at risk from Richard Bull, D'Arcy Quinn, Peter Nicholas and 50 others

who have petitioned the Minister of Local Government to extend the Occupation of Kaipara by the Commissioners and to deny the return of democracy.


 The latest residential subdivision in Mangawhai that is fully compliant with the Commissioners' proposed secret changes to the district plan.  It consists solely of side yards, front yards, and rear yards, as per the plan, dedicated fire service tanks with appropriate set-back from the road, as per the plan, with hard stand and turning area on site for fire trucks, as per the plan. 

And, of course, no room for a reasonable sized house, as per the plan


No trees or vegetation within 20 metres of the proposed house, as per the plan.

The Commissioners autocratic regime terminates in 9 months with the massive illegal debt still intact, the Council insolvent, the coffers "robbed" of all OUR trust monies, and with a district plan that will make a mockery of the title "Magical Mangawhai".

See the latest from the Northern Advocate here.

This is the latest from Honest John in his Mangawhai Focus propaganda piece:

Sheeting home accountability for past poor advice and decision-making with respect to rating and the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme is a priority. Having filed papers in December, we hope that this calendar year will see those responsible brought to account.

It sounds immensely encouraging - "those responsibe brought to account" - and should give comfort to ratepayers that Honest John is living up to his name, 

But what precisely does it mean? 

Has Jack McKerchar been sued for all those years of negligence? 

Has Beca been sued for its contribution to the EcoCare fiasco?

Have the elected councillors, whose incompetence allowed all the rorts to happen, been held to account?

What of the lawyers who advised the KDC during those dark days?  Are they going to pay the price for their shoddy advice?

Don't get excited.  The reality is that this is another of Honest John's smokescreens.

He and his fellows, no doubt on instructions from the Government and the DIA, will take no action against anyone who is part of the Happy Family of local government that feeds off gullible ratepayers.

The Golden Rule of local government is that you never incriminate any fellow feeders at the ratepayer teat.

The only sacrificial lamb - to appease public opinion - will be the OAG in some form, either the OAG itself, or, more than likely, its pathetic off-shoot Audit NZ.

Mike Sabin made a big thing last year about holding the OAG responsible.   He was the lone wolf, and, now that he has more pressing matters to deal with, there is no one else to push this wheelbarrow.

It is highly likely that the Government has already done a deal with the OAG, its insurers and its lawyers about what  damages are to be paid for the gross incompetence of the OAG and Audit NZ.  It is just a matter of formally issuing proceedings (which apparently was done in December) and then announcing that an agreement has been reached on damages.

There will be no judicial hearing and the matter will be buried as quickly as possible, with Honest John allowed a tlittle trumpeting and credit-taking.  The Auditor-General will be allowed to duck for cover and dump responsibility so that she is not personally held responsible.

The whole thing will be a farce, and a cover up in the same way that the OAG report covered up the true depth of the malfeasance in Kaipara and delayed any chance of taking action in the courts against the true perpetrators of the Kaipara rorts.

It is utterly shameful that Lyn Provost, as Auditor General, failed so miserably in her dual roles as auditor of the KDC, and as watchdog for the KDC, and yet is still being allowed by Parliament to continue her roles.

She should have fallen on her sword long ago and the whole of the OAG organisation should have been investigated and revamped.

That is if you look at it from a ratepayer's point of view.

But if you see it as the Government sees it, then having a situation in local government where the regulatory authority turns a blind eye to blatant illegalities, and where auditing standards are miserable, creates an environment that allows local authorities to operate freely without having to bother with technicalities and compliance with the law, with no obligation to act prudently, and it gives total freedom to big business in New Zealand to suck the ratepayer dry.

We all know that the Kaipara was plundered with the aid of those who were involved in the Mangawhai EcoCare scheme. The banks, the promoters, the consultants, KDC employees and elected members used the "pollution of the harbour" as an excuse to inflict on the people of Kaipara one of the biggest rorts in local government history in New Zealand.

Now they are at it again. The Commssioners are dragging out the clean harbour/septic tank pollution to support stage 2 of the EcoCare Ponzi scheme.

This is what John Robertson has to say in answer to a question (which, incidentally, no one asked) in his latest Mangawhai Focus column:

With clean harbours and waterways in mind, maintaining and enhancing wastewater systems are a priority for Council throughout the District. A multitude of septic tanks in built up areas risks our environment. In Mangawhai, this means project planning and extending the reach of the Mangawhai community wastewater system. The plant has plenty of capacity for additional hook-ups. The local Mangawhai Advisory Panel, chaired by D’Arcy Quinn, is underway.

The same old, same old. Using septic tanks and the environment to argue for an extension of EcoCare. How many more million on top of the current $70 million are the going to force us to spend on the Big Lemon?

He even tells us that it is in the good hands of D'Arcy Quinn but fails to tell us that it is D'Arcy Quinn who is behind the drive to keep the Commissioners on, and stop democracy returning to Kaipara in 9 months.

Want to know more about D'Arcy Quinn?  Well, following on from Honest John's blurb there is an article on D'Arcy Quinn with his aims and aspirations for EcoCare Mark 2.  A letter to the editor?  No.  An article from a staff writer? No.  The article is authored by the KDC and written specifically for publifcation in the Focus (see Here)

So, a whole page of the Focus is dedicated to KDC propaganda. 

