 'change its mind' and seek to fund that expenditure from development contributions in the future.
That is precisely what ratepayers are concerned about. If the figures prove to be optimistic, which they almost certainly will, then another "source of revenue" will be found. And guess what that will be? Huge rate increases. Perhaps another massive capital contribution across the district, and a heavier one in Mangawhai.
This is virtually inevitable. It is exactly what happened before and caused the Kaipara debacle. The financial projections were in fantasy land. But those responsible for a local authority's accounts can come up with such rubbish over and over again, knowing that it is pie in the sky, knowing that it is more than likely that ratepayers will be stung yet again, and knowing that no one will ever hold them responsible for their reckless projections.
It is an absolute disgrace that ratepayers are forced to entrust their monies to a bunch of financial half-wits, and, having being ripped off to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, they are forced to go down the same road again.
That is why the Validation Bill must not go through. If the Commissioners force it through then we are almost certainly heading down the road that is sign-posted Financial Ruin.
We need to get in some independent financial experts to do a thorough assessment of the Council's financial standing, its future viability, and the viability of the debt. That is what would happen in real life, which is very far removed from the ethereal, make-believe financial fantasy-land that pervades local government in New Zealand
ANOTHER INQUIRY? 05.07.13
The commissioners of debt-ridden Kaipara District Council have begun a new inquiry into its past financial decisions, including the advice it received from former chief executive Jack McKerchar.
Sounds good . But is it true? The author goes on to state that there are two inquiries already underway, and that there is now a third:
The commissioners' investigation into other financial transactions they have discovered since taking over last September and see as questionable.
But there is nothing in the article that actually supports this statement. The only comment I can find is:
Chief commissioner John Robertson announced last month that the commissioners were keeping their options open over possible legal action against those involved in the Mangawhai scheme.
"If by taking legal action, we are able to recover costs and reduce the financial impact of the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme on ratepayers, then it is likely we will do that."
Keeping one's options open is scarcely instigating an inquiry. Bruce Rogan of the MRRA called it a "smokescreen".
Mike Sabin the local MP, who is a staunch supporter of the Commissioners and their Validation Bill, goes out on a limb:
"I can put my hand on my heart and say that the commissioners, where they can find accountability and make it stick, they will," he said.
One would have thought that as an ex-cop he would have needed more evidence before making such a statement. The only comment that suggests the Commissioners might pursue accountability is the throw-away line of John Robertson:
"The decisions of council were advised by the CEO, so as part of general matters we're looking into that."
Ratepayers will not hold their breath. It would be very nice if Mike Sabin is right, but ratepayers have absolutely no confidence in the Commissioners. The Commissioners have already fitted the ratepayers up to take sole responsibility for the malfeasance of the past and are not going to be side-tracked by bringing other parties into the radar.
if you are going to have an inquiry into the accountability of other parties then you need put in some independent experts. But is that ever going to happen in Kaipara when the ratepayers can be forced to bear all the responsibility?
DID PARLIAMENT INTENTIONALLY BANKRUPT MANGAWHAI? 05.07.13
He recounts the history of Section 117 LGRA which makes local authority debts valid and enforceable even though they are illegal, ultra vires, or even fraudulent.
The aim of the government was to ensure that local authorities were seen as absolutely secure which would mean a lower interest rate would be charged.
There had been some cases in the UK where local authorities had wriggled out of liability for loans on the basis that they had acted ultra vires in taking out a loan. Parliament's intention was to close this loophole.
But what of protection for ratepayers in case a local authority went off the rails and acted outside the scope of the law?
Well, Parliament never considered that a local authority would do such a thing. In those days there was minimum borrowing by local authorities.
It also believed that there were checks in place to stop any meanderings off the legal compliance track. Read John Banks' comments in Parliament, highlighted in the article, about the new borrowing regime for local authorities with the requirement for plans and strategies and borrowing polices, with transparency, in-depth consultation, and accountability:
Local authorities will be required to provide a framework for financial management strategies and policies to govern all financial decisions and policies, not just borrowing proposal. That framework will be subject to extensive consultation requirements and will provide a clear basis upon which specific expenditure, investment, rating, and borrowing proposals can be understood.
As the article points out:
Parliament intended for bank borrowings to be protected transactions all right - but ONLY after the public consultation had occurred.
What Parliament did not anticipate is that the general competence provision would create an attitude in local government where local authorities had carte blanche to launch into new borrowings to fund their growth. On top of that, section 117 and its earlier versions would help create a culture whereby compliance with legal requirements was irrelevant as all debts were valid irrespective of illegal regularities.
As for the checks created by the new requirements for plans strategies and policies and consultation, well, they were just ignored. Kaipara is the perfect example. Consultation was completely ignored in respect of the EcoCare debt and although there were policies and strategies and all the other requirements set out perfectly properly in the plans, in the real-life of Council's practice they were completely ignored as well.
Take for instance the segmented debt policy in the 2006/16 LTP. It set strict limits on the EcoCare debt and Council's power to increase the debt. Yet within months Council secretly increased the debt totally ignoring the segmented debt policy and its borrowing ratios.
All rules need to have some enforcement agency to ensure that they are complied with. Without a policeman on the street corner human-beings have a tendency to err off the straight and narrow. Parliament did not consider how the new regime was to be policed, but presumably it considered that the OAG would perform that role as the as both regulatory authority and auditor of all local authorities .
And that is the essence of the problem: the total failure of the OAG to perform its role.
No matter which avenue one goes down when reflecting on Kaipara and its problems, one always comes back to the OAG and its abysmal failure to do its job properly.
HEARING DATE CONFIRMED 24.06.13
This is only the entree before the main course. The Commissioners are trying to strike out the main cause of action of the MRRA on the basis that the KDC debts are "protected transactions" and that the MRRA had no supportable claim in law.
MRRA LATEST 24.06.13
Preceded, by popular demand, by a march beginning at the Hub at 12:30 Please JOIN in, have an invigorating walk and bring a funny eye-catching placard to wave.
We invited the minister for Local Government (Hon Chris Tremain) to attend and speak to the meeting. He did not even deign to acknowledge receipt of the invitation.
SUBMISSIONS ON THE LOCAL BILL 24.06.13
TIME FOR A HAIR CUT? 24.06.13
Apparently it is a good, profitable company but simply could not bear the $700 million debt burden that it was lumbered with. After the receivership that is now down to $100 million.
Clearly there have been free haircuts all round and ratepayers in Kaipara might like to get KordaMentha in to deliver a few haircuts to those who were responsible for the Kaipara illegalities.
If those responsible for the financial and legal mayhem chipped in their share of the debt we could soon have a the KDC operating well within its budget and charging reasonable rates.
We all know who the suspects are but who is going to initiate the hair-cutting procedure?
ULTRA VIRES AND THE BANK DEBTS 24.06.13
He explains that all loans to a Council are protected transactions under section 117 LGA, and traces the origins of that section, and the reasons for the incredible protection that it provides to the banks.
What the section effectively means is that local authorities can even act fraudulently in securing a loan but it is still enforceable. That clearly overrides the concept of ultra vires under which any act by a local authority outside its legal powers can be set aside.
That is the problem in the judicial review application. The bank debts are clearly enforceable against the Council. Of that there is little doubt. The big question that the court has to answer is whether the Council has the power under the LGA and the Common Law to set rates to pay for an illegal or ultra vires debt.
NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR COUNCILS - JUDITH COLLINS 24.06.13
Despite all the rhetoric about accountability, despite the claim that this legislation allows councils to empower local communities, it actually states that it does not really matter, if one works at the council, because the council can do anything it likes, really. Not only that, but there is no liability! So where is the accountability? There is none. This is fraudulent legislation. The only people who are accountable are we poor people who have to pay the rates, and in this bill the Government, with the help of the United Future party, is giving, carte blanche, to councils---I must say, to its shame---to do whatever they like. And, guess what, they do not even have to follow the rules set out in this legislation.
Ratepayers in Kaipara will endorse every word of that speech. That is exactly how things have turned out to be. The obligations that a local authority had in law can simply be ignored without any accountability.
Given her opposition to this clause and the sentiments expressed, it will be interesting to see how the Minister votes on the issue when the Kaipara Bill comes before Parliament.
HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND? 24.06.13
With respect to Mike, he is completely wrong. Here is an extract that sums the situation up well:
Parliament has traditionally been called the highest court in the land because it was, once upon a time, indeed the highest court under the original Westminster model where the House of Lords or the Upper House was the highest judicial body. In fact, it remained so until recently when the Supreme Court of England was established.
Much has been lost, however, in the translation or export of the Westminster model to the Commonwealth countries where, even though Parliament retains the power to punish for contempt, it does not sit as a judicial body, and is thus not a court. Nevertheless, the misnomer persists
The reality is that Parliament in New Zealand is not a court and the highest court in the land is the Supreme Court of New Zealand.
Parliament is simply a political arena where decisions are made, not on the basis of law or on fairness or justice but pursuant to the policies of the party that has the most votes. Parliament makes the laws but it is the role of the courts to apply and interpret those laws in accordance with statutory law and the common law.
That is why this Validation Bill is an abomination for ratepayers. The chances are that the fate of Kaipara will be decided simply on party lines. Justice, fairness, equity, the rule of law and all those other fine principles which should be relevant, will give way to basic political expediency.
That is why the judicial review is so important.
SHARING THE BLAME 24.06.13
Is Mike and his party actually going to do anything about holding others responsible? After all he is supporting a Validation Bill that could stymie the ratepayers' application to the court which will resolve once and for all ratepayers' liability for the illegal debt.
He is also supporting a bill that is ill-considered, vindictive and utterly inappropriate. Kaipara can never go forward unless some independent experts get stuck into Council and sort out ALL the financial and legal problems and then come up with some really genuine solutions. And hopefully they might consult with ratepayers along the way.
And why, oh why is the OAG holding a so-called "independent" inquiry into the EcoCare disaster when Mike Sabin, his Parliamentary colleagues and everyone else, believe that the OAG must bear a great amount of responsibility for the debacle?
JUDICIAL REVIEW 19.06.13
Under the LGA loans from banks are protected transactions and deemed to be "valid and enforceable" against the Council even though they were illegal, ultra vires or fraudulent. (BIzarre but true). Council then pleads that it is therefore entitled to set rates to raise monies to repay those loans.
The MRRA contends, however, that although the loans are valid and enforceable between the parties, the loans may still be illegal for other purposes. There are special provisions in the LGA whereby a receiver can set a special rate to repay a loan that is a protected transaction, but there is no special power vested in the Council itself. When setting a rate the Council is therefore bound by the general provisions and principles of the Rating Act and the LGA and the principles of the Common Law, and, it is argued, does not have the power to set a rate for the purposes of repaying an illegal debt. Any such power should have been specifically included in the LGRA, as it was for receivers but not for local authorities.
The Judge acknowledges that the case is "of some public interest" and is in the complex category.
A tentative hearing date for the strike-out application has been set for 16 August in the High Court at Whangarei. That date will be confirmed after 24 June.
SUBMISSIONS TO THE SELECT COMMITTEE 19.06.13
A guide to making a submission can be downloaded here.
In the next few days we will be issuing a guide to the issues that ratepayers should concentrate on when drafting their submissions.
The chair of commissioners, John Roberston, is working overtime selling his spin to MPs. He is telling them that most ratepayers support the commissioners and that "resistance to paying rates is from a small, but very vocal number of ratepayers".
Ratepayers need to to show the Select Committee that John Roberston and his crew are completely wrong.and that Kaipara as a whole rejects the autocratic and non-consulted actions of the commissioners and opposes the Validation Bill.
It is also time to put aside hyperbole and over-the-top comments. We need to express our case clearly and with passion. Let the facts do the talking. We have right on our side. We have the law and equity on our side. We just need to win over Parliament.
WHAT IS MIKE SABIN UP TO? 19.06.13
I now hear through the grapevine that he has been writing very strong letters to individual ratepayers pressuring them to pay their rates.
If you have received such a letter from Mike Sabin then please let me have a copy so that we can see what our elected member is up to.
THE MRRA'S POSITION ON THE VALIDATION BILL 15.06.13
MIKE SABIN ROASTS THE OAG 15.06.13
Mike Sabin National –Northland
Like so many in the Kaipara people are angry at the council’s handling of the Mangawhai wastewater scheme that has burdened this district with enormous debt. It is important to note from the outset that the $30 million decision to expand the sewerage scheme is not subject to this bill. In 1999 the council estimated the cost of the Mangawhai wastewater scheme at $11 million. In 2003 it was estimated at $17 million. By March 2006, it was $35.6 million. In October 2006 the council approved a new contract for $58 million. The final actual cost was $62 million. Although there have been some changes in the scope of the scheme from what was envisaged in 1999 the question is how did they get this so wrong? The Office of the Auditor-General is investigating this and whether any individuals or organisation is culpable.
It would be wrong of me to comment further while this inquiry is underway but I await with great interest the outcomes of this inquiry, including, it must be said, the role of her own office and that of Audit New Zealand as the council auditor. The public and the residents of Kaipara depend on Audit New Zealand, as the council’s auditor to ensure the compliance of their local authority with the law, their standards of accounting, and the necessary probity and financial prudence.
Annual audits of public bodies are required for very good reasons. There are some serious questions that must be answered here. How could the cost of the scheme go from $11 million to over $62 million with such limited consultation with its ratepayers and yet the Council still receive clean audits?
How could Audit New Zealand sign off on the long term council community plan when there were major inconsistencies between the financial projections in the plan and the funding arrangements being put in place to finance the project?
How could they also sign off on the long term council community plan that relied heavily on the collection of development contributions when there were no development contributions policies in the plan?
Similarly, the long term council community plan was signed off when the rates needed to fund the Mangawhai wastewater scheme were not even included in the funding impact statement, which is critical to the council being able to set the rate.
How can it be that the council can have such deep-seated and long-standing non-compliance and other fundamental financial mismanagement issues and still get clean audits year after year when people in that district were saying that there were problems?
Why were none of the growing financial performance issues of the Kaipara District Council noted in successive audit reports?
Have the auditors failed the ratepayers of Kaipara? If so, that failure must be addressed. It must never happen again, and accountability for failure must be sheeted home.
Pretty strong words from a politician, and those sentiments were echoed by other MPs.
HERALD'S CONCERNS ABOUT OAG 14.06.13
TRANSCRIPT OF FIRST READING 13.06.13
OAG GETS A CANING 13.06.13
The OAG at work
"Don't come out. It's not over yet."
KDC IN A NUTSHELL 13.06.13
Of special interest is the response of Hugh Pavletich (scroll down to comments) who pinpoints the responsibility of local government (rather than existing property owners and greenies) for creating high house prices:
My view is that it is simply Local Governments costs getting out of control (the bigger they are generally the worse the problem) … losing the capacity to meet their infrastructure responsibilities and cope with normal growth.
To mask this governance / regulatory failure, understandably they start in to strangling land supply and then as their costs get further out of control, start imposing technically unsound Development Levies and other fees. Just wherever they can generate revenue to feed their insatiable bureaucracies.
It's nothing more or less than Parkinson’s Law on steroids (Parkinson's law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ).
Within the larger Local Authorities, the interests of the bureaucracy always come first. Their communities lose control of them.
Those comments sum up the essence of the problem facing Kaipara. The EcoCare scheme was built ostensibly to save the waters of the harbour from pollution and to provide a modern and efficient and well-priced solution.
The reality is, however, that it was a scheme to enrich the contractors, the consultants, the banks, and all those involved. Rates and development contributions were not set to service a genuine debt for an essential service but to fund the excessive payments to those who had abused the system.
And that is the problem facing the KDC under its new LTP. Massive rates are being charged to pay not for essential services, as the commissioners lamely suggest, but to fund the illegal debt that was used to pay the "abusers".
Likewise the development contributions that are supposed to rescue Kaipara from penury, sometime in the future, only exist in the fanciful minds of John Robertson and his crew. They are never going to happen. And if they did happen they would not be charges for services provided, a large part of the levies would be simply a method of repaying illegal debt that was used to enrich all of those who were involved in the racket.
The setting of development contributions is governed by very precise methodology in the LGA and those developers who feel they are being used to fund Council's illegal debts and profligacy, rather than pay for essential infrastructure under the LGA, should be looking for some expert legal advice on the matter.
If we continue on the merry-go-round of KDC incompetence, we will spend generations going round in circles, pouring endless monies into a bottomless pit, getting poorer and poorer, whilst those who profited from the scheme will be sniggering from the sidelines.
Let's stop the merry-go-round now.
VALIDATION BILL- FIRST READING 12.06.13
Mike Sabin National
All ratepayers should watch all of the speeches and note that virtually everyone of them vindicates the stand of ratepayers against the KDC.
It is also obvious that the Auditor-General is held by both sides of the House to be largely responsible for the dreadful situation in which the ratepayers of Kaipara now find themselves.
Anyone who in the past had any doubts about the validity of our opposition to Council will get immense comfort from the universal condemnation of the actions of Council. It should also encourage all those ratepayers who have been wavering about paying their rates to remain steadfast and continue to refuse to pay them.
Mike Sabin was a dark horse and no doubt his sudden epiphany after months of being in denial will be the subject of much speculation.
John Robertson and his crew must have serious concerns about the response of all the parties and they may sense that their plan to railroad ratepayers might end up as a very costly mistake.
A NON-PENALTY FOR NOT PAYING A NON-RATE SET BY A NON-COUNCIL 12.06.13
COLIN CRAIG 12.06.13
Although he will be discussing his party's policies on all topics there is no doubt that he will be addressing the Kaipara Problem in some detail.
The Conservative Party website (here) shows that it supports the stand made by ratepayers in Kaipara.
The following comments relate specifically to the government pushing through the proposed changes to GCSB legislation under urgency but also relate to the Kaipara Validation Bill:
“So far as these proposed changes to legislation are a clarification of existing arrangements, there is no problem. However, any extension of power is something that needs to be carefully looked at.”
“Civil liberties and the protection of a person’s privacy are essential, and must not be meddled with lightly. These are freedoms we hold dear, they are freedoms New Zealanders believe in, and have fought for.”
“We rely on the government to protect citizens’ privacy and rights. This must include protection from the government itself. It’s worth remembering that throughout history liberties are usually lost one small step at a time, and it’s normally the government that takes liberties away.”
In the Question and Answer part of the website the following question relating specifically to Kaipara is asked, followed by Colin Craig's answer:
Do you agree with the government passing legislation to retrospectively legalise actions by people in authority so that those not responsible and with no prior knowledge of the action are forced to pay the costs incurred illegally. An example is the local bill going through parliament now to legalise actions of the now defunct Kaipara District Council?
No of course not. Breaking the law is breaking the law and retroactive legislation to make it suddenly OK is nothing but “soft corruption”. Actions need to be judged in light of the law as it was at the time the actions took place.
As an interesting point it has always seemed odd to me that directors of private companies can be taken to court and persecuted for breech of duties but that public servants who do the same, or worse, have immunity. It is worth asking why we hold the private sector to a higher level of accountability than the public sector? Surely it is time for a level playing field.
Ratepayers will be encouraged to hear a politician stating the obvious, that validating illegalities of the past is nothing more than "soft corruption", and that elected members of a local authority should have the same accountability as company directors.
The website also includes an account of Colin Craig's meeting in Kaipara last year:
05 August 2012
Colin Craig, leader of the Conservative Party spoke to a restaurant full of angry ratepayers in central Dargaville on Sunday evening, and has now offered to assist in finding a solution to the problems of the district.
"Yes I have offered to assist Kaipara, and I have referred the situation to our Local Government team, and we will be making our recommendations known," he says.
"I have given my commitment to stand with the people of Kaipara, and to work towards a real solution," says Mr Craig.
Mr Craig spoke to the audience for approximately twenty minutes. He began by outlining a brief history of local government in New Zealand, pointing to the fantastic achievements of local government in the first 140 years.
"It was primarily local government that built the infrastructure and the communities that we see today. It was an outstanding achievement," he said.
He explained how local government had functioned basically as a direct democracy within local communities, and had been the ideal structure for New Zealand as a newly developing nation.
Mr Craig then drew attention to the more recent reforms, and how these reforms had created an inherently flawed system in which those who hold the real power are largely driven by self-interest.
"Ratepayers have primarily become the cheque account funding commercial and bureaucratic interests," he said.
"What we have now is a systematic failure, and we are watching as local body after local body finds itself in serious financial trouble."
"The need for reform is urgent, and unfortunately National's proposal in respect of local government is entirely too timid, at best they are addressing the symptoms of the problem, but not the cause."
Mr Craig then outlined six key areas where reform is required to return local bodies back to being efficient and accountable organisations that deliver value for money.
"Local Government needs to be reformed so that it stops impeding business, development, and the personal well-being of residents."
"What I'm interested in is finding a real solution, and getting Kaipara's problem solved as soon as possible."
Many long-time National supporters are totally disenchanted with the way in which John Key's government has abandoned all the fundamental principles of democracy and justice in Kaipara in the pursuit of political expediency.
Many also feel that local National MP Mike Sabin has betrayed the people of Kaipara in his slavish, unquestioning endorsement of the autocratic acts of the commissioners.
Colin Craig and his party might well offer one way of casting a protest vote at the next election.
"REMEMBER KAIPARA" 11.06.13
Perhaps Kaipara will have the same connotations for New Zealanders when in years to come they say: "Remember Kaipara".
Maggie Barry the National MP for North Shore has hinted that the name Kaipara represents everything that is bad in local government in New Zealand..
This what she had to say in Parliament on the First Reading of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Bill (No2) (here).
It will be interesting to see if the National Party, having acknowledged the sheer incompetence of the Kaipara Council ("an absolutely spectacular failing"), will feel that it is appropriate to visit the sins of that Council on to the innocent and already overburdened ratepayers of the district. Or will they see this as an opportunity to redefine the obligations of a local authority and ensure that those who are responsible for acting outside the bounds of the law, outside all concepts of fairness and honesty, and in defiance of all democratic processes, are personally held responsible for their actions?
When people in future say "Remember Kaipara", it would be nice to think that it was, like the Alamo, because democracy, fairness, and honesty prevailed because of the actions of a few ratepayers who fought the battle against massive odds to have the rule of law returned to Kaipara.
It would be sad if Kaipara were to be remembered as a sordid abuse of power where the government denied the ratepayers access to justice, and where the rule of law, democracy and the separation of powers were totally eclipsed by base political expediency.
MAKE YOUR STAND 10.06.13
Remember when making that decision that:
• Council, by its own admission, does not have a valid LTP. That means that it has no legal power to set, assess or collect rates, or to collect any charges for services. It is operating outside the law.
• The annual plan on which the rates resolution of June will be based is itself invalid because there is no underlying LTP.
• The validation bill has absolutely no status until it goes through all the processes of parliament and is enacted as law. That could be many months away, and there is a chance that it will not proceed at all, or that the penalty provisions are abandoned.
• Council has acknowledged that ALL rates set for the last six years are invalid because the rates assessment notices were all invalid. This means that under the Rating Act ratepayers are not legally obliged to pay the rates. It also means that Council cannot assess penalties on those rates.
• Note that Council is not threatening to take anyone to court. That is because its lawyers have advised that any such action would fail because the KDC cannot prove that the rates are "due and payable" in law. It is therefore abusing its power and adding penalties totally outside the law in the hope that the government will endorse its illegal, immoral and improper actions and validate all its past transgressions.
• The matter is now before the court and will be decided once and for all in a few months. Ratepayers should not pay further monies until the court makes a definitive ruling on the matter.
• Remember the words of Robert F Kennedy:
Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.”
• We know that the law has been flouted. We know that what the commissioners are doing is wrong. We therefore have to be brave and make our stand. If we stick together, if we unite and insist that the ongoing tyranny must end, then we have a chance that justice will return to Kaipara.
Do not pay any rates but more than that, take a positive stand. Write to the commissioners and tell them that they have no legal right to levy rates and that they should listen to the voice of the people.
RATEPAYERS MUST STAY FIRM 06.06.13
Each ratepayer must make up his or her mind how they will react. From my point of view, what the commissioners are doing is one of the worst abuses of power that I have ever seen in my life in what is supposed to be a democratic country where the rule of law is supposed to be paramount. I believe devoutly that all ratepayers should stick together and refuse en masse to pay any more monies to this undemocratic, illegal and autocratic regime.
If we stick together and deny them money and push for the court to intervene then we have every chance of ensuring that justice will prevail.
Here is advice from Bruce Rogan of the MRRA in its latest newsletter:
Dear MRRA Member
Many people have received a letter from one Cresswell of the KDC who calls himself FINANCE MANAGER. The letter threatens (more) penalties if rates remain unpaid.
Let’s get a couple of things very clear here. The rates demand for 2012-13 is illegal. The resolution that is required to be passed so that the rates can be set was adopted (passed) by the council (that the government sacked) two months LATER than permitted by law. That is just the first thing that was wrong with that resolution. There were many others. The gang in charge now have admitted that the resolution was invalid because they are trying to get Parliament to declare it to be valid, retrospectively. If it was valid, as they kept claiming for months, then it would not have to be put into their infamous Retrospective Validation Bill, which, for those who missed it, has been introduced into the House while our court case is still pending AND before there is any sign on the horizon of the auditor general’s report on what went wrong!!!
Before you cave in to the threats, do yourself a favour and write to Cresswell as follows:
Roger the Ratepayer.
You also need to get things in perspective. The correct way to look at all this is in relative terms- i.e. what would your position be if you had not taken action to stop the insanity. In March of 2012, 3000 people turned out to tell the council what they thought of their proposed rates increases. The result was that the council went into retreat and changed the increases from what they were proposing, to levels that were in most cases less than half. With all of the penalties that they are illegally trying to terrify you into paying the amount they are demanding from you is STILL much less than what you would be paying if we had all just lain down in the road and let them drive over us. Clive Boonham keeps saying that concerted cohesive action is the ONLY way to defend ourselves against the outrages being done to us. What more proof do you need? It worked, and it will work again, and it is the ONLY thing that will work.
Here are my own figures, and most other people’s are more favourable (because our proposed increase (47%) was less than many others, because our rates were already obscenely high, and they knew it). Our rates in 2011-12 were $4206. They proposed to increase them to $6183. As a result of our mass revolt they “reduced” ours to $4876. $4876 with 20% penalties added comes to $5851, which is over $300 LESS than what we would have paid if we had let them crush us. Sit down with your own numbers and do the sums for yourself. You are miles ahead, even if you have to eventually pay the penalties. Remember, you have probably also been earning interest on the money you haven’t paid them, which tips the balance even more in your favour.
Make absolutely no mistake, if we, the MRRA and you the people of this community had not stood up to them they would have passed that proposed increase with their eyes shut. The financial disaster would have proceeded unchecked, and having once established that the ratepayers will shoulder 50,70, 120 percent increases (and some were much more!) without batting an eyelid, they would have done it to you again. As it is, they are foisting what they claim to be a 9% increase in the year coming (they are LYING), but even the Government’s hand-picked Bully Boys are not prepared to tempt fate with the increase that is actually needed to refloat this rotting financial hulk.
These usurpers are far more dangerous than the previous Councillors who stumbled along like brainless buffoons. These guys are smart and experienced enforcers who know exactly how far they can go in suppressing ratepayers' rights. They also know that they have not only the blessing of the government in their illegal activities, but they are also confident that the OAG, as both auditor and watchdog, will refuse to get involved even though the commissioners are acting in blatant breach of the law.
The lodging of the Validation Bill with parliament is nothing short of shameful. I would say that all four commissioners, and local MP Mike Sabin, should be ashamed of themselves for this act of betrayal in regards the people of Kaipara, but I feel that four of them would not give a tinker's cuss about the ramifications of what they are doing. But I am surprised that Richard Booth has gone along for the ride with his henchmen. For a man who believes in governance and presumably the rule of law and demcocracy, he is wandering into territory that should make his toes curl.
Legal Eagle has filed formal complaints with the OAG about the lack of legal status of the KDC because it does not have a valid LTP and cannot therefore set, assess or collect rates. it appears that that Office has done a runner. Both Lyn Provost and Nicola White refuse to acknowledge my letters or respond to me.
Perhaps they are peeved at my ongoing criticism of the Office's appalling performance over the years as both watchdog and auditor, or perhaps they are bogged down with finalising the EcoCare report.
But, whatever the reason, it is absolutely clear that ratepayers in New Zealand are denied the protection of any regulatory authority, and local authorities are free to breach the law at will in respect of their own obligations, whilst they have the backing of the government to enforce ratepayers obligations.
That is the sort of situation you would expect to find in some autocratic regime, and not in NZ 2013 under John Key's watch.
Legal Eagle has also lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission on the grounds that the KDC is threatening legal action when it has no legal power to collect or enforce the rates.
It will be interesting to see if another government regulator will run for cover and exempt local authorities from the rule of law.
JUDICIAL REVIEW GOING WELL 02.06.13
The commissioners have not yet indicated clearly how they see this case unfolding. They have filed a statement of defence and all indications from their war cries are that they are going to be confrontational and adversarial rather than trying to resolve the matter amicably. It is a legal custom that applications for judicial review are seen as cooperative affairs with both parties trying to help the court arrive at a resolution of an important legal issue. After all the clarification of the law on ratepayers' obligations in respect of illegal debts is of huge benefit to both sides and to local government in New Zealand.