This is what D'Arcy Quinn has to say:

The Panel acknowledges some parts of the Scheme have been well done, but there is also some history that is less than ideal. However the Scheme is in place, its working and we can’t send it back. We need to accept it for what it is and make the most of it. Our focus is the future and what is the best community direction to take for our embedded community asset.

All the mealy-mouthed words that you expect from apologists for the Big Lemon and the subsequent cover-ups by the Commissioners. Forget the past and accept the Big Lemon and ensure that all the rip-off artists who filched tens of millions from us get away scot-free.

The Council has now got details on its website about the new proposals for EcoCare and shows a nice photo of John Robertson and his personally appointed Community Advisory Panel .


From left: Commissioner John Robertson, Dr Ian Greenwood, Commissioner Richard Booth, Ms Belinda Vernon, Mr D’Arcy Quinn, Mr Peter Wethey, Mr Darryl Reardon
Separate Photograph to right: Dr Gordon Hoskings

There will be a provision for ratepayers to make submissions via the KDC website.  We need to let the new Panel know that If there are problems then we need to know what they are. and we need chapter and verse on capacity and all the rest from independent experts in sewerage engineering, not those versed in smoke and mirrors.

EcoCare has less than 1700 connections and has "some further capacity". Hells Bells, we paid double the amount promised for 4,500 connections. What happened? Surely we were sold a lemon?

Historic documents are listed on the website. You will see nothing from independent experts relating to the condition of EcoCare, its capacity or projections for the future. The Commissioners would not let independent assessment spoil a good rort.

But, while you are at it, take a look at the historical documents such as Beca's Mangawhai EcoCare sizing and growth assumptions which is full of baseless puffery that was subsequently used to secretly extract double the agreed price out of the Mangawhai ratepayers and supposedly increased the capacity to 4,500 connections.  All rubbish, as we are now finding out.

Remember that the new Panel was cosily handpicked by John Robertson and Jill McPherson so it is stacked with those who support their vision of ratepayers being dumped with the Big Lemon and having to pay again and again for it.. 

Also remember that the terms of reference state:

The Committee has no responsibility or authority to address historical issues such as the issues relating to the historical rating for the scheme.

The lid is well and truly locked on Pandora's Box. 

Unless, of course, the ratepayers of the district make a mark in the sand and say that they are not going to be part of the EcoCare Ponzi Scheme.

In the Focus article Honest John continues his attack on the unreasonable and "pointless" decision of the MRRA to appeal the Heath J judgment:

Bringing to an end community division in the District is important. That is why Commissioners have urged the executive of the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association to drop their appeal over the judgment handed down by the High Court. This judgment might not have been to their liking, but continuing to use the Courts to fight the Council at great cost to ratepayers seems pointless.

He uses all the smokescreen words - "community division", "great cost to ratepayers" - but the reality is that he is running scared that the Court of Appeal will overturn Heath J and find that the KDC has no power to set rates for an illegal purpose.

Money is not the issue. Whilst whining in public about the cost of defending a "pointless" appeal, he is not publicising the fact that, on his instructions, his Chief Executive, Jill McPherson, is mercilessly pursuing 500 ratepayers (his figures), 200 through their banks and 300 through the courts.

That is 300 separate sets of legal proceedings. 

Imagine the costs involved.

                     THE TWO FACES OF HONEST JOHN

            IN PUBLIC                                                IN PRIVATE

       TO THE MRRA                                        TO JILL MCPHERSON


  "Please don't shoot"                                    "Shoot all 500 of them"

Barbara Pengelly, an executive member of the MRRA, had this to say in the Mangawhai Focus about Honest John's pleas to can the MRRA appeal:

An open question
The commissioners used an open letter in the Focus [Focus, Dec 8] as a vehicle to persuade the executive of the MRRA to withdraw from seeking justice for past wrongs in the spirit of moving forward.

Have we arrived at a time in NZ’s development where we turn our back on justice in the spirit of expediency? Is justice too expensive and not worth bothering about? Essentially that is the Commissioners’ plea: “It is all water under the bridge, now.” That is the message coming through.

My open question to the citizens of Kaipara is this: If you contracted a builder to build a house for you to the specifications you supplied but he instead ignored your plan and built something entirely different which for you that was entirely unsuitable, would you pay up saying, “Well, what’s done is done and cannot be undone.” Or would you take the matter to court and let the judicial system decide. After all, you have a house that doesn’t meet your needs, doesn’t suit the section it is on, is not built with the building standards in mind, has serious flaws and costs twice the original quoted price.

Litigation could prove expensive but then so is the house and you don’t want it. The builder wants his money and you don’t want to pay because it is not the house you commissioned. Would you take the matter to court or just pay up?

It’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?

Barbara Pengelly
Mangawhai Heads

An Everyday Guide to making a submission on a proposed plan change can be viewed here.

Remember that you have until Friday 30 January to lodge submissions in respect of the proposed changes to the district plan.in relation to the Fire Servic rules.  For more details scroll down to articles below.

The Fire Service code of practice can be seen here.

The important thing to remember is the legal nature of the code of practice.

1.2 Legal context

This code of practice is non-mandatory but could be incorporated into relevant bylaws under section 146(b) of the Local Government Act 2002 or district plans prepared under the Resource Management Act.

Most local authorities shun the code as being an unrealistic bureaucratic interference in the lifestyles of New Zealanders and refuse to incorporate it.

Kaipara, of course, decided to incorporate it into its district plan holus bolus without even knowing what it actually said, and without understanding the draconian effect it would have on future residential buildings and costs in Kaipara.