Rather than defend the undefendable - such as the illegal rates that Council has already acknowledged as illegal - the commissioners should concede such points and reach an agreement on resolving the real legal point at issue by jointly cooperating with the court, and at the same time reaching an accord with ratepayers as to a way out of the legal mess.
A WARNING ABOUT RATES 02.06.13
If you used to pay rates via direct debit, check your bank account NOW. One of our members discovered, to his horror, that the BNZ, without any warning, had re-activated a direct debit authority in favour of KDC that he had revoked a year previously, and the bank had helped themselves to all his rates arrears plus penalties and handed it over to KDC. Not only did the BNZ do this, but it also charged our member a reactivation fee!! We went to the KDC on his behalf and they immediately agreed to refund the money, which tends to suggest that on this occasion KDC is not the culprit.. But it looks very much like somebody is getting desperate, and they are prepared to resort to what amounts to theft to keep going.
Make sure that you have advised both the Bank and the Council that the direct debit has been cancelled.
ARE COMMISSIONERS LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MISLEADING RATEPAYERS? 01.06.13
Both are in similar situation in that they are investing monies on behalf of their investors/ratepayers and both are in a fiduciary position - the position of a trustee. In fact, because ratepayers are forced to pay rates, one would have thought that the obligations of care and prudent management should be greater for councillors and commissioners than for directors where any investment is voluntary.
In hearing the appeal against conviction of the Lombard Finance directors for the criminal charge of misleading investors, the Court of Appeal dismissed the directors argument that revealing the correct financial situation might have hastened the demise of Lombard, and held that the directors primary obligation was to investors and not to the company.
The commissioners of the KDC are faced with a similar situation. The Council is in dire financial straits and it is widely believed that the Council cannot meet the going concern test and can only survive by charging massive rates that are utterly unrealistic and cannot be supported by the ratepayers.
The commissioners have presented to ratepayers in the draft Annual Plan and amendments to the current LTP financial projections and assumptions that have been widely panned as being totally unrealistic and unachievable.
Very much like the directors of Lombard, the Kaipara commissioners appear to be driven by a duty to try and salvage the Council at all costs, to ensure that the banks get repaid, and to protect the reputation of local authorities as secure investments.
Their duty of care to ratepayers appears to come a very distant last.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal includes a strong statement on the obligations of directors, and there is no reason in law why those same obligations should not apply to councillors and commissioners.
Here is an extract from the article:
"That obligation (to investors) overrides the duty directors owe to the company to act in its best interests (where those duties may conflict," the judgment said. "It also means that if the directors cannot be satisfied that the statements contained in the offer documents are true and are not misleading by omission, the offer should not be made irrespective of the consequences that might then flow."
The size of the Lombard failure was substantial, and investors should have been made aware of its precarious position when it was seeking to raise funds in late 2007, the judgment said.
"The investing public is highly dependent upon the truthful disclosure of relevant information in offer documents," the judgment said.
"Failure to meet the required standards has a number of potential consequences: loss of investor confidence; a lack of trust in this country's financial institutions; damage to capital markets and the wider economy; and loss of funds invested by the public," it said.
It is about time that someone stood up to be counted and filed proceedings against the councillors and commissioners of a local authority so that the High Court could clearly define, once and for all, what their obligations to ratepayers are.
Kaipara would be a perfect opportunity.
FELLOW BATTLERS 31.05,13
BROADENING THE FRONT 31.05.13
If we are to win this battle, and we will win, then it will be as a result of thousands of ratepayers who have reached the stage where they are thoroughly "pissed off" with the illegal and dishonest antics of the KDC and decide to do something about it.
The rate strike is a perfect example. Not paying one's rates does not come easily to anyone, but Kaipara ratepayers have shown that they will take action if they are pushed to the limit (see the post below).
We need action in other areas as well.
All ratepayers should read the last three articles under Draft Annual Plan here.
If they feel incensed by Council's fundamental dishonesty in basing the whole future of the district on shonky financial assumptions that are as flimsy and as baseless as fairy dust, then they should do something about it.
In the latest financial report just released by Council called Forecast Two (included in the Agenda for the 27 May meeting ), Council admits that its financial situation is very serious and that it is reliant on the validation bill going through so that its debt of $20 million or so to ratepayers can be excluded from the books.
So what if the bill does not go through?
It also acknowledges the development contribution returns, which are the basis for repaying a major part of the debt, have been dismal and well below budget. The budget has now been amended to show the annual return for development contributions has now decreased by $0.7 million.
According to my reckoning that puts the annual return into negative territory. So how then is the debt to be repaid in line with the amended LTP?
All of this makes fairy dust look solid and substantial.
Ratepayers should not let John Robertson get away with this nonsense. Council is now in the financial poo because of shonky figures and assumptions in the past, and it is now heading down the same track.
Robertson and Co need to know that we do not trust them. I urge every ratepayer to write to them and tell them what they think of their financial projections and make it clear that they are not acceptable to ratepayers.
Tell them that you don't trust them and demand that the financial status of Council and its future viability should be subject to examination by independent forensic experts.
We cannot afford the risk of "going forward", as the phrase goes, with shonky figures.
Legal Eagle has sent submissions to the Auditor-General and Deloitte, the Council's auditors asking them to review the auditor's certificate for the amendments to the LTP. He has also written to Steve Ruru asking him to justify his figures.
It is now over to all ratepayers to do their bit and to let their feelings be known.
RATES STRIKE UPDATE 31.05.13
That means that over one in five ratepayers are not paying their rates.
That is absolutely massive and a telling indication of the mistrust that ratepayers have for the Council and commissioners and the determination of ratepayers to do something about it.
And that is in spite of the threats about penalties and the pressure put on banks to pay the rates on behalf of ratepayers.
But we need to do more. If you are on strike, encourage your neighbours and friends to be part of it. If they don't already know, make sure that they know what the commissioners are up to and that withholding rates is one of the most effective ways of stopping them.
Refer them to articles on this website. Mention that Council is acting illegally and has admitted in the validation bill that its current LTP and the rates for the last six years, including the current year are all invalid.
The MRRA application to the court to rule on the validity of the rates and the EcoCare debt is only a few months away. All ratepayers should withhold payment of rates until the High Court makes a decision on the matter. And remember that Council's own lawyer advised that the Court "would likely find all the rates invalid".
It is good to see that the MRRA in its latest letter to members has come out strongly in support of the continuing rate strike.
WISER HEADS NEEDED TO AVOID TRAIN-WRECK 30.05.13
Legal Eagle looks at the massive risks the commissioners are taking with their validation bill and suggests that the commissioners should be reaching an accord with ratepayers rather than trying to beat them into submission.
THE UNTOUCHABLES 29.05.13
It appears that the finance company misrepresented about $68 million worth of debt which it classified as second mortgages when they were effectively a third-ranking security.
Can any one tell me what the difference is between that and the Councillors of KDC who misrepresented the extent of the EcoCare scheme and the fact that they had illegally borrowed twice as much as they said they were going to?
Why is it that company directors are deemed to be legally liable for misleading investors but councillors are not only considered to be without any fault, but, to add insult to injury, the government forces the ratepayers to pay for the losses caused by that misleading behaviour?
How long are New Zealanders going to put up with a situation where councils can run amok and then force ratepayers to pay all the bills?
CONSULTATION HIJACKED BY POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY 29.05.13
COMMISSIONERS IN FINANCIAL LA-LA LAND 27.05.13
Ratepayers are encouraged to read Legal Eagle's article and then decide if they would willingly invest in a company where the directors' financial plans are based on assumptions that are clearly wrong and misleading. The article can be seen here.
POINTING THE FINGER 26.05.13
If Council is so incompetent that it cannot set rates in accordance with the law then it should not be there.
Ratepayers are generally very happy to pay for services rendered. What they baulk at is paying is for illegal debts and monies that have been squandered by an incompetent Council operating outside the law.
The commissioners need to be reminded that they also have an obligation to comply with the legislation and the Minister's terms of reference. They must consult with ratepayers and carry on the affairs of Council in an open and democratic manner.
Whilst they continue to ignore their legal obligations, whilst they operate outside the law with no LTP, and whilst they head down a path of financial ruin, ratepayers have every legal right to continue to withhold their rates.
Within a few months the High Court will give us a definitive ruling on the legality of the Kaipara chaos. All ratepayers should show their disapproval of the commisssioners' approach and withhold their rates until the Court makes that ruling.
GARRY HOOKER ON THE VALIDATION BILL 26.05.13
Garry has also lodged a more detailed complaint with the Ombudsman.
HAVE YOU BEEN BLACKLISTED? 26.05.13
Or until he and his fellow commissioners shot themselves in the foot with their cavalier attempt to resolve all legal problems with their ill-considered, unconsulted, ad hoc, flawed and incomplete Validation Bill. It is a futile attempt at a quick fix that is doomed to utter failure and is going to cost ratepayers a small fortune.
And add to that the ridiculous response to the MRRA's judicial review with their irrational threats of massively exaggerated legal costs. That more than anything shows that the commissioners are out of their depth and will go to any length, at ratepayers' expense, to defend the indefensible.
The chummy style of John Robertson has finally been seen for what it is. As has his attempt to divide and conquer by sowing seeds of discontent and trying to undermine the influence of key players.
He now has a blacklist of those people who he says that he will not deal with. On that list are all those on the executive of the MRRA, no doubt for having the effrontery to try and resolve the Kaipara legal shambles in a rational and sensible manner rather than allowing the commissioners to steamroll the ratepayers into submission.
Also included is Legal Eagle for having the temerity to expose the illegalities, the incompetence and the shortcomings of the previous regime and the current one.
New on the list is Garry Hooker who has earned his place by opposing the validation bill and generally by his lack of reticence in calling a spade a spade.
I am not privy to the full membership of this particular order and would appreciate hearing from anyone else who has made John Robertson's blacklist.
RATE STRIKE A MISNOMER 25.05.13
What ratepayers are doing now is simply not paying illegal charges that Council has no right to charge in law.
LETTER TO YOUR BANK 25.05.13
MISLEADING RATEPAYERS SHOULD BE A CRIME 23.05.13
ANOTHER CON 23.05.13.
Ratepayers in Kaipara should have learnt the lesson by now that financial projections put together by so-called experts are utterly meaningless. Those who wield the power start with the outcome that they want, then get the pundits to hobble together some statistics that superficially appear to justify the outcome.....(more scroll down)
LOCAL BILL IN PARLIAMENT 20.05.13
HAVING YOUR CAKE AND EATING IT 10.05.13
In the face of claims from ratepayers that the 2012/22 LTP was obviously invalid because of several clear instances of non-compliance with legislation, the commissioners maintained that they had a legal opinion confirming that the LTP was valid. But they refused to disclose that opinion.
They then turned full circle by including the LTP in the Validation Bill. This was a clear acknowledgement that the LTP had always been invalid.
However they tried to fudge the issue, and have a bet both ways, by including a provision in the Bill to the effect that the inclusion of the LTP and certain other matters in the Bill was "for the avoidance of doubt". In other words they weren't sure whether it was invalid or not but were throwing it in, just in case.
The folk in Wellington would have none of it and demolished that provision. I presume on the basis that being valid is very much like being a virgin, you either are, or you aren't. There is no half way.
So the Bill now states quite categorically in section 3 that the purpose of the Act is to:
validate the rates and to validate actions or omissions the Council relating to the late adoption of its annual report for the 2011/2012 financial year and its long-term plan for 2012-2022.
That means that the LTP is not valid until the validation takes effect when the Bill is enacted by parliament, which will at best be many months down the track.
The commissioners are therefore faced with the difficult situation of not having an LTP and not being able to set or collect rates or do many of the things that councils need to do.
It is an insurmountable problem that everyone is trying to ignore because quite simply there is no legal solution. Council is effectively in legal limbo and is utterly hog-tied.
The way out for the commissioners is to turn a blind eye to the situation. John Robertson is still insisting that the LTP is legal and that it was only included in the Bill "for the avoidance of doubt", when he knows full well that the Clerk of the House and the Parliamentary Counsel Office have completely rejected that view.
The whole situation is totally farcical and the rule of law is being kicked around like a Machiavellian football. It is time the regulatory authorities - and that includes the Minister - got off their regulatory back-sides and put an end to all this cynical abuse of power by the Kaipara Council.
If they don't, then it may mean another trip to the High Court for an injunction to stop the commissioners operating outside the law.
POLITICAL PRESSURE ON THE MINISTER 10.05.13
Retroactive legislation in the form of a Validation Bill does not sit comfortable with most MPs. In addition, the failure of the Minister and his commissioners to consult with or engage in any way with the community before pursuing the validation process, as required by the terms of reference and the basic rules of good governance, will be frowned upon throughout parliament.
MPs see that the validation process as a last resort and only after there been meaningful, constructive and robust consultation with ratepayers.
The failure to consult or engage with the community becomes far more relevant where there are no elections and when government appointed commissioners are involved with a clearly government-driven agenda. It has all the appearances of democracy and the interests of the community being completely hijacked.
It looks as if David Clendon may be the first of many to go knocking on the Minister's door.
AARON GILMORE - ALL IS FORGIVEN 10.05.13
Remember that the Second Reading of the Plumbers Validation Bill only passed by a majority of one.
Such is politics.
THE SEAT OF POWER? 10.05.13
Four new chairs from Briscoes ($119.99 each) and new air conditioning.
THE WORD IS SPREADING 09.05.13
The MRRA, which has lodged an application for a judicial review with the High Court, has just received a substantial donation from the Russell Ratepayers' Association to help fund their action.
Clearly ratepayers across the country are beginning to realise that what is happening in Kaipara has major significance for all ratepayers. There are some very important legal principles at stake and the feeling is growing that, given the total failure of the regulatory authorities, there is need for a watershed decision of the High Court defining the exact limits of a local authority's powers.
Ratepayers have had enough of their councils running amock and ignoring the law.
OAG INQUIRY 09.05.13
There is no indication of when the report will be available.
The update states:
As with all of our major inquiries, we will now ensure that we comply with our natural justice obligations by giving those affected an opportunity to comment on the draft report before we finalise our views.
+ Ratepayers, the victims in all this, and the ones who are being forced to carry the can for the incompetence of others, are deemed not to be affected persons
+ Natural justice for the perpetrators it seems, but no natural justice for ratepayers. How could the OAG be allowed to carry out this inquiry when many consider that that Office bears a large responsibility for the EcoCare debacle?
RATE STRIKE 09.05.13
Not only is the KDC in a precarious situation financially, it has now acknowledged that it has no valid long term plan (LTP). The LTP is included in the validation bill because Council has finally conceded that it is invalid.
All councils have to have a valid LTP as it is the document that enables a local authority to operate legally, to set and collect rates and make charges for all other matters. Without a valid LTP the KDC is operating outside the law.
It is a bizarre situation having a local authority operating illegally but that is the extent of the Kaipara problem. Rather than resolving the underlying problems, the commissioners have gone for totally ineffective band-aid fixes, and the problems have just got worse and more complicated.