It is proposed that the size of the dedicated fire service tank is be reduced, but all the other unattainable standards are retained.

The aim of course is to entangle ratepayers who build in more bureaucracy that will line the pockets of the KDC and the consultants who drive decisions such as this.  It is becoming more and more mpossible to build a simple residence in Kaipara without a truck-load of expensive resource consents.

However, it is also the opportunity for the ratepayers of the district to send a message to the Commissioners that we do not want the fire service standards or any part of them.

If there is a large scale support for the deletion of the standards from the district plan and the Commissioners refuse to take heed of the ratepayers voice then we can mount a judicial review of the decision.

This would be coupled with a application to set aside any decision because of non-compliance with the RMA because of the failure to notify ratepayers of the proposal, as required by the RMA.

Those of us who met with the Local Government Commission (LGC) earlier this year in Mangawhai were less than impressed with its attitude. Its chair, Basil Morrison, was seething with attitude and it seemed to any casual observer that the Commission had predetermined the outcome of the consultation process regarding the proposed Unitary Authority in the Far North.

Basil Morrison - seething with attitude at Mangawhai

I use the word "proposed" with some hesitation because the Commission, supported by the government, intends to bulldoze through the Unitary Authority even if it is rejected by the majority of the people.

It is all part of John Key's plan for big business to effectively control all local authorities in New Zealand with the Local Government Funding Agency ensuring that every ratepayer in the country guarantees the debts of every local authority.

Ratepayers throughout the country are being stitched up. Aucklanders are squealing under the tyranny that they have finally woken up to, and Wellington is about to be pressured into joining the club.

North Rodney tried to break away from the Auckland autocratic monolith but, despite the majority of ratepayers supporting the breakaway, the LGC refused to consider it. The Northern Action Group has now applied to the High Court for a review of that decision.

The website and full details of the High Court proceedings can be seen here.

Northern Rodney would be based in Warkworth and Wellsford and stretch from Puhoi in the south and reach as far north as Port Wells, Te Hana and Te Arai. (See the map here.)

If the breakaway is successful then it would be a perfect fit for the Mangawhai district - if it could break away from Kaipara (or the Northern Unitary authority), and if it can resolve its debt issues.

Was it just sheer incompetence or was it another attack by the Commissioners on Mangawhai?

Mangawhai was put into a panic situation just before Christmas with news that its beaches were infected with E coli and that they would be closed until 14 January 2015.

Effectively that would have destroyed the whole of the holiday season.

However, it proved impossible to get any reliable information about the problem, and it soon became apparent that either dirty tricks or sheer incompetence was at work again.

John Dickie, a local expert on environmental management, made some enquiries and found confusion.  It appears that negative samples taken by the District Health Board should have immediately triggered follow-up samples.  That did not happen.  A warning sign was put up by the Surf Club and then replaced with a sign in the joint names of the KDC and the NRC prohibiting swimming and shellfish collection until 14 January 2015.

The KDC, as usual ran for cover.  John Dickie's urgent "please explain" letter to John Robertson and the Chief Executive was side-stepped.  The Chief Executive, who is becoming increasingly nameless and faceless, duck-shoved the problem onto George Lewis, the KDC compliance officer.

As it turned out, it all seems to be a proverbial storm in a tea cup.  New readings were taken and it appears that all turned out to be ok for the holiday season. John Dickie suggested that the closure of the beach was:

an over-reaction, and has social-economic consequences such as in the short term
the loss of income for the concessionaires with businesses at the Heads Carpark
area. If this were to occur during the Christmas - New Year - January period
there would also be substantial reputational damage to Mangawhai as a place for
beach-based swimming.

We are aware that the KDC Chief Executive has been ducking for cover and shifting all responsibility for decisions on to her staff .  Alison Puchaux is fronting all the legal action against ratepayers and is signing all the legal documentation. 

But things are getting worse.  Inquiries addressed personally to the Chief Executive are now responded to, not by the Chief Executive but by " regards, Council".  No name, no title.

It is therefore impossible to tell who was responsible for the letter or whether it is an official response from the Chief Execuvtive on behalf of the Council.

Steve Ruru was very different.  He fronted everything and was not afraid to put his name to any letter.

In an article FIRE SAFETY RULES CHANGE EXPLODES    23.12.14  (scroll down) I advised that I had challenged the Council on its failure to notify all affected ratepayers of the proposed change to the district plan as required by the RMA.  I wrote personally to the Chief Executive.
This was part of the reply that I received:

Council follows the first Schedule of the Resource Management Act 1991 which requires us to notify key stakeholders.  In additional to this we also notified the New Zealand Fire Service.

 For this particular notification, apart from one individual ratepayer who requested to be notified (and which we will be notifying) we did not notify individual property owners. Rather we reply on individuals to seek out information that may be relevant to their particular circumstances through public notices and our website.

The reply was signed "regards, Council".

There is no mention of "stakeholders" in the legislation, and if ratepayers are not "stakeholders" then who the heck is?

Why advise the Fire Service which gets the benefit (?) of the change, when those who bear the burden, the ratepayers, are not deemed worthy of consultation.

If the letter was written by the Chief Executive it shows that either she does not understand the requirements of the RMA or, in the short time that she has been Chief Executive, she has assimilated and mastered the "Kaipara side-step".  That is the nimble movement where one feigns transparency and consultation and then deftly side-steps legal requirements and does what one wants, whilst simultaneously thumbing one's nose at the ratepayers and the courts.