It has now reached the situation where there is no legal fix in anyone's tool-box. No one ever contemplated that a local authority could get itself in such a mess.
To pay rates to an organisation that is effectively insolvent, is operating outside the law, and has gone to parliament in the hope that it will wash away all the illegalities, is not to be recommended.
If you want further encouragement to join the rate strike just consider that all the rates that you pay will go to pay for the costs of the ridiculous validation bill and to fight the MRRA judicial review.
The commissioners are using ratepayers monies to deny ratepayers the right to have their legal case examined by the court. They are also going ahead with an incredibly stupid, confrontational and futile validation bill that will create absolute mayhem in the district,
If they had pursued their obligations in the Minister's terms of reference to consult with the community and to engage with the community, the validation bill would have had the endorsement of the ratepayers, if it was reasonable, and if it included ALL the legal problems that need to be resolved.
Given the total indifference to the illegalities of the Council by the Minister and the OAG - the so-called watchdog - ratepayers have no alternative but to apply to the court for a ruling and to withhold their rates.
The High Court decision is only a few months away. Do not pay your rates. Put them into a separate account. And let's wait for the High Court to tell us one way or another whether the rates are legal.
LEGAL BOOBOO 2 09 05.13
Let me tell you why....(more)
LEGAL BOOBOO 08.05.13
The Bill only goes back six years, presumably because of the Limitation Act. But the six year period in that act can be extended when the problems were unknown.
It is interesting that the Tasman Bill going through parlaiwmtn at the moment goes back further than six years. And, given that Peter Winder has admitted tha ALL rates have been invalid since the Kaipara Council first commenced way back whenever - unbelievable but true - would it not be advisable to include all of the rates ever set by the KDC in the validation bill?
If the Council is going to spend $200,000 on this farce then it may as well get it right.
A BLIGHT ON THE HISTORY OF KAIPARA 08.05.13
Ratepayers have all been sent a notice advising of the proposal and the bill can be viewed at Council offices or here.
The fact that the Kaipara Council has committed this litany of incompetence - which runs to thirty page - is bad enough, but, when you consider .......(more)
FUDGING THE DEBT 05.05.13
Legal Eagle (here) casts some light on the situation and suggests that it reflects a Council that cannot cope with its debt. He calls for government intervention before the commissioners destroy Kaipara trying to impose their will on the people of the district.
VOICES OF KAIPARA 3 05.05.13
VOICES OF KAIPARA 2 04.05.13
Bruce Rogan of Mangawhai points out (here) the arrogance of the commissioners who are doing all they can to block ratepayers from accessing the courts (with ratepayers' money) when in fact they themselves are going to the highest court in the land - parliament - to validate all their rating blunders (with ratepayers money).
VOICES OF KAIPARA 1 04.05 13
We are therefore opening a special page for ratepayers to have their say on these matters.
We need to show the commisioners they they are acting alone, as unelected appointees, and do not represent the people of Kaipara.
Send posts to email@example.com
Doug Bone kicks off here (scroll down).
UNCLE JOE'S POINT OF VIEW 03.05.13
GOVERNANCE FALLS FOUL OF POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY 03.05.13
DESPERATE MEASURES 03.05.13
APPALLING GOVERNANCE/PETTY SPITE 03.05.13
The following resolution is recorded in the minutes of the Council meeting.
Delays the consideration of the application until the outcome of the Statement of Claim seeking Judicial Review taken by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association is known;
The monies that had been promised come for the reserves fund which are to be used solely for purposes such as this. They are not there to finance Council's cover up of its own past delinquencies.
All in all it looks like a petty display of spite by the commissioners making the ratepayers of Mangawhai "pay" for having the audacity to challenge the commissioners powers in the High Court.
MORE SEWERAGE WOES 01.05.13
They are worried that the court will lay bare the illegalities and incompetence of the KDC and raise some very serious questions about how local government functions in this country. It might also highlight the abject failure of the regulatory authorities to perform their functions.
Ratepayers across the country are having serious doubts about local authorities running out of control and operating in secret.
Note the comment in the first article from former Mayor Michael Laws about Wanganui's disastrous sewerage system:
"The liability goes back to those engineers and designers and senior council management who informed the governance team that it would work. Just as worrying is the fact those experts had their assumptions peer-reviewed by other experts and they got it wrong too.
A repeat of the Kaipara situtation, except that in Kaipara the decision was made in secret and in defiance of the law.
It is very rare that ratepayers have the money and the cojones (google it if you don't know) to stop local authorities exceeding their statutory powers. Thanks to the MRRA that is now happening in Kaipara.
Those who are part of the the cosy, laissez faire arrangement whereby local authorities operate with impunity outside the law will shudder at the thought of an independent judicary cutting through years of spin and misinformation and simply stating that local authrities MUST comply with the law.
REASONS FOR DELAYING THE VALIDATION BILL 30.04.13
These reasons were presented to the commissioners by the MRRA to try and get them to be fair and reasonable and to consult with ratepayers before taking this unilateral action.
The MRRA has impressd on the commissioners that the issue of legal liability for the illegal debts must be decided either by agreement or by the court. Indications are that a court hearing could be held as early as June or July.
To have the High Court rule on this matter, independently, fairly and in accordance with the law, would bring some finality to this long festering dispute.
After years of being told repeatedly by Council that issues of legality could only be decided by the courts, it would be a denial of ratepayers' rights if the Council and parliament united to deny them access to the court.
The MRRA has also made it clear that it would take all reasonable steps to help put Kaipara back on its feet again. If agreement could be reached on legal issues then ratepayers would support the validation of all matters in the validation bill except for penalties on unpaid rates by rate strikers, EcoCare annual rates for one year when there was no service, and the charges on untis of demand and SUIPs which were totally outside the law.
Validation bills are having a rocky passage through parliament at the moment and the Sabin bill will push parliament's tolerance to the limit. How preferable it would be if it were delayed until all the problems of Council are identified by the court and the OAG report (which should be out soon) so that All the problems facing Council are included in the bill. Not only that, it would have the support of ratepayers as part of a negotiated settlement.
COUNCIL ENDORSES VALIDATION BILL 30.04.13
RICHARD BOOTH 30.04.13
The other three commissioners are dyed in the wool political animals well versed in the mysterious arts of local government in New Zealand and have very definite views about the role of ratepayers in the local government system.
Commissioner Booth is a local resident with a well-earned reputation and one wonders how he copes with the appalling governance of the commissioners and the denial of basic consultation over such a major issue as this.
VALIDATION BILL STEAMROLLERS ON 28.04.13
The draft bill is Attachment A at page 15.
The bill that will go before parliament is version 2. This has never been made available to ratepayers. However, in a surprise move it was made available to the executive of the MRRA on the basis that it was not shown to anyone else. The MRRA was asked if it wished to make any comments on the content of the draft bill.
The MRRA suspected, rightly as it turned out, that this was a ruse by the commissioners so that they could claim to parliament that they had "consulted" on the bill.
The MRRA declined to comment on the content of the bill for that reason, but did respond with a list of reasons why the validation bill should not proceed at this stage.
Like most ratepayers, the MRRA acknowledges that the KDC has got itself in such a legal mess that a validation bill will be necessary to put it back on a legal footing, However, it is pointless for a validation bill to proceed until ALL problems have been identified and consulted with ratepayers.
All ratepayers should read theMRRA's submissions - Attachment B at page 46 - as these are the sorts of issues that will become very relevant if the bill gets to parliament.
KAIPARA KONNECTION 28.04.13
STEVE RURU'S SPIN 23.04.13
“........given that ultimately they are the ‘owners’ of the council and would need to fund the costs of any relief granted."
It is interesting that when it comes to paying all the debts then ratepayers are conveniently considered to be the actual owners of Council and therefore totally responsible for all the years of incompetence.
But, if they are owners, they are owners who have absolutely no rights. The ratepayers appointed Councillors as trustees to act for them and to run Council professionally and competently, and in the best interests of the owners.
That trust was betrayed time and time again, and that betrayal has been acknowledged by the Councillors themselves and the Chief Executive.
But rather than recognise the concerns and claims of the ratepayers/owners, all of which have been accepted, and take some remedial steps, the government has stepped in and appointed commissioners, who, without any democratic mandate, are now sweeping all the errors of the past under the carpet by forcing a validation bill through parliament.
And, to addd insult to injury, they are forcing the ratepayers to foot the massive legal bill for doing so.
No other sector in New Zealand would put up with such arrogant and tyrannical behaviour by those who are supposed to be trustees.
And why is the government acting as the "enforcer" for such autocratic and unconscionable behaviour?
No wonder the ratepayers are asking the High Court to bring some sanity, and the rule of law, back to Kaipara.
COMMISSIONER'S CROCODILE TEARS 23.04.13
WE ARE NOT ALONE 23.04.13
Flashbacks to the previous Kaipara Council.
That's not a problem with the commissioners. They are well and truly driving the steamroller.
INTRANSIGENCE OR NEGOTIATION? 22.04.13
He comments about the commissioners mock indignation at the MRRA having the temerity to issue legal proceedings.:
Clearly it has come as something of a shock to the Commissioners to discover that we actually live in a supposed democracy here in the Kaipara.
Very true. We were promised collaborative commissioners who would regain the trust of the community and work transparently and cooperatively in the best interests of the ratepayers.
We have seen little of that.
Sadly the commissioners have adopted a secret and dictatorial approach. They have reneged on agreements to consult, have been arrogant and authoritarian, and the unilateral and draconian validation bill was the last straw for ratepayers.
The MRRA has made a mark in the sand. It refuses to let the commissioners - who are imposed not elected - to continue to deny ratepayers of all their democratic and legal rights. For years now Council has ducked and dived and avoided accountability and dumped all liability for its appalling incompetence on innocent ratepayers. The MRRA has said "Enough".
Ratepayers should be elated that after years of being bullied and denied their rights, the High Court will be making a decision, within a few months, on liability for the debt and the legality of rates. That decision will be honest, fair, independent and binding. Qualities that have been remarkably absent in Kaipara for many years.
John MacDonald expresses concerns about the costs of litigation and no one would disagree with him. But resorting to the court is always a last resort that sometimes is unavoidable. The commissioner have shown that they will not modify their approach in any way through consultation, so ratepayers have little alternative but to take more extreme action.
Ratepayers across the district need to get behind the MRRA. Express their support for their legal action and tell the commissioners to listen to what is being said.
If we can make them do that then they might abandon their intransigence and, rather than go head-to head with ratepayers in court, sit down at the table with them and actually respond to their concerns.
A negotiated settlement is far preferable to a war of attrition in the courts, but that can only eventuate if the commissioners decide, or are forced, to come to the negotiating table.
SUBMISSONS TOTHE DAP 20.04.13
KCRA FIRES BROADSIDE 20.04.13
In what looks like another case of cynical manipulation, the press release (here) was issued the day before submisions on the DAP closed, so ratepayers have yet again been denied the opportunity to make submissions, not only on the cost but on whether the proceedings should be defended.
Ron Manderson pulls no punches:
This is surely grossly overstated unacceptable deceptive scaremongering
He looks at the logic behind the commissioners' approach:
Council has admitted many illegalities, so why should they spend ratepayers money to defend what should have been rectified already? Commissioners credibility and integrity becomes most questionable when they admit illegalities exist to the extent they seek Parliament to legislate the illegal to become in effect legal, yet oppose the ratepayers taking Court action to seek the required corrections legally.
He throws his whole support behind the MRRA:
This has gone too far, Ratepayers should Take Back Kaipara by withholding rates until this is sorted by out of Court negotiations with Ratepayer groups, including MRRA, and Commissioners.
It is heartening to see another ratepayer group endorsing the MRRA's stance. Ratepayers have the law, equity and fairness on their side but they need to be united and support each other and not allow the commissioners to drive wedges between them.
KDC IN SCHTOOK 19.04.13
He highlights the deceptiveness of local authorities' financial practices.......More here.
MAI CHEN 19.04.13
Any quality audit, finding errors of this kind, would conjecture that they are just the tip of the iceberg and as the government is 40 per cent of the economy, that should worry the rest of us who pay for that government. What other breaches are occurring that we never hear about?
Kaipara ratepayers know the answer to that. They have suffered years of the same sort of incompetence. Mai Chen should read up on Kaipara and scratch the surface a little. That would be a reality check.
Alarming signs of state incompetence
Pike River, Kim Dot Com, EQC, David Bain, GCSB
SELECTIVE NATURAL JUSTICE 19.04,13
A notice on the Council website would have dispelled the accusation of arrogance. Or perhaps even an announcement from the OAG, heaven forbid!
It appears that the report following the inquiry has been sent to affected parties so that they have the opportunity to respond. Affected parties are those who may have some negative comments made about them.
This is all part of the OAG's adherence to the principles of Natural Justice which seem to apply only when ratepayers are not involved. Thus we do not get a copy of the report because we are deemed not to be affected.
The fact that the OAG has breached a whole swag of principles of Natural Justice by holding an inquiry into a matter in which that Office was deeply involved (and widely peceived to have been negligent), does not appear to matter because that involves ratepayers and in the scheme of local government in New Zealand ratepayers do not matter.
It's a topsy-turvy world out there. Oh for some straight shooting from the High Court.
LAST DAY FOR SUBMISSIONS 19.04.13
Legal Eagle has done his bit and his submissions can be seen here.
It is all a farce really because Council has stated in its draft validation bill that its current LTP is invalid. That means that it is in breach of the LGA because it has to have a valid LTP at all times.
The effect is that the draft annual plan is invalid and also the amendments to the LTP because they are both based on an invalid LTP. Council therefore cannot set rates and is operating outside the law.
That has not troubled Council in the past when the regulatory authorities were asleep but it is going to be very hard for the OAG to turn a blind eye to the latest digression from the path of legal compliance.
The problem that the Council faces is that the LTP remains invalid until the validation bill is enacted by parliament and that is several months at least down the track.
This may be the first instance in New Zealand history where a local authority has stepped totally outside the law into uncharted territory. It is the Armageddon that Greg Gent warned of last year.
MRRA MEETING 19.04.13
I am sure that everyone left the meeting assured that the legal action was necessary and in very competent hands. They would have also been assured that the aim was to resolve all concerns with Council cooperatively for the benefit of the whole of Kaipara without fighting the matter out in court.
COMMISSIONERS PANIC 19.04.13
PLUMBERS BILL SECOND READING. 17.04.13
Comments made by speakers are very relevant ot the Kaipara Validation Bill.
PLUMBERS BILL READING ADJOURNED 12.14.13
Kaipara ratepayers should listen to the speech by Ruth Dyson explaining some of the principles that are very relevant to the Kaipara validation.
PLUMBERS ETC AGAIN 12.04.13
It shows how parliament is being used as a rubber stamp to validate all sorts of jiggery-pokery, but only for those entities like local authoities and regulatory boards that are deemed to to have a special status that places them above the law and in need of special protection.
THE BELLIGERENCE CONTINUES 11.04.13
Legal Eagle expresses the view (here) that this is deplorable given that Council has acknowledged that the rates are illegal and that it is operating without a valid LTP.
Ratepayers are advised to withhold paying any further rates until either the court or parliament makes a ruling on the legality of the rates.
THE LOCAL MP AND VALIDATION 11.04.13
He also suggests that the bulldozer approach by the local MP and the commissioners is not appropriate.
SELECT COMMITTEE WARNING TO COMMISSIONERS 10.04.13
Legal Eagle reports here on the progress of the Plumbers. Gasfitters, and Drainlayers bill and some of the comments made by the select committee.
Legal Eagle suggests that the commissioners are heading for two major battles, in court and in parliament, and it may be time for a third party, such as local MP Mike Sabin, to step in and broker an accord between the parties.
COMMISSIONERS STUFF UP AGAIN 08.04.13
He also asks if it is time for the Minister and the commissioners to reassess their approach and actually listen to ratepayers' concerns. If they do that then they may be able to reach some accord to resolve the current impasse.
MRRA MEDIA RELEASE 08.04.13
ROOM FOR AGREEMENT? 08.04.13
VALIDITY OF DAP 06.04.13
However, he suggests that there is an opportunity for a change of direction by the commissioners. An agreed independent assessment of the legal problems, and an agreed independent scrutiny of Council's financial situation, could see ratepayers and commissioners heading in the same direction.
"CONNECTABLE" AGAIN 05.04.13
MORE "CONNECTABLE" ISSUES 05.04.13
"CONNECTABLE ISSUES" 05.04.12
Legal Eagle looks at the details and asks if this is fair (here).
COUNCIL AND MANGAWHAI COME TOGETHER 04.04.13
The Lifestyler article can be seen here.
IS THE PLAN A SUCCESS? 04.04.13
WATER RATE INCREASES 04.04.13
Council was clever enough to introduce this increase a few months ago to get some degree of separation from the increases in the property rates in the DAP.
Water rates are rates and should be included in with property rates when calculating the affordability of rates.
It would be worthwhile to see the sort of water rate increase that people are having to pay.
Examples please. Before and after. Then add the water rates to the proposed property rates and see if you still come with the 5% affordability threshold.
A CAPITAL OFFENCE? 04.04.13
AFFORDABLE RATES? 04.04.13
Q & A ON JUDICIAL REVIEW 03.04.13
MANGAWHAI WASTEWATER (ECOCARE) CAPITAL CHARGE01.04.13
It looks promising initially but he suspects that it is a trap to lure ratepayers in and get over the current hurdles facing the commissioners, then they can be socked with the big bills later.
All part of the Ponzi plan.
Note that this is simply an application to review the decisions. Council is not being sued for damges or anything like that.
At his stage it is unknown whether Council intends to defend the application. It is a little hamstrung in that it has already acknowledged the illegality of most decisions in the claim by including them in the draft validation bill. The court will be simply confirming what Council already publicly acknowledges.
In the next day or so we will also include a full guide to the proceedings, the background, the reasons, and the effect that they will have.
LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS31.03.13
SUBMISSIONS TO THE DAP 31.03.13
Ratepayers should be careful if they are using the submission form attached to the Annual Plan Summary headed the "Big Picture". It is full of leading questions that are designed to limit the responses that you can give...(continued here.)
WAIT BEFORE YOU SUBMIT 31.03.13
Legal Eagle and the MRRA are combining to produce a summary of what they believe to be the defects in the DAP. It should be out later this week.
All comments from ratepayers gratefully received for publication. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
When sending them in please advise the name (real or pseudonym) the post is to appear under.
Ratepayers are advised to hold back on their submissions until they have read all the different views expressed.
EASTER FOLLY? 31.03.13
The NZ Herald reports here that:
Labour inspectors from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment were checking in on retailers today to monitor compliance with a law prohibiting them from opening on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
It is ironic that the inspectors actually work on the prohibited days to stop others working on those days.
The law is described as archaic and yet is being vigorously enforced by the government.
It is a great pity that the government does not apply the same enthusiasm to law enforcement in local government where it allows errant councils total freedom to flout the law and act outside their legal powers.
Having the government watchdogs trying to stop people buying a few plants over Easter seems ludicrous when the same government's local government watchdogs have sat by and watched the Kaipara Council pilfer tens of millions of dollars illegally from its ratepayers.
Judge Neave is quoted as saying the breaking of the law by the shop owners is "cynical". I am sure he is right. The rule of law must prevail and rules must be obeyed.
But if selling a few plants in breach of the law is regarded by the judge as cynical then one wonders what will be the reaction of the courts when they are presented with the total abuse of power by the Kaipara Council when it secretly, and in breach of the law, doubled the size of the EcoCare scheme, and the debt, and. effectively destroyed the financial base of the whole Kaipara district..
The well-being of all the people of Kaipara is more important than a few plants, isn't it?
RATES FOR 2013/14 30.03.13
VALIDATION BILL - STANDING ORDERS 30.03.13
Parliament's Standing Orders set out the very detailed and precise procedure that have to be followed before a bill enters parliament and then during the parliamentary process.
This Council, in all its different guises, is not too sharp when it comes to compliance with rules and regulations (which the Validation Bill itself proves) and I suspect that it will come a cropper again in spite of $150,000 dollars of legal advice.
One bright suggestion is that the Validation Bill itself is actually included in the Validation Bill so that the inevitable defects in the Bill can then be validated.
"Put it on the tab"
WHAT PLAN? 29.03.13
Legal Eagle wonders if it is a conspiracy so that ratepayers can only have access to the plan through the highly biased and spin-laden supplement in the Kaipara Lifestyler.
Read the full article here.
"THE COUNCIL IS NEITHER INSOLVENT NOR BANKRUPT" 27.03.13
Is Council insolvent or bankrupt? Legal Eagle looks (here) at the facts and the financial fantasyland that passes for accounts in the DAP.
JUDICIAL REVIEW 27.03.13
It is interesting that commisioner John Roberston has slated the move and argued that ratepayers will have to pay the bill for both sides.
As usual with John Roberston's comments, not quite correct. The legal costs of the MRRA are being met by those who have personally contributed monies to fight the illegal activities of the Council. There is no bill for ratepayers.
It is true that ratepayers will have to pay the legal costs of Council, if Council decides to defend the action.
However, such costs should be put in context. Ratepayers have been denied justice for many years under a corrupt and incompetent Council. Commisioners have taken over but have indicated with the validation bill that they shun consultation with the community and intend to force all the past illegalities on to unwilling ratepayers. They have given ratepayers little option.
The validation bill is going to cost probably in the region of $200,000. That is the cost of the sheer incompetence of the Council staff and Councillors. The innocent ratepayers are being forced to foot that bill rather than Council seeking it from those legally responsible under the provisions of the LGA.
Over the past few years council has wasted over $100,000 on legal opinions to counter allegaltions of illegalities. It also handed $240,000 on a platter to the previous Chief Executive without any legal obligation to do so.
Paying a few thousand dollars to front up in court to face, for the first time, a truly indepndent appraisal of its actions is small beer compared to the tens of millions that it has squandered in the last few years and worth every penny .
LARRY MITCHELL IN NZ TRUTH 27.03.13
His article, published in this week's NZ Truth can be seen here.
KAIPARA'S PLACE IN HISTORY 25.03.13
Kaipara is vying for its place in history with financial and legal bungles stretching over many years, costing the ratepayers enormous sums of money, and effectively destroying the financial fabric of the district.
No single regime is responsible. Several mayors have been involved but the eminence grise was Jack McKerchar the Chief Executive who controlled the Council like a mediaeval despot for eighteen years. But even on his forced departure the illegalities and the bungles have continued, even under the government appointed commissioners.
There appears to be no end to the incompetence, the illegalities, the misrepresentations and the lies.
In years to come, in hindsight, this disgraceful period in Kaipara's history may be seen as the Reign of Error.
CYPRUS AND KAIPARA 24.03.13
There has been some conjecture that New Zealand is heading in the same direction with the OBR (open bank resolution) being proposed by the government, whereby bank depositors would lose some of their monies deposited with a bank if there was a financial crisis.
Kiwis are affronted to think that something like Cyprus could happen here and that their savings could be "taxed" by the banks with government approval.
But what people do not realise is that we already have a situation far worse than what is happening in Cyprus.
MRRA FILES LEGAL PROCEEDINGS 22.03.13
The Association has applied for a judicial review of many of the decisions made by Council.
Both Bruce Rogan of the MRRA and chief commissioner John Robertson comment about the proceedings.
The MRRA is being represented by barristers Doctor Matthew Palmer and Kitt Littlejohn.
ECOCARE - THE CHEAPER OPTION
VALIDATION AND THE GOVERNMENT 22.03.13
Minister Maurice Williamson is railroading through parliament a validation bill to legalise monies that were collected illegally by the Plumbers and Gasfitters Board.
The Ombudsman's Office recommended that the monies should be repaid. But that did not sit too well with the Minister:
"I think the Ombudsman's Office is wrong. The board would be technically insolvent if they had to pay this money back".
That raises a couple of points.
What relevance does insolvency have? If an organisation acts outside the law and as a result it becomes insolvent then that is a fact that has to be accepted. It happens to individuals and businesses throughout the world all the time.
Why then are some organisations - including the Kaipara Council - afforded special treatment and government protection from their own incompetence?
The other point is the attitude of this Minister to the recommendations of the Ombudsman. We have already seen the same dismissive comments from fellow Minister Judith Collins in respect of an independent review, and the Prime Minister dismissed the criticism of the Sky City proposals in the OAG report, saying that "he would lose no sleep over it".
What hope do we have of the OAG report into EcoCare and its recommendations making the slightest impact on this government?
WATCHDOG CRISIS 22.03.13
"It is a paralysis of democracy."
An article by David Fisher in the NZ Herald (here) reports on the decision of the Ombudsman's Office to begin its own investigation into the way the public service is responding to the Official Information Act.
The Office is bogged down with complaints as government agencies delay or refuse requests under the Act.
Constitutional lawyer Mai Chen is reported as saying that the government expected citizens to comply with laws and it should do so with the Act.
"If they don't mean to do it, they should repeal it."
Ratepayers in Kaipara would endorse those sentiments. They are expected to comply with legal requirements and pay their rates whilst the government and all its watchdogs allow the Council itself to completely ignore the requirements of the law.
Why have rules in the LGA and the LGRA if local authorities can ignore them at will and, if anyone complains, they can always get parliament to validate the illegalities?
MORNING REPORT 22.03.13
Steve Ruru does little for his credibility when he says that most Mangawhai ratepayers will get a reduction of $100 in their sewerage charges. Absolutely untrue. The annual sewerage charge itself may decrease slightly but the general rate is being increased substantially to incorporate charges for the Mangawhai sewerage system.
Not only that but ratepayers will have to pay massive new capital charges for the sewerage system that are being introduced this year.
This is one of the crafty tricks that Council uses each year to misrepresent the percentage increase in rates. It treats what it calls "capital charges" as separate to rates. The truth is that there is no such thing as capital charges as such. They are targeted rates like all the others and should be treated the same as the others.
That is unless you want to pull the wool over ratepayers' eyes.
BANKS MUST BEAR LOSS 22.03.13
State owned enterprise Sold Energy is in financial difficulties and owes $390 million.
Mr Key is reported as saying that commercial banks making loans to SOEs must realise that there is no government guarantee.
It will be interesting to see if the Prime Minister will extend the same logic to local authorities. There is little doubt that banks are sucked in to lending to local authorities because they are part of local government, and, although it is clear that there is no government guarantee, the government does promote local authorities as cast-iron securities.
It looks pretty clear that when advancing funds to the KDC to finance the EcoCare scheme the bank involved (ABN Amro) was very cavalier in its approach. It failed to do due diligence, and completely ignored the clear requirements of the Local Government Act.
The original bank, and the banks that subsequently bought the debts (BNZ and ANZ), will find it difficult to argue that they acted in good faith.
If the original bank had applied the same sort of scrutiny to the KDC's proposal as it affords to most loan applications by ratepayers then the KDC might never have been able to launch its EcoCare Ponzi scheme.
The banks involved gambled, and lost. It is perhaps time for them to take a hair cut.
AMALGAMATION AND RATEPAYERS 20.03.13
The Local Government Commission is taking the proposal seriously and has called for alternative proposals. The deadline date for proposals is 15 April (here).
Farmers of New Zealand has come out strongly in favour of Kaipara keeping its own separate identity. That appears unlikely given the failure of the democratic process in the district, and the push from government for unitary authorities.
There will either be one unitary authority for the Far North, or perhaps two with the western part of Kaipara joining the FNDC, and the eastern part of Kaipara joining Whangarei.
There is also the remote possibility that the eastern side of Kaipara could be annexed to Auckland. That would make some sense given that the supply towns of Wellsford and Warkworth are both in Auckland and most absentee owners in the area live in Auckland.
The choice is not inspiring. Whichever is chosen it's a matter of out of the frying pan and into the fire.
DRAFT ANNUAL PLAN 20.03.13
We are looking for comments from ratepayers on the DAP and also for specialists who can offer some special insights into the hidden "treasures" within the plan. Please send to email@example.com
Although the plan indicates an overall increase of 9.3% that is simply the percentage increase in the total rate take and is completely misleading when it comes to calculating individual rates asessments. The method of calcualting the increase for Mangawhai ratepayers is based on a fundamental flaw which one suspects is deliberate. More of that later.
There will be several articles on the DAP and the first, dealing with the treatment of the EcoCare debt, can be seen here. It appears that the Council is up to its old tricks and basing the whole plan on a financial fantasy with the sole intention of covering up the fact that it is insolvent, and so that it can continue to plunder ratepayers for year after year to pay for the illegal debt.
MINISTER REFUSES HELP 20.03.13
The Minister dismissed both approaches with the same short letter.
It is also understood that the MRRA made a last minute appeal to the Minister to meet with his officials to try and achieve some common ground. The Minister declined again and referred the Association to the commissioners.
The matter is reported here in the Northern Advocate by Mike Barrington.
THERE'S TASMAN, AND CANTERBURY, AND KAIPARA, AND PLUMBERS, AND UNCLE TOM COBLEY AND ALL..... 18.03.13
Adam Bennett's NZ Herald article can be seen here.
No doubt many of us will be reflecting on our own personal stuff-ups through life and wondering if we couldn't apply to parliament, cap in hand, with a bit of mea culpa, and have all our errors rectified.