The "Kaipara side-step".  Avoiding legal compliance

The position taken by the KDC is a complete abuse of the law.  The RMA states quite clearly that the Council must notify personally:

"every ratepayer for the area of the territorial authority where that person, in the territorial authority's opinion, is likely to be directly affected by the proposed plan" (RMA Schedule 1).

The big catch, of course, is to be found in the words "in the territorial authority's opinion".  That is an open invitation for the Commissioners, yet again, to make up its own rules and flout the law.  There is no doubt that any court would have no hesitation in deciding that any opinion of the local authority would have to be "reasonable".  It is also clear that the court would agree that the proposed change affects all ratepayers in the district and should be notified personally.

But that would mean another application to the High Court.

This is Honest John and his cronies, and their Chief Executive, manipulating the law again to their own advantage.  They boast publicly of their transparency and consultative approach, but actually perform their obligations with the same disregard for the law and their legal obligations as their predecessors,  They then complain bitterly when ratepayers are forced to challenge them in the courts and use ratepayers' monies to block any legal action.

Oh dear. more of the same old, same old.

Thank God there is only nine months and a bit to go.

Mike Sabin is fighting for his political life.  The Northland MP supported the validation of six years of illegal rates in Kaipara and the validation of vindictive penalties, and is now supporting an extension of the Commissioners' occupation of Kaipara.  However, he is now being investigated for charges of assault and there are questions being raised as to why he is still chairman of Parliament's Law and Order Select Committee.

It appears that the Prime Minister may have known of the allegations prior to his appointment.

Yesterday's Sunday Star Times article can be seen here

Whale Oil has this to say:

Again from what I know I don't think it is survivable. Key accepted the resignations from people accused of far less and axed Ministers for far less as well.

You have to start wondering what sort of deal Sabin and the PM have for him to still be sitting in the Northland sun thinking nothing will come of this.

The only way out is for Key to throw him under the bus by saying Sabin lied to him – and it is his habit to take an MPs word until proven otherwise.  Now that it is proven to be a lie, he should have no hesitation at all.

Honest John had this to say to ratepayers in his final comment in his propaganda sheet, the Mangawhai Focus:

On behalf of the Commissioners and Council staff, Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

I am sure that most of us will have a Merry Christmas. That is something that the Commissioners have not outlawed, yet.  Although I note that they have bumbled and fled for cover over the e coli outbreak that has cast a pall over Magical Mangawhai.

As for a prosperous New Year, only time will tell. But 2015 is when the banks have to extract their pound of flesh from ratepayers and no doubt that will be reflected in the new LTP which will be launched on us in January. Another rate bomb in the offing?

There will be a move to force the ratepayers of the North into a unitary authority even though no one but the government, Local Government New Zealand and the banks want that outcome.

And contemporaneously the gang of 50 led by D'Arcy Quinn and Richard Bull, and ably assisted by Peter Nicholas, will be doing all they can to sabotage the return to democracy in Kaipara so that the rorts of the past can stay well and truly buried and the shameful state of affairs in Kaipara remains shrouded by thick smoke.

Things are also bubbling away in respect of EcoCare. Honest John and his crew are doing all they can to hide the true facts and are trying to suck ratepayers into funding further capital expenses (with more debt and higher rates) to bring the plant up to the capacity that we were promised was covered by the original quote of $35 million. That was secretly upped to $60 odd million or more. (No one knows how much was spent and the Mangawhai Endowment fund probably disappeared down the EcoCare dunny.)

But in spite of vast amounts of money being spent, we still have a sewerage system that does not measure up to what was promised and simply cannot measure up. It is a lemon. And having a group of hand-picked patsies to endorse the Commissioners' subterfuge and smokescreen is not going to turn a pig's ear into a silk purse.

There is an old adage: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

But not in Kaipara.  The Commissioners would have us believe that the EcoCare duck is something completely different.

A little birdie tells me, that something else is afoot with EcoCare. It is Top Secret, of course, but no doubt it will eventually emerge from the thick smoke as the new year unfolds.

We also have a year of litigation ahead. Honest John is strangely silent about his bizarre "engagement" with ratepayers when he launched a legal attack on 500 hundred of them, 300 through individual legal proceedings.

The Council is on very shaky ground and there is going to be an awful lot of egg flying about looking for faces to land on and the three Commissioners and their Chief Executive are likely to be the targets.

The Court of Appeal has set a date for August for the MRRA appeal and the Court has recommended a full Court of Appeal hearing because of the importance of the legal issues involved.

It is going to be a ding-dong fight which will decide whether the rule of law applies to local authorities in New Zealand, or whether they are free to ignore the law and financial prudence and still expect ratepayers to foot the bill.

It would be nice to think that by this time next year a democratic Council will be in place, that the Commissioners will be on their next junket, that the books have been opened, and the illegal debts will have been dealt with in the way that they should have been dealt with years ago.

And, as a final word:

All those ratepayers who have fought a valiant battle against the illegal rates and vindictive penalties should take a bow.

Some have given into the pressure along the way but that is understandable. You are all still heroes and I hope that 2015 will be the year when all our principles are vindicated and we can get back to a democratic, honest and transparent rule in Kaipara and start building for the future.

And thanks to you all for your encouragement and support.

A Happy Christmas to you all and a prosperous New Year in a democratic Kaipara.

The Mangawhai Focus has finished the year in the same way that it has carried on through the year, by including a totally one-sided report on extending the Commissioners' term of occupation of Kaipara.

The Focus endorses the Commissioners unquestioningly and its reporter in this instance, Peter Nicholas, presents a totally biased account of the move to petition the Minister of Local Government  to save Kaipara from democracy and to ensure that it remains under the guidance of Honest John and his two side-kicks.

In the article the return to democracy is painted as undesirable by local business man D'Arcy Quinn and former Kaipara Council Deputy Mayor Richard Bull.  They suggest that the Commissioners have vast knowledge and background information on outstanding litiigation and that ratepayers could be "assured of good financial and compliance governance in the period leading up to rationalization"  "Rationalization" means the unitary authority, presumably.

Most ratepayers would take issue with both of those suggestions.  The Commissioners do not have a clue what they are doing when it comes to litigation and are mere pawns in the hands of their lawyers.  The issuing of legal proceedings against three hundred ratepayers was an exercise in futility and stupidity, especially in light of the fact that the rates assessment notices and invoices are all clearly defective.

If the Commissioners had not insisted on imposing the vicious, vindictive penalties on the illegal rates, and dealt with ratepayers fairly, openly and honourably they would have had some chance of success.  But they selected the road of arrogance, retribution and further illegality and it is a road that leads to ruination for Kaipara.

As for "good financial and compliance governance" - whatever that means - the Commissioners are misleading the ratepayers of the district and hiding the fact that the Council is completely insolvent.  

This introduces the third reason given for rejecting democracy:  "Vested interests in the District would not be able to gain control of any council at a time when local government in the region was in transition".

It is all mumbo jumboish but clearly the anti-democracy movement is petrified that a truly democratic council would open the books and expose the true financial state of affairs and show the Commissioners and all their supporters for what they are. 

They are alarmed that a democratic council would bring the EcoCare plant under the microscope and assess it and value it as the lemon that it really is.

And they are really worried, to the soles of their boots, that a democratic council will discover the rorts that really went on when ratepayers' monies disappeared in their millions because of the actions of those who ran the council at that stage.

There is an awful lot to hide and preventing a democratic council from being elected is one way to ensure that the murky rorts of the past remain buried and all those who have something to hide can be assured that their malfeasance will not be outed.

The author of the Mangawahi Focus article, it is revealed at the very end, was in fact the co-ordinator of the letter from the anti-democracy group that was sent to the Associate Minister of Local Government.  He was afforded over a half page for his one-sided, utterly partisan comments, with only a brief nod to the MRRA at the end. 

In the previous edition of the Focus, Commissioner John Robertson was allowed 600 words of total propaganda disguised as an Open Letter to the MRRA executive.  Bruce Rogan, the Chair of the MRRA, requested a right of response.  The Focus agreed to 500 words but then, miffed at the content, did not publish any of it.

The one piece of good news to come out of the Peter Nicholas article is that Richard Bull and D'Arcy Quinn could only muster 50 or so ratepayers to support their anti-democracy crusade.  They tried to bolster the figure by suggesting that there was "a wide range of Kaipara ratepayers" "from Dargaville through to Mangawhai", but, at the end of the day, fifty is just fifty.

In comparison Honest John is suing 300 rebels and is chasing up anothe 200 through their mortgagees (his figures).  These victims are determined people who refuse to bow to the illegal actions of a disreputable council.  But that is only the tip of the rebel numbers.  Many people have succumbed to pressure from the Commissioners and the government but they remain staunch supporters of the cause.  I suspect that the numbers that oppose the Commissioners and insist on a return to democracy would number many thousands.

The Commissioners have to tread carefully.  They made a real hash of the Validation Bill by misleading Parliament over the contents of the Bill, by their misleading promises in respect of the remitting of penalties, and they continue to flout the law in the same way as the council that they replaced.  They are have now launched a legal strike against 300 ratepayers that is guaranteed to backfire and make a mockery of their competence.  A denial of a return to democracy may well be a bridge too far for the people of Kaipara.

There is one good thing that Richard Bull and his mates have done and that is to simplify the issues that are being fought over.

Do ratepayers want the Commissioners, with vindictive retribution, further illegalities, no acceptance of the rule of law, no transparency and absolutely no democracy?

Or do they want cooperation, compromise, compliance with the law, transparency, and democracy?

Its a no-brainer really.  You would only support the former if you had something to hide.

The proposed change to the district plan has run into compliance problems.

The proposal outlined in several articles below (FIRE SAFETY RULES 20.12 14, and  FIRE SAFETY RULES 04.12 14) has been publicly advertised by the Council by inserting details of the proposal in local newspapers.

However, the Council is under a legal obligation to personally notify "every ratepayer for the area of the territorial authority where that person, in the territorial authority's opinion, is likely to be directly affected by the proposed plan" (RMA Schedule 1).

There is absolutely no doubt that this proposal affects every ratepayer in the district because it limits the layout, size and amenities of any property that is built in the district that does not have reticulated water supply.

In areas like Mangawhai that means the majority of properties.

The Fire Service rules are draconian and will turn our villages into tank farms and concrete jungles. Trees are not allowed within 20 metres of any building:

Note 1: For fire safety, the New Zealand Fire Service advises that buildings should be at least 20m from the dripline of any tree and that these setbacks are also appropriate from scrubland and other similar vegetated areas.