Mind you, MPs are quickly going to get tired of playing the Fairy Godmother and making everything better for all the clueless incompetents who can't do their jobs properly, and I suspect that very soon there will be an almighty backlash. One unlucky application for validation is going to get an absolute drubbing
Let's hope that it is the Kaipara validation bill that gets the drubbing. It certainly deserves to. It is an affront to every principle in the manual on democracy and natural justice, and a total abuse of the validation process. MPs will pick that very quickly.
The word "Kaipara" is beginning to become synonymous with "incompetence", and I suspect that MPs will decide that validating the Kaipara shambles is a bridge too far even for an accommodating parliament. Turning water into wine is one thing, but turning fetid wastewater into wine may be beyond parliament's inclination.
TASMAN VALIDATION BILL 18.O3.13
The full post can be viewed here.
I have transferred all posts relating to the validation bill to the new Validation Bill page which can be viewed here.
Any comments from ratepayers welcome. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
At 358 pages it is a big read and will be largely incomprehensible to most ratepayers. That, of course, is one of the main aims of the document.
I have yet to delve into the smoke and mirrors that I expect to find, but a quick squiz at the first few lines show that this is definitely the work of the commissioners.
Remember that transparency and consultation are the pillars on which local government in New Zealand is supposedly built - according to the Local Government Act - and compare with that the total disdain for those principles that the commissioners have shown in the last six months.
Remember how they reneged on the commitment to consult with ratepayers and form a focus group to consider the options for resolving the illegal rates problem?
They shunned that commitment and the views of ratepayers and proceeded with the draconian validation bill without any consultation.
At the same time they breached the clear terms of reference set by the Minister of Local Government requiring them to consult with ratepayers.
Or did they?
In the Foreword to the AP (on the first page) the commissioners set out the tasks they were required to perform under the Ministerial terms of reference. One of them is:
Address the problems created by invalidly set rates and other legal compliance issues
Most people would accept that statement at its face value. However it is totally incorrect. It is a lie.
As in many other cases the commissioners have misrepresented the situation by telling only half truths and missing out vital information.
The exact wording of the Terms of Reference (here) is:
Work with the Kaipara community and ratepayers and the Department of Internal Affairs to identify options for dealing with invalidly set rates and other legal compliance matters;
Note how the obligation to work with the community (highlighted in yellow) has been unilaterally removed from the terms of reference by the commissioners. which means that the commissioners can bury and ignore their blatant failure to comply with the Minister's clear requirements.
That is fundamental dishonesty.
A big lie in the first few lines does not bode well for the rest of the 358 pages..
IMMUNITY FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS 17.03.13
The ratepayers of Kaipara were the victims of a rort to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in a Ponzi-type scheme hatched by a deceitful Council that had no regard for legal requirements; a rort that was assisted by contractors, lawyers and auditors who failed dismally in their obligations, by government watchdogs that were asleep on the job, and by a government that delegated its power to local authorities but failed to comply with the attendant obligations to provide the machinery of government and competent regulatory authorities to protect the best interests of the people against the abuse of power by local authorities..
The ratepayers in Kaipara have learnt - and all ratepayers in NZ should take note - that ratepayers are the dumping ground for all the incompetence, negligence and even deliberate deception in local government in New Zealand.
That is the de facto situation as it stands, but the government is planning to legislate to enshrine immunity in the law. In a NZ Herald article Audrey Young reports on a proposed new lew law that would shield lax and incompetent officials:
But the Government, on the advice of the State Services Commission, wants to put public servants beyond the reach of the ordinary civil law that applies to everyone else.
The article goes on to say that Law Commission President and Court of Appeal judge, Justice Sir Grant Hammond, pleaded with a parliamentary select committee to scrap the proposal. He added that it was a matter of "grave and even constitutional importance".
For further comment on this article read John MacDonald's incisive comments in the Kaipara Konnection (here) and the post from Aardvark that he refers to.
Many believe that the Kaipara problem centres around the liability for rates. The truth is that this is a showdown about the Rule of Law and whether a determined government can run roughshod over one of the basic principles that underlies our democracy. It is one of the many matters that are causing huge concern amongst academics and those interested in protecting the freedoms that our fathers and grandfathers fought for.
The recent article by Professor Dame Anne Salmond in the NZ Herald, Time to defend democratic rights, sounds a very loud warning bell about the direction taken by John Key's government.
The people of New Zealand are waiting to see if the the Key government can force the ratepayers of Kaipara to bear the responsibiltity for an illegal debt for which they are not responsible, which they had no knowledge of, and where the Council (which supposedly represented them) totally misled them as to the nature and extent of the debt, whilst the of true culprits, including the government itself and its supposed watchdogs, get off scot free.
MISLEADING INFORMATION - THE ANSWER 11.03.13
No one claimed the prize offered.
THE VALIDATION RORT 10.03.13
CAN YOU SPOT THE MISLEADING INFORMATION? 10.03.13
FLOUTING LEGAL REQUIREMENTS 10.03.13
Further, the cynical legalisation of all the illegalities underlines a total lack of principles within the government.
John Key's government is developing a reputation for an arrogant disregard for the rule of law. But it is widespread throughout he community. Take a look a the NZ Herald article by John Armstrong on Mighty River Power's refusal to respond to nearly 100 of the 133 written questions submitted by the very parliamentary committee to which those running the power generator are supposedly accountable.
Thumbing one's nose at legal requirements, and getting away with it, is becoming a national pastime.
BREACH OF BANKING COVENANTS 08.03.13
The banks, which almost foreclosed on the Council last August when the commissioners were appointed, will be very nervous. Council has clearly breached its banking convenants and the banks are entitled to call up the loans.
It will be interesting to see whether the banks will take action or whether the government will step in again and give reassurances to the banks behind the scenes.
But whatever happens now the KDC is teetering towards self-destruction.
CAN YOU SPOT THE MISLEADING INFORMATION? 08.03.13
Can you see the errors in the sequence of events, and suggest a reason why the commissioners have done that?
The best response gets a parking ticket included in the validation bill.
Entries to: email@example.com
COMMISSIONERS SLEIGHT OF HAND 08.03.13
True or not?
Legal Eagle suggests here - scroll down, that with some clever drafting the validation bill makes a clear statement to the world that the EcoCare debt is valid and enforceable.
LOCAL BILL PROCEDURE 06.03.13
A BRIDGE TOO FAR 06.03.13
We all suspect that they are in power for one purpose only and that is to extract the last cent out of the people of Kaipara for the benefit of the banks and to protect at all costs the crumbling local government fantasy of John Key and his government.
Our worst fears have now been confirmed. The draft validation bill, which is designed to validate all the wrongs and illegalities committed by this utterly incompetent Council, has been released and can be viewed here.
For the ratepayers of Kaipara this is a bridge too far.(continued here - scroll down)
ILLEGAL RATES - OZ STYLE 02.03.13
Note how the Australians do it correctly. The rates are deemed to be invalid and repaid. Once they are set correctly they are then collected again, but without penalties.
This means that Council is not operating under a valid LTP and is effectively functioning outside the law.
It also means that the rates for the current year are invalid.
This is the Armageddon promised by Greg Gent when last August he pressured the previous Councillors to adopt the LTP before the commissioners took over.
Legal Eagle's comments can be seen here - scroll down.
NO HONEST SHOVEL FOR KAIPARA 28.02.13
He quotes Warren Berryman the American editor of the old Independent Business Weekly as saying:
"This is one of the most corrupt countries I've ever lived in. It's everywhere you look - but you Kiwis just don't see it. New Zealand tops all these surveys not because it's corruption-free, but because New Zealanders have become experts at looking at corruption and calling it something else."
Trotter cites recent examples, including the latest report from the OAG, and suggests that we Kiwis dig for the truth with ornamental teaspoons rather than a shovel.
How much longer, I wonder, is the rest of the world going to be hoodwinked by Kiwis' perverse willingness to substitute an ornamental teaspoon for a spade?
He finishes with the comment:
And once the tradition of digging with teaspoons becomes established, the use of a spade becomes even more dangerous. Who knows what dirty deals, sleazy quid-pro-quos and ghastly miscarriages of justice might be uncovered if an honest shovel was ever allowed to turn over the topsoil of "corruption-free" New Zealand?
It is as if Chris Trotter is talking directly about Kaipara - one of the biggest rorts in recent history - but which still lies beneath the soil undisturbed by an honest shovel
And that is exactly why there is no independent inquiry into the Kaipara District Council, because all the "dirty deals, sleazy quid-pro-quos and ghastly miscarriages of justice" might be revealed to the embarrassment of people who are far more important than the ratepayers.
You can guarantee that there will no honest shovel in Kaipara unless ratepayers see the reality of the situation, stop allowing themselves to be victims, and stand up to those who are intent on destroying them.
MORE WISDOM FROM THE TOP 28.02.13
ATTACK ON RATE STRIKE SIGNS 27.02.13
Note the somewhat equivocal response from commissioner John Robertson:
While we don't condone the "bludger" stickers, the commissioners also don't condone the non payment of rates.
The implication is there that he feels there was some justification for the vandalism.
He also takes advantage of the opportunity to make the Council sound squeaky clean. He takes the high moral ground, and, in true Roberston style, he chooses to overlook all the relevant facts. The reason that ratepayers are not paying the rates is because THEY DO NOT CONDONE:
*The negligent rates process over 6 years at least, with twenty pages of errors that John Robrtson himself calls "a dog's breakfast", and $17.3 million dollars of illegal rates collected and not refunded.
*The repudiation of a clear undertaking (and the breach of terms of reference) to consult with ratepayers about options to fix the problems.
*The failure to comply with the LGA before signing both the first EcoCare contract and the second EcoCare contract with the result that the contracts and the debts incurred are illegal and ultra vires.
*Deliberately misleading the ratepayers as to the cost of the EcoCare scheme for 5 years, the amount of the debt incurred, and the cost to ratepayers in annual rates and capital rates. This was one of the biggest rorts perpetrated on ratepayers in New Zealand local government history.
*Fudging the financial accounts for 6 years to totally misrepresent the true financial status of the Council and still continuing to do so.
*Continuing to operate as a going concern when it is absolutely clear that the KDC is no longer financially viable. This would be a criminal offence if it was in the public arena.
*Failing to get independent forensic experts in to follow up all the improprieties and "irregularities" that are clearly evident and which the commissioners continue to ignore.
*Operating under an LTP that is clearly invalid, and continuing to charge illegal rates.
*Inflicting rate rises that will effectively destroy the individuals, families, businesses and communities within the Kaipara district, all in breach of the basic principles underlying the LGA, and in breach of the fiduciary obligations that are owed to ratepayers under the common law.
I won't go on to mention the shame of the Hakaru landfill (which the commissioners have never heard of), the Dargaville Pool, the monies paid to Jack McKerchar, and all the other massive blunders that the KDC has made in its reign of ineptness.
And, John Robertson, don't tell us that you are not responsible. Don't tell us that you inherited the mess. Legally the KDC continues as the same Council as it always was. It is still the same legal entity. It is irrelevant who is at the helm. So when the KDC finally becomes before the court to front up to its shameful litany of illegalities, it is John Robertson and his commissioners who willl have to front those charges.
KAIPARA COMMISSIONERS - THE ONLY SHOW IN TOWN 25.02.13
A VIEW FROM THE WEST 24.02.13
He also mentions the A word - amalgamation. There is absolutely no doubt that the task of the commisioners is to get the rates paid, the illegal debt firmly sheeted home to the ratepayers, and then Kaipara can be carved up and allocated to whatever unitary authority/authorities emerge from the jungle of the Far North.
But John MacDonald's comments suggest a swing in sentiment across the district.
The tipping point has almost been reached. More and more ratepayers are beginning to wake up to the fact that the illegal debt is not theirs and they have to reject all attempts to inflict it on them. They are the only really innocent parties in this whole fiasco.
Those truly responsible are skulking in the shadows hoping and praying that the ratepayers will succumb to the pressure and blandishments of the government and the commissioners and will "take the rap". If that happens the prime-movers in this rort will be laughing all the way to the bank.
More and more ratepayers are also beginning to see that the unctuous utterings of the commissioners are totally hollow and false. The meeting in Mangawhai illustrated the level of superficiality and incompetence of the commissioners and their complete failure to grasp the essence of Kaipara's problems.
They have no idea where they are going. The only clear message that they have is that the debt belongs to the ratepayers. Full stop. Nothing else. They have no understanding or knowledge of the dreadful things that have gone on in Kaipara, and it is patently obvious that they do not care.
It is also absolutely clear that Kaipara cannot continue to function as a local authority under the Local Government Act. It is not a "going concern" and cannot meet its day to day debts out of income.
The commissioners are fudging the figures. Note the acknowledgement that the figure the commissioners bandy about for "total debt" is not total at all. It only includes external debt owed to third parties. It completely overlooks the monies that have been filched from the Reserve funds and the Mangawhai Endowment fund, which have been used for other purposes and have to be repaid. They have also ignored the $20 million or so that they owe ratepayers for the illegal rates and development contributions that have been charged.
Ratepayers at the Mangawhai meeting will have been horrified to hear that only ten per cent of the interest on the debt was actually being paid each year. The rest was being capitalised. In other words they are borrowing to cover 90% of interest repayments. Steve Ruru corrected this and said that it only applied to the proportion of the debt (just under 50%) which is allocated to development contributions.
That in itself reflects a council that cannot meet its commitments out of income. But worse is to come. The commissioners indicated that in future ALL interest on the whole debt is to be paid out of income.
If Council cannot balance its books now, how is going to find the monies to meet the annual interest bill?
Development contributions have reduced to a dribble, and they are more than likely going to dry up completely in the future following the government inquiry into the affordability of land. So who is going to pay the interest on the part of the debt allocated to development contributions?
The answer is quite obvious. The ratepayers will now be billed for the interest on that part of the debt. And ......it will not be long before ratepayers will be obliged to pay the capital as well, because there will be no development contributions.
A massive rate hike for the next rating year (from 1 July 2013) is waiting just around the corner. Just like last year. And just like the year after next.
The choice for ratepayers is simple.
If you believe that you should pay for the illegal acts of others, and that they should get off scot free, then continue paying your rates.
If you believe that the commissioners are competent and in control, and will look after your best interests and Kaipara's best interests, then continue paying your rates.
If you believe that ratepayers are not responsible for the illegal debt, that those responsible should pay, that Kaipara is a financial cot-case, and that rates will continue to rise dramatically every year, then stop paying rates now and let the commissioners and the government know how you feel.
They will only listen if we all make a stand.
BLUDGER STICKERS 23.02.13
Some of the stickers have been taken away for fingerprinting.
There is a feeling of fear and apprehension in the village given that in some cases the offenders entered some distance on to private property in the dead of night to carry out their attack.
If they are prepared to do that, then what else are they prepared to do?
Joel Cayford's post on the matter can be seen here.