In other words, the Commissioners - with just over 9 months to go - are making an indelible mark on the future of our beautiful district . They are not only bankrupting us but making Magical Mangawhai a look alike for the1950's industrial wasteland of Vladivostok.

Magical Mangawhai - post Commissioners

And they are doing it - yet again - without going through the proper legal notification process. In their usual grubby little way they are sneaking it through over the holiday period in the hope that no one picks up the ramifications of what they are doing.

This is not about fire safety but about bureaucracy gone mad. and a miserable destructive approach to the people and the communities of the district

Perhaps the stripping of the cupboards bare, the vindictive penalties on illegal rates and the Fire Service Rules are the Commissioners' revenge on the revolting inhabitants of the district who have persistently refused to lie down and do as they were told.

Legal Eagle has challenged the Council on its illegal notification process and it will be interesting to see if it will continue to flout the law and invite another legal challenge or whether it will accept wiser counsel.

But you have to wonder if anyone in Dargaville knows what they are doing. It must be a huge concern for the ANZ and the BNZ who have invested so much money in a council that is teetering on the brink and can only survive because the government endorses its smoke and mirrors charade that covers up the impossibkle and irretrievable positon that it is in.  

But sooner or later the truth will be exposed and Humpty Dumpty is going to have a very great fall.

Humpty ready for his fall

The Commissioners will be delighted to hear that the Court of Appeal has finally allocated a fixture date for the MRRA judicial review appeal.  It will be heard in Wellington on 25 and 26 August 2015.  That is over a year after the application for a fixture was made.

The Department of Internal Affairs and the banks will be disappointed.  They wanted the rebel ratepayers corralled and dealt to by the end of 2014 so that the EcoCare debts could be refinanced and the KDC could join the Local Government Funding Agency.  When that happens Kaipara ratepayers will not only have to foot the bill for their own Council's illegal activities but will also have to guarantee the Auckland Council and every other cot-case council in the country. 

There is little doubt that the the Court of Appeal date will now be used by the government as an excuse for extending the reign of the Commissioners and to deny Kaipara ratepayers their democratic rights.

You would not know it but you are being consulted on the amendment to the Fire Safety Rules that are turning Magical Mangawhai into a tank farm.

A cynic would say that consultation is deliberately carried out over the Christmas break so that ratepayers are distracted.

Scroll down to:  FIRE SAFETY RULES   04.12 14 to see previous comment on the matter.

At present, under the new District Plan which came into force last year, you have to have a dedicated tank of 45 cubic metres for fire fighting but that can be reduced to ten cubic metres is if you go through the hoop-la and pay through the nose. Under the amendment you will be allowed to have a ten cubic metre tank as of right.

The problem is that effectively the tank has to be on the road side of the property and you have to provide access for a fire truck, a concrete hard stand for the truck and an on-site turning area for the truck.

Statistics will tell you that a house burning down is a rarity and it is bureaucratic overkill to require such precautions for such a rare event.

The fire brigade in Mangawhai already has a six cubic metre tanker that it takes to fires, so why not upgrade that to ten cubic metres and your bureaucratic requirements are satisfied without desecrating our beautiful district with concrete tanks and driveways and without gouging the ratepayer for more money?

The reality is that no matter whether you have a tank or not (and the rule only applies to new properties), or how big the tanker, if there is a house fire the house will be long gone before the fire brigade gets there.

Proposed Plan Change No.2 is going through a full public process under Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act 1991. The proposed Plan Change has a submission period of Monday 08 December 2014 to 5pm on Friday 30 January 2015. This will be followed by a Further Submission period, Hearings and then Council will make a decision. All submitters have appeal rights to the Environment Court.

 For Section 32 Evaluation Report click HERE
For Summary of Plan Change click HERE
For Public Notice click HERE
To make an online Submission click HERE

This is your chance to stop the Commissioners from destroying our district. 

Readers will no doubt be bemused by the Commissioners' sudden about-face in respect of the right of ratepayers to nominate that they wish to pay only the current instalment without paying arrears

As reported below under HONEST JOHN DOES AN ABOUT-FACE the Commissioners have abandoned their penalty policy of insisting that any monies paid are credited to the oldest amount due.

Ratepayers were given no choice and were denied their legal right of paying the instalment only without any penalty being incurred.

In the article mentioned I referred to Alison Puchaux of the Council advising that the policy had been changed "in view of the circumstances", and queried what the "circumstances" were.

Ratepayer Peter Hemphill has inquired of the Council and Allison Puchaux has responded as follows:

The “circumstances” are that due other priorities such as debt arrears collection processes and in view of your desire to pay something towards your rates, Council has reviewed its position. Council may continue to apply “instalment only” payments to current year rates when prior years arrears are still outstanding if circumstances remain the same.

Which is a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo that means absolutely nothing. It also makes it sound as if the Commissioners can change their penalty policy on a whim, which, of course, they cannot.

Alison Puchaux is employed by the Chief Executive, Jill McPherson and it is somewhat surprising that all documentation and legal papers are now signed by a staff member, whereas Steve Ruru, the former Chief Executive, did everything in his own name.

So, although Alison Puchaux does the dirty work, it is Jill McPherson who pulls her strings, and her strings are pulled by the Commissioners, and the Commissioners strings are pulled by .........

But at the end of the day it is the Commissioners who have made a massive faux pas. It is not just a simple case of making an error in respect of the penalty policy, it has far greater significance.

Jonathan Salter of Simpson Grierson was paid a King's ransom to vet the old rates and to draft a validation bill to validate the truckload of fatal errors in the setting of rates and in the rates assessment notice and the rates invoices.

Sadly, however, the KDC being the KDC, it just could not get compliance right and it has now made another half a truck-load of errors that are fatal to the validity of the more recent rates assessment notices and the rates invoices.

The Local Government Rating Act (LGRA) requires that certain information must be clearly identified in those documents and yet again the KDC has failed to do this. It has misstated the penalty regime by including the "older debts first" policy, which is illegal under the LGRA, and it has denied ratepayers their right to pay the instalment only by the due date without incurring a penalty.

The effect of this is that it has added penalties illegally and subsequently added further penalties on the illegal penalties. As a result, all the amounts shown as owing are incorrect.

The law is quite clear that if a rates assessment notice is defective then a ratepayer has no obligation to pay the rates.

The remedy for the Commissioners is to acknowledge the fundamental breaches of the law, to re-assess the rates with a correct notice, and then deliver an amended rates invoice to each ratepayer in the correct format and for the correct amount.

This error is only one of the several errors in the rates assessment notices and the rates invoices, and no doubt Jonathan Salter and his team are working overtime to work out how to fix the latest crop of errors, if indeed, this time around, they are fixable.

What is certain is that the 300 legal cases in the District Court fall at the first hurdle because of the defective assessment notices and invoices.

It will be interesting to see if Honest John and this team will be big enough to face up to their massive faux pas, and admit their fatal mistakes. Or whether they will try and bluff it out and spend another King's Ransom of ratepayers' money on seeking their very personal revenge against rebel ratepayers in the District Court.

The March on Moscow by the Commissioners continues as they pursue rebel ratepayers through the District Court. Some ratepayers are proving hard to track down and the KDC has just spent a bucketful of ratepayers' money on Public Notices in the NZ Herald (15 December 2014) which serve as substituted service for those named that it cannot track down.

Even those who are supporters of the Commissioners must be beginning to have some doubts whether such actions can be justified and whether, given all the errors in the rating documentation, the Commissioners are completely out of their depth and have embarked on a road to nowhere, again at the cost of the ratepayer.

Many readers will already have read the latest crassness from Honest John Robertson in his own personal propaganda sheet, the Mangawhai Focus (here).

His latest effort is what he calls an Open Letter to the Executive members of the MRRA in which he is almost begging them to withdraw their appeal to the Court of Appeal.

It is interesting that he has not communicated directly with the MRRA but now uses the Focus as his communication channel, presumably with the intent of proving to his fans what a fair and reasonable avuncular figurehead he is.

What he says, of course is all rubbish. It is the usual smoke and mirrors that ex Mayor Neil Tiller was so adept at. It seems that those who assume the mantle of power in Dargaville also get infected by the same malady that causes hallucinations and a proclivity to dissimulation and falsehoods.

The letter commences with Honest John boasting of his "achievements":

Our work has included getting the accounts of the Council into order; containing debt;

None of which is true. The financial accounts of the KDC are swathed in a thick fog and the Commissioners simply will not allow independent forensic experts to examine the books.

Honest John's boast that the debt has been reduced comes from some accounting wizardry (or what we would call "cooking the books").  It is impossible to reduce the Kaipara debt because a large part of the of the interest is still being capitalised and will be forever.  It is a cancer that will never stop.

The reality is that Kaipara is broke, and Honest John will never ever reveal that.

His other achievement is:

engaging the community in a transparent way.

Like refusing to consult on the Validation Bill and refusing to consult on the vindictive validation of penalties.

And what about suing 300 ratepayers individually? That really is a novel way of "engaging the community".

"engaging the community" Honest John style

He goes on to criticise the MRRA for mounting its judicial review proceedings but ignores the Commissioners' refusal to acknowledge the illegality of the EcoCare rates and the EcoCare debts which forced ratepayers to pursue their only option - the courts.

But, perhaps, the most offensive of Honest John's bleatings is the comment:

The High Court heard the case over three days, and found against your Association on every one of its legal points. It awarded MRRA none of the remedies it sought.

That sentence illustrates the integrity of the man.

This is what the High Court actually found:

• The EcoCare and other rates (for six years) and the development contributions and the 2013/22 LTP were all illegal.

• The decisions to go ahead with EcoCare and to incur debts to fund it were all illegal.

• The EcoCare loan agreements were all illegal.

However, Heath J went on to make the following orders:

• The Validation Act validated the illegal rates retrospectively.

• The protected transaction provisions of the LGA meant that the illegal loan agreements could still be enforced and that the Council could therefore set a rate to meet the loans.

Heath J also declared that the Validation Act deprived ratepayers of their rights under the NZ Bill of Rights Act to seek judicial review but that this was a justified exception to that right. However he proceeded to award substantial indemnity costs to the MRRA to illustrate that their legal rights had effectively been gazumped by the Commissioners.

Honest John goes on about the cost of the MRRA litigation and totally ignores the massive sums of money that he and his fellows expended on the legal advice surrounding the Validation Bill and the huge amounts they are still spending on legal advice before virtually every decision is made.

He shamelessly lambasts the MRRA for "the substantial costs that litigation imposes upon ratepayers" but does not mention that he has instigated separate legal proceedings against 300 Kaipara ratepayers.