MCKERCHAR SETTLEMENT 23.02.13
According to the article both the Council and the Chief Executive had the right to terminate the contract on the giving of three months notice, with Council having the right to pay the Chief Executive instead of him working out his notice.
If that was the case (see* comment below) then there was no need legally for the Council to agree to any payment to the Chief Executive, except for the three months notice period.
Which means that Council paid to the Chief Executive a considerable sum of money that he was not entitled to receive and which Council was not entitled to pay.
Under sec 44 LGA the Auditor-General has the power to take action where:
"money belonging to, or administrable by, a local authority has been unlawfully expended."
And can then recover the monies from the individual Councillors who voted to support the signing of the deed of settlement (sec 46).
It will be interesting to see if the Auditor-General will act to protect the best interests of ratepayers.
* These comments are made based on the employment contract being in the form indicated in the Advocate article. It is hard to believe that the Council had the right to terminate the contract on the giving of three months notice.
WHO PAYS FOR VALIDATION? 23.02.13
He believes that the commissioners have no choice but to issue legal proceedings against the two auditors for negligence and breach of their duty of care.
See the full post here.
RATE STRIKERS' PROPERTIES ATTACKED 22.02.13
Ratepayers, or more correctly rate strikers, are incensed, especially as the offenders had to go to some trouble to enter on properties and reach the rate striker signs.
Most of the affected property owners suspect that private individuals were responsible but some do not dispel the Council having a hand in it. At the meeting with the commissioners on Monday it became apparent that the commissioners are rapidly losing control of the situation and are using every trick that they can to force ratepayers to pay the illegal debts of Council.
Many suspect that the commissioners' meetings across the district were stacked with National Party supporters who did all they could to persuade ratepayers to pay their rates and trust the commissioners.
There are also stories of Council staff putting undue pressure on elderly and disadvantaged rate strikers to get them to pay their arrears.
The commissioners and Steve Ruru need to respond immediately and assure ratepayers that they were not involved either directly or indirectly in the attack.
Rate strikers are concerned that this type of attack could escalate.
The police have been inundated with complaints and are investigating.
If you have any information in helping the police track down the offenders then please contact the Mangawhai station on 4231060.
One eye witness reports that the offenders were in a dark coloured Japanese saloon car, possibly a Mitsubishi.
Someone might have a lead as to the source of the stickers which clearly are professionally made.
Set out below are the possible criminal charges that the offenders may face.
Summary Offences Act 1981
11A Graffiti vandalism, tagging, defacing, etc
(a) without lawful authority; and
(b) without the consent of the occupier or owner or other person in lawful control
(a) affixes any placard, banner, poster, or other material bearing any writing or pictorial representation to any structure, or to or from any tree;
Crimes Act 1961
269 Intentional damage
(2) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who—
(a) intentionally or recklessly, and without claim of right, destroys or damages any property in which that person has no interest; or
(3) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who intentionally destroys or damages any property with reckless disregard for the safety of any other property.
A REWARD OF $100 HAS BEEN OFFERED TO THE PERSON WHO IDENTIFIES THE CULPRIT/S
That may not happen. Most pundits seem to agree that Kaipara has little chance of surviving until next year. The commissioners clearly do not have the competence or the right approach to deal with the financial problems and the complex legal situation that the Council has landed itself in. Kaipara can only be saved by the ruthless intervention of experts, a change in thinking and direction, and major surgery. The tinkering of amateurs, slapping on bandaids, fudging figures, avoiding legal problems, and mouthing meaningless mantras, will only prolong the inevitable.
The full article of Larry Mitchell can be seen here
TWO-FACED JOHN? 19.02.13
At both Maungaturoto and Mangawhai John Robertson made similar comments. He emphasised that any outstanding issues had to be addressed at speed, they had to be resolved, and remedies had to be put in place. He acknowledged that there was so much anger and grievance and added:
"Until you have this satisfied, you really cannot move forward."
I am sure that these comments struck a chord with everyone in the room. For a moment we all thought that the commissioners had suddenly grasped the essence of the problem and were going to announce immediate independent inquiries.
But that was not the case. The financial fiasco is going to drift on in the same way with no independent analysts, with the lumps in Steve Ruru's carpets getting bigger, and the gaps between reality and the fudged figures in the Council plans getting bigger as well.
As for the legal problems being addressed at speed, the commissioners have, not surprisingly, thrown their hats in with the OAG inquiry. Almost a year and no sign of any outcome. Not quite the high speed decision-making that John Robertson says is necessary.
The question remains: why did he make such statements if he had no intention of following through on them?
All it did was show him up to be a man who says one thing and does another.
One ratepayer had it off pat. She had met with him over her problems, received assurances and was let down. "A man with two faces", she called him, and she told him to his two faces as well.
RICHARD BOOTH EARNS HIS KEEP 19.02.13
He is reported as saying that the commissioners had to work on the basis that debt had to be met by ratepayers, which sounds like direct instruction from the Minister.
He also added that while another increase was in the pipeline for this year, rates would stabilise for the next ten years.
Which means that ratepayers are in for a massive rise this year and after that no one has a clue. Remember that only a couple of years ago Council was promising that the debt was under control and the capital costs of EcoCare had already been paid.
He finished off his comments with this pearler:
"(The commissioners) believe that even with recent increases, Kaipara rates were not above average for other areas."
No facts no figures, just a vague unfounded "belief" that would not be difficult to disprove. The very stuff of the smart salesman selling a dud car and the sort of comment that destroys the credibility of a man who should know better.
JOEL CAYFORD ON MEETING WITH COMMISSIONERS 19.02.13
ENDOWMENT FUND 19.02.13
Unfortunately that was all words and lather. There is absolutely no evidence that they have been effective in any way at all.
Perhaps the crunch was the management of the Endowment Fund. There are a lot of rumours circulating about this Fund and suggestions that it has inappropriately been acquired by Council for its general purposes. That is fine provided that the correct procedure is used, that it is documented, and that appropriate interest is paid to the Fund.
Several relevant questions were asked by ratepayers at the meeting. The commissioners were like a squirming bunch of schoolboys, caught red-handed and trying to put the blame on each other. None of them had any idea about the whereabouts of the monies from the Fund, or what interest was being paid. They were clearly embarrassed.
These are monies held by Council on trust for ratepayers. It is absolutely clear that they have breached that trust because quite simply they do not know what has happened to the fund.
These are the financial gurus who want us to believe that they can manage the Council and resolve the problems of a $100 million debt, and yet they are totally incapable of managing a fund of a mere $5 million on behalf of the ratepayers. Trust and accountability clearly have no relevance in their operations.
There is absolutely no future with these four guys handling the finances of Council. The only "way forward" is to get independent forensic experts in to do an independent examination. Until that happens they will simply fudge the situation and paper over the cracks, minimise liabilities and the debt and exaggerate the income from development contributions.
The new plan will be a financial charade that would be ripped apart by forensic accountants if they were ever allowed the opportunity to get near it.
And it is perfectly clear from their demeanour that the commissioners are very aware of that.
DISPARITY IN RATES 19.02.13
The commissioners struggled to explain the situation except to say that the previous rates were complicated and not applied appropriately. Perhaps another insignificant error.
They went on to assure ratepayers that the whole rating system will be revamped in the draft annual plan which will include substantial amendments to the LTP and the rating system.
Prepare for the worst. They are going to eke out every last cent from ratepayers and everyone is going to be hit with massive rises. This time no one will escape through the cracks.
The draft annual plan is in its last stages and yet when asked to put a figure on the proposed average rate rise all the commissioners became surprisingly shy, shuffled, and looked at each other uncomfortably. Collectively they could not even hazard a guess. When asked, Steve Ruru said he did not carry the figure in his head.
They knew, of course, but did not want to introduce any negative figures to destroy their sales spiel. A bit like those TV ads where they hook you into the product with superlatives but only reveal the price when you are hooked and ring up.
LIMITATION ACT AND VALIDATION 19.02.13
Peter Winder acknowledged somewhat surprisingly that the rates assessments across the whole district were all invalid for the past six years and that probably they had always been defective. He seemed to think that this was one of those cute, little idiosyncrasies of the old Council. No doubt, just another minor technical irregularity.
He also let it slip that the draft validation bill, "which is well under way", lists twenty pages of errors for the past six years. All minor technical irregularities, no doubt.
The problem with his comments about the six year limitation period is that it is not correct. That rule does not apply if the act or omission giving rise to the liability has been kept secret from the claimant.
One suspects that Peter Winder knows a lot about the law relating to local bodies, but, sadly for his own credibility, he only discloses what best serves the strategy of the commissioners, the government and the banks. Anything that could favour the ratepayers he leaves hidden away in the bottom drawer.
I bet that after the pasting that he received at the meeting he will be running back to Council's lawyers to reassess the validation process and will take a greater look at the 20 pages of errors that he believes he can validate.
He had better do his job thoroughly because if he proceeds with his ad hoc, misguided attempt to sweep incompetence and dishonesty under the carpet, and minimise the utter incompetence and dishonesty of the Council, he will be met with a barrage of evidence that will make a mockery of his validation proceedings.
And that will be another $150,000 down the tubes.
RING-FENCING THE ILLEGAL DEBT 19.02.13
The debt would be isolated and no interest paid on it in the interim. This would allow the commissioners to get on with what they profess to be good at, getting the Council back on track without the problem of THE DEBT.
Such an approach would need to be driven by the government and while ratepayers continue to pay rates and meekly submit to their own financial destruction the government is unlikely to intervene. But if ratepayers showed a little more spunk and fought for their rights it could be a very different sorry.
If ratepayers accept the debt they will be done like a dog's dinner. If they stand up and fight then they have a chance to ring-fence the debt, get Council back on foot and also shaft home responsibility for the debt where it belongs.
OAG INQUIRY 19.02.13
If the report and its inevitable criticism were available at the consultation stage of the draft plan then ratepayers could become a bit bolshie, and, heavens forbid, refuse to pay their rates.
If the plan is a done deal it also allows the OAG to say that although there were some dreadful acts of incompetence it will not recommend any action as the commissioners now have the situation "under control".
Note that Council is an "affected" party and will be allowed access to the report before it is published to comment on any criticism contained in the report. The OAG does this, according to its website, to comply with the requirements of natural justice. However, it does not give ratepayers the same opportunity, and that Office clearly turned a blind eye to the requirements of natural justice when it undertook an inquiry to investigate its own incompetence.
It seems that in New Zealand the principles of natural justice do not apply to ratepayers.
So, even in the highly unlikely event that the report was completed prior to the adoption of the plan, Council, as an affected party, could delay its publication, by dithering and objecting, until the ratepayers are all shackled and chained.
Are we not pawns in some great conspiracy?*
*I do not believe in conspiracy theories, however,,,,,,,
MANGAWHAI MEETS THE COMMISSIONERS 18.02.13
The draft annual plan - due out next month - looks as if it will be the final cruncher that destroys Kaipara. And it became clear at the meeting that the commissioners do not give a damn about that, or the suffering of the ratepayers. Payment of the debt is their sole priority.
The full post can be seen here.
Ratepayers need to consider very carefully whether they are prepared to pour more monies into a Council that is on its last legs.
The full post can be seen here.
THE HUMAN COST OF FRAUD 12.02.13
He quotes Harry Markopolos, the fraud investigator who uncovered the infamous Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme in the United States, who points to stress and sometimes suicide. He adds:
"So we do have a body count from white collar fraud but it is overlooked and hidden. The damage to society and the loss of trust is incalculable."
There are many people in Kaipara who will who will have been affected in a similar way by the KDC's onslaught on the community.
The final comment in the article about large Ponzi schemes is very interesting and relates directly to the Kaipara situation:
"Everyone has to have failed to [do] their job - the bankers, the accountants and the due diligence professionals. Everyone has to have failed before they get that big," he said.
"That seems to be the commonality," he said. "And of course the regulators have to miss it all as well."
Amen to that. But why in the Kaipara situation are all those who failed to do the job let off whilst the innocent party and the victim - the ratepayer - has to bear responsibility for all the losses?
AND NOW ITS THE TURN OF THE WATER... 12.02.13
This pressure to connect to the system is ironic given the Council warning on the back of the Mangawhai Focus that there is an extreme water shortage and conservation measures are encouraged.
I would have thought that not connecting to the system would be the best conservation measure.
MISINFORMATION FROM THE TOP 10.02.13
Legal Eagle comments (here - scroll down) on some of the inaccurate information in the letter.
STEVEN JOYCE, WE NEED YOU 09.02.13
Compare that to the Kaipara Council which illegally contracted to build a sewerage scheme, and raised monies to do so, in clear breach of legislation, and without consulting ratepayers. It also set rates for six years that flouted the law and in some cases were little more than an extortion racket. Not only that, some monies have clearly not been accounted for, and there are serious questions about how the contractual side of the sewerage scheme was handled.
All of that, and yet no independent inquiry has been held. The Council first, and then the commissioners, both with the blessings of the government, have swept all problems, concerns and illegalities under the carpet and refused to bring in independent experts.
Take a look also at the Novopay fiasco where the government finally awoke from its slumbers and appointed Mr Fixit - Minister Steven Joyce - to unravel that particular Gordian knot.
According to John Armstrong in the NZ Herald (here) things are happening quickly. The Minister has personally taken control and in a few days isolated the major issues. He has to decide whether to ditch Novopay and start again or whether it is salvageable. He has therefore instituted a technical audit to see if Novopay can be "stabilised" or whether it is past saving. That will take three to four weeks.
At the same time he has instigated another inquiry to assess all aspects of the Novopay project from go to whoa. That will also take a few weeks, unlike the OAG's EcoCare inquiry which has taken almost a year so far. The Joyce inquiry will, I bet, be totally independent, and pull no punches. Again that will be in stark contrast to the type of report that we expect from the OAG.
Steven Joyce, Kaipara needs you. Compared to Novopay this is a cakewalk. A couple of months and you would have the whole debacle well and truly sorted and Kaipara well on its way to normality.
MAINZEAL TODAY, KAIPARA TOMORROW 09.02.13
The income from fair and reasonable rates is simply insufficient to meet its liabilities.
Everyone in the country seems to acknowledge the situation, except of course the government and its agents, the commissioners.
In the normal world, when such circumstances apply then receivership is the only real option. Local government, however, has its own rules. The government believes that ratepayers who are totally innocent of any blame, should bear full responsibility for the illegal debts and be forced to repay the banks, irrespective of the inequity and financial ruin that such an outcome would result in.
It is like the government insisting that investors in South Canterbury Finance who have already lost all their own monies, be obliged to repay SCF's debts to the banks.
No one would tolerate such a thing. No one would tolerate it if the same thing was happening to a council in Auckland. But Kaipara is a backwater and unimportant, and the government can dump on the Kaipara people as effectively as the Kaipara Council has done over the last six years.
Well at least it thinks it can. The problem is that unless radical action is taken very soon Kaipara is going to descend into financial chaos, and that will happen in the next few months.
The new Minister, Chris Tremain, has inherited a poisoned chalice. If he heads down the commissioners' present route then he and Kaipara are both custard. He needs to act now to salvage the situation. And, this time, let us hope that the Minister takes on board the views of the community. There are some wise heads here who believe that Kaipara can be a viable entity. Far better to ditch the failed dictatorial approach and make the future of the district a cooperative venture between the ratepayers and government.
SOME FRANK COMMENTS 09.02.13
The first article here starts with the dramatic statement:
The Kaipara District Council (KDC) is a shambles.
He then explains how it got into a financial mess and how the commissioners are effectively acting as receivers. He quotes the concerns of the auditors about the Council's financial viability and doubts whether Kaipara will be able to survive:
The figures are ugly, and unsustainable.
In the second article here he emphasises that ratepayers are the innocent parties and yet they are getting dumped with all the debt:
There is no doubt gross negligence has occurred, and not corrected by the councils statutory regulators. There is also no doubt ratepayers had no part in the debacle – they are the innocent party. Ratepayers were not even consulted about the fateful decision to expand the Mangawhai sewerage scheme – yet it is ratepayers who are being asked to pick up 100% of the cost - it seems for no other reason than ratepayers are an easy target! It’s an injustice and ratepayers are correct to protest.
He also sets out a list of those that he considers could bear the liability for what he calls "gross negligence". This includes the Councillors, the former Chief Executive, the banks, Central Government, and the Auditor-General.
In respect of Central Government he says:
Central government, on the grounds that the Minister of Local Government is the regulator who failed to adequately monitor the council’s performance;
In respect of the Auditor-General he says:
The Council’s auditor (Audit NZ) is a government agency who act for the Auditor General. The Auditor-General’s role is to give Parliament independent assurance over the performance and accountability of public sector organisations. Is Audit NZs role any different to the role of an auditor in the case of a finance company collapse and are they any less accountable?
He then considers an independent inquiry:
It would be totally appropriate for central government to initiate an independent enquiry into liability (independent because it may be that the government itself is found to be liable in full or part).
Unfortunately central government and its agencies do not have clean hands on this issue. They would probably like to take a do-nothing approach and let the cost fall upon ratepayers. The last thing they would want to do is admit liability lest Kaipara opens up a raft of claims from other negligent councils. That enquiry should also look into the possibility that some actions may have been fraudulent and may give rise to criminal prosecution.
Having stated that Kaipara's massive debtis unsustainable, he ends with the following comment:
.There are lots of unknowns in all of this but one thing is for sure – it is absolutely and totally unfair that ratepayers are being hit with 100% of the liability for fault which they can’t be blamed for. If there was ever an issue that justified ratepayers marching on Town Hall, this is it.
A final article, What's in store for Kaipara, will appear soon.
What can ratepayers take from this? The fact that the truth about Kaipara is finally emerging. What the commissioners are doing, as agents for the government and for the banks whose monies are at risk, is unlawful, inequitable and unfair. Ratepayers are being victimised for a debt that is not theirs whilst the real culprits are allowed to escape liability.
Starving the commisioners of money is a simple way in which ratepayers can force the government to reconsider is options and hold independent inquiries into the financial and legal mess that has been created.
Kaipara can only survive if the real problems can be tackled by independent experts and proper long term procedures put in place.
Putting one's head in the sand, denying realities, and slapping on Band-aids will only court financial disaster.
Those are pretty good reasons to stop paying rates if you have not joined the rate strike already.
WHY IS VALIDATION NEEDED? 04.02.13
But, if that is the case, why is there any necessity to go through the validation procedure at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars? Why validate something that Council says is already valid?
I find the argument hard to follow.
And if the rates need validating then surely that means that they must be invalid to start with. And if they are invalid then it means that ratepayers have no obligation to pay them.
Am I missing something?
It doesn't make sense.
John Robertson needs to step up here and offer and explanation for a further waste of ratepayers' monies.
According to our MP Mike Sabin, parliament, as the highest court in the land, is going to make a ruling on the matter after considering evidence from Council, ratepayers and himself. Given the confusion, it therefore makes sense for all ratepayers to stop paying rates until parliament decides which rates are legal and which are not, and ratepayers know exactly where they stand legally.
MIKE SABIN STICKS OUT HIS NECK 03.02.13
The commissioners have ignored their obligations under the Minister's terms of reference and at the same time reneged on Council's commitment to ratepayers, both of which required them to consult with ratepayers on options for the illegal rates. They have stated that consultation with ratepayers does not not "add value to the governance process", and have unilaterally decided to pursue the validation option.
Mike Sabin has ignored this blatant breach of the terms of reference and the repudiation of the agreement with ratepayers - and the affront to good governance - and has surprisingly endorsed the commissioners' approach.
In an article headed MP's Corner in the Dargaville & District News of 23 January 2013 (here) he regurgitates much of the spin about validation that he has taken directly from the commissioners' propaganda releases. For instance he emphasises that the bill is to remedy "largely technical deficiencies". He also emphasises that "services have been provided" which suggests that the rates were justified.
This, of course, is absolute rubbish. The reality is that there was a total abuse of the rating process by the Council and every step of the process was littered with utter incompetence and meaningless provisions that made a mockery of legal compliance. Many of the rates were completely ultra vires, which means that Council had no right in law to levy the rates.
When the true facts are revealed, along with the incompetence and dishonesty of those involved in setting the original rates, the application to validate will be laughed out of parliament. MPs are not fools. When they are made aware of the true situation they will not only reject any validation application but they will be less than pleased with a Council and sponsoring MP that have wasted parliament's time and ratepayers monies by misleading parliament as to the background to the illegalities.
Mike Sabin is an ex policeman and it is disappointing that he did not examine the evidence before throwing his hat into the ring and endorsing the commissioners misleading propaganda.
Ratepayer Pete Grierson is less than impressed with Mike Sabin's comments and his response can be seen here in Ratepayer's Forum.
Mike Sabin can avail himself of this column if he wishes to respond.
RATE STRIKE A GREAT SUCCESS 30.01.13
There have been headlines in a few papers in the last few days about how more ratepayers are paying their rates. This is clearly the latest propaganda move by the commissioners to try and downplay the success of the rate strike.
I have yet to see any accurate figures come out of the KDC. If its figures for the rate strike are as reliable as its financial models for virtually anything it does then we can give them wide berth.
In spite of that, Council's figures state that 21,2 per cent of Mangawhai properties have not paid any rates for the current year and a further 16.4 per cent have only made part payments. That adds up to 37.6 per cent who are on a rate strike of some kind.
In my book that is a resounding success for the rate strike. Well over a third of people in Mangawhai are withholding rates. And that is in spite of all the pressure that has been exerted on them by the commissioners.
Ratepayers are sending a message loud and clear to the government that what is happening in Kaipara is totally unacceptable, that the commissioners are not doing their job, and that there has to be proper dialogue with ratepayers if Kaipara is going to survive.
In the next couple of months the draft annual plan will be out and ratepayers will see for themselves the full horror of the new Rates Bomb. Most households in Mangawhai in particular will have at least $2,000 added to their rates for the next rating year starting on 1 July. It will be beyond the pocket of many to pay.
John Robertson may be the master of spin, and able to convince many that black is actually white, but there is nothing he can do to disguise the reality of a massive and unsustainable rates rise arriving in the letter box.
Another run of Rate Strike notices is being ordered ready for the rush when the new Rates Bomb hits.
According to an article by Mike Barrington in the Northern Advocate, commissioner Colin Dale is now known as the "Community Champion" because of all his great work on community issues. Does the name reflect the regard of an appreciative community? Scarcely. According to the story, the name was bestowed on him by his fellow commissioners.
While he was working on commmunity issues he could have taken the time to consult with ratepayers about the options for dealing with the illegal rates, as was promised. He might then have earned the title of Champ.
AUDIT NZ GIVEN THE BOOT 30.01.13
It is interesting that calls to replace Audit NZ have been ignored, but now the OAG inquiry is well under way action has finally been taken.
Has the inquiry discovered something that we should know about?
AUDITOR GENERAL INQUIRY 30.01.13
Originally, it had been anticipated that the report from the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) into its Inquiry into the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme might be able to be released by the end of the 2012 calendar year. This has not been achieved and it is understood that there is still a reasonable level of work to be completed before the Inquiry process will be completed and the report is able to be released.
The inquiry was announced on 28 Februrary 2012, so it is almost a year old. The rumour mill suggests that the report is being delayed to give the commissioners a chance to beat the Kaipara ratepayers into submision. When the report does emerge it will tell a sorry story of incompetence, but no action will be taken because of the need to "move on". But no doubt the experience will provide valuable lessons for the future.
In short those responsible for the Kaipara rort will get off scot free and the poor ratepayers will have their role as the scapegoats for local government incompetence reconfirmed.
ROBERTSON REPLIES 30.01.13
Mr Robertson is proving to be the match of ex Mayor Tiller when it comes to fancy footwork and deflecting questions.
In response to the claim that the commissioners breached the requirement in the Minister's terms of reference that they work with the Kaipara community and ratepayers to identify the options, he advises:
"We have considered these options in depth, including with members of the community and representatives of ratepayer groups".
Sounds good but I have yet to find anyone that has been consulted. Perhaps John Robertson would like to enlighten us and let us have a list of those he consulted.
In respect of the commitment to set up focus groups with ratepayers to discuss the options, he advised that it had been rescinded by the commissioners because he did not believe that it would "add value to the governance process".
Those are the words of the man entrusted with getting Kaipara back on the road and mending relations with ratepayers.
We are learning about this man very quickly. Any problem is not the commissioners' problem, but the responsibility of the previous Council. And now commitments to consult with ratepayers do not "add value to the governance process".
Can you feel the hairs standing out on the back of your neck?
WHY WAS JACK PUSHED? 25.01.13
ROBERTSON RUNS FOR COVER 25.01.13
This side-stepping of the commissioners' clear responsibilities does not sit well with Legal Eagle and he calls for the Minister to replace the commissioners. He suggests that if the commisioners remain in office then they will continue to alienate ratepayers and the financial situation will get worse. Sooner or later the banks will be forced to pull the plug on the KDC.
PETER BULL AGAIN 25.01.13
MORE ON MCKERCHAR 25.01.13
SUE THE AUDITOR, THE COUNCILLORS, THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THE CONSULTANTS AND THE LAWYERS ? 25.01.13
The full article can be seen here.
A BAD SMELL COMING FROM KAIPARA 23.01.13
CHRIS TREMAIN THE NEW MINISTER 23.01.12
EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT 23.01.12
If he terminated the agreement himself then he was not entitled to any monetary settlement. It therefore appears that Council wanted him to go and negotiated a settlement figure to persuade him to quit.
The questions therefore follow:
Why did Council want Jack to go?
Why did Council not terminate his employment without a monetary settlement, if they had just cause?
Why did Council allow Jack to work out his notice when he could have required to leave immediately?
ADVOCATE'S COMMENTS 23.01.13
One also wonders what happened to Jack McKerchar's stated reasons for quitting, namely health reasons. Not a dicky bird about that in the agreement. That suggest that it played no part in the resignation and was just another smokescreen created by the parties to hide the truth.
But what is the truth? The disclosure of the details of the Deed raises more questions than it answers. Jack McKerchar ended his letter to accompany the release of the Deed with the words:
"I trust this will be the end of the matter."
Jack must be very naive or have his head in the clouds if he thinks that his letter will draw down a veil on this matter. This is a veritable can of worms and the worms are going to squirm for a long time until the truth comes out.
In a way it epitomises everything that has gone wrong in Kaipara over the years. Total incompetence, an arrogant attitude towards legal compliance, and covering up all the defects.and problems with lies and smokescreens.
MCKERCHAR DEED 23.01.13
MCKERCHAR DOCUMENTS RELEASED 22.01.13
Any comments to:firstname.lastname@example.org
A VIEW FROM THE WEST 21.01.13
The issues raised are important because they reflect the views of many ratepayers west of State Highway 1. They consider that ratepayers in Mangawhai should bear the cost of their inflated sewerage scheme and have little sympathy for the rate strike.
Legal Eagle comments on the issues here.
DEAR MINISTER 20.01.13
JACK'S BIG SECRET 17.01.13
There was a lot of drama just before Christmas. It was like the final episode of Shortland Street at the end of a season with everything up in the air. Would Steve decide to reveal the document? Would Jack's threat to injunct be carried out? Would Steve and the commissioners call his bluff? Would the injunction go before the tribunal, and, if so, what would it decide? And, finally, what would the dastardly document reveal?
So far in the new year there have been no further developments, at least that we know about.
Looking back on it all I get the distinct impression that this whole drama has been orchestrated by the Council to achieve an outcome that I find hard to fathom.........(continued here - scroll down)
MISLEADING RATEPAYERS 16.01.13
Legal Eagle asks these questions (here -scroll down) and wonders why the SFO failed to investigate the Kaipara District Council when it was presented with clear evidence of irregularities that could indicate fraud.
He also questions, yet again, the role of the Auditor-General in the whole Kaipara debacle The Auditor-General was the auditor for the Council yet failed to pick up any of the procedural, legal and financial irregularities that have cost the ratepayers of the District so dearly. And yet it is the same Auditor-General that is holding an inquiry into the fiasco and at the same time investigating the competence of its own audit.
But has he got it completely wrong and is he simply regurgitating the spin of the commissioners? Is it Peter Bull who has been "sucked in"?
Legal Eagle (here) counters Peter Bull's claims and introduces some facts to dispel all the spin.
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING 09.01.13
The first mention of the K word was in yesterday's Herald in the summer quiz. Let's see how good you are:
5. John Robertson, Richard Booth, Colin Dale and Peter Winder run which local body?
Ten out of ten if you guesssed Kaipara. And eleven out of ten if you queried the word "run"and asked if that word is appropriate, especially as the commissioners are now operating outside their terms of reference imposed pursuant to the LGA and refusing to consult with the natives.
The second mention is in today's Sideswipe and relates to to three poles that were erected to display flags for the Rugby World Cup by the Whangarei Council at Langs Beach at a cost of $39,000, but sadly the work was not completed until after the World Cup finished. Over a year later the poles are still there. A protest banner is now flying from the poles with the following message:
RATEPAYERS' FORUM 04.01.13
FIRST TERM REPORT CARD 03.01.13
The commissioners have been given a dismal 0/10 which reflects their failure to comply with the terms of reference, and especially their failure to engage with and consult with the community. In failing to consult with ratepayers on options to resolve the illegal rates debacle the commissioners have not only broken trust with ratepayers but have also breached their terms of reference.
Legal Eagle's posts are on a separate page here.
In other words, the consultants, the contractors and the lawyers make all the money and the ratepayers pay all the costs, bear all the risks, and fund all the losses.