The irony is that many of those proceedings are going to be defended to the bitter end and Honest John has committed himself, effectively, to the invasion of Russia and a massive war of attrition. He should have learnt a lesson from Napoleon and Hitler.

The Open Letter ends with a "sincere" plea:

It is surely time to bring litigation against the Council to a close and move into 2015 in the spirit of community and partnership. Sincerely,

He only wants litigation AGAINST the Council to end. As this Open Letter was being published and read, and Honest John was declaring his "sincerity", his minion Alison Puchaux, and the various lawyers that they have appointed, were vigorously pursuing legal proceedings against the good citizens of Kaipara in an act of utter vindictiveness and abuse of power, the likes of which local government in New Zealand has never seen.

The vision of process servers hounding and terrorising good honest ratepayers throughout the district does not represent to most of us the "spirit of community and partnership".

"Sincerely..."              Yeah, right

Yesterday the Whangarei District Court declined an application for an order forcing the KDC to reveal the names of all the people that it is issuing proceedings against.  The presiding Judge, D J McDonald, stated that the District Court had no power to make such an order.

The Council and the defendants have, however, reached agreement on the consolidation of the cases that file the same defence that has been filed by Bruce and Heather Rogan on the MRRA statement of defence template (see blog below).

It is interesting that the District Court is a creature of statute, and, like local authorities, must act wihin its statutory powers.  A cynic might note that the District Court is not only self-regulating but open to scrutiny and attack by litigants if it exceeds its powers, but local authorities can wander aimlessly down the path of illegality with complete impunity.

If you have been served with proceedings you are asked to contact Bruce Rogan (mrra@vodafone.co.nz) so that the MRRA can keep a register of defendants and coordinate all defences.

The Whangarei District Court today considered an application for proceedings issued by the KDC against ratepayers to be consolidated into one single case to be heard by the court. 

After first opposing the proposal the Council's lawyer agreed to the proposal and the final terms and the wording of the order will be available later this week.

The guinea pig case will be against Bruce and Heather Rogan and all other cases with the same statement of defence will be held in abeyance until that case is decided.

Those issued with proceedings are free to defend their own case in any way they want, but if they wish to take advantage of the MRRA statement of defence template they should contact Bruce Rogan urgently at mrra@vodafone.co.nz .

The only cost is the standard Court filing fee of $75.

The present order will only cover those cases filed in the Whangarei Court but it is intended to file similar orders in the other courts where proceedings have been filed.

The Commissioners will all be in meetings with lawyers today as they consider their latest blunder that has huge ramifications. 

As many ratepayers are aware, the KDC has been insisting that any monies paid in rates must be applied to the oldest debt first.  They have said that this is part of othe KDC's "penalty regime" and ratepayers have no right to nominate that they wish to pay the current instalment only.
The Council has refused to accept monies paid with such a nomination.

The problem is that the so-called policy is not part of the penalty regime and cannot be so because it is against the law.  Ratepayers have the right to pay an instalment by due date and they cannot be charged a penalty even though there are arrears still outstanding.

This issue is raised in the MRRA template statement of defence, the first of which was filed on 5 December.  The Council lawyers would have seen it straight away and assessed the legal situation.  As a result, from 9 December Alison Puchaux at the KDC is now agreeing to accept payment of the instalment only and not to apply it to the oldest debt. 

According to the latest letters the KDC is doing this "in view of the circumstances", but, as you can imagine, the "circumstances" are not explained.

And IF the original policy was part of the overall penalty regime then the Council cannot simply change it.  It has to be part of the consultation process in the annual plan or LTP.  But, of course, it never was part of that policy.  It was an illegal scheme to gouge more money out of ratepayers.

The Commissioners have, effectively, been caught with their hand in the till.  So much so that they are already offering a plea in mitigation.  In the latest letters they say about paying older debts first:

"This is standard practice in the local government sector and in other commercial organisations."

That may be, but in the local government sector it is illegal, and the KDC has been doing it for many, many years.  Ratepayers have been ripped off and forced to pay penalties that were illegal, and then forced to pay further penalties on illegal penalties every six months.

The mind boggles at the enormity of the problem that has been created, not only for the KDC but for all other local authorities in New Zealand which have adopted the illegal policy.

I receive many comments from readers supporting my criticism of the biased reporting of the Mangawhi Focus in relation to the strife between ratepayers and the Commissioners.  It is my view that much of the Focus's coverage of the issue breaches the standards of good journalism. 

It has reached the stage where the newspaper has become a propaganda rag for John Robertson.

Some weeks ago I criticised a very unbalanced article by a Peter Nicholas and received some rebuke in the next "Ed Said" column of the Focus.  I don't know if Peter Nicholas is a reporter, a commentator, or just an author of Dear Editor letters, but what I do know is that he is now fronting the move to have the Commissioners reign extended until the Unitary authority is set up. 

 He and his group are trying to prevent democracy returning to Kaipara.

Prof Worzel, who is also a regular writer in the Focus, responds in the latest edition to the Peter Nicholas article under the title:  Worzel's World - Numbers and Stories. (here)

It paints a very different picture to that presented by the previous article and certainly adds a balance that the Focus consistently lacks.

The true figures make a mockery of EcoCare and the Prof's article should make every ratepayer in the district stop and ask :  Where is all this nonsense heading?

Honest John Robertson, the head Commissioner, who bleats about ratepayers challenging the Council in court over 6 year of incompetence, illegality and deceit, has now issued so many legal proceedings against good honest citizens that he has lost count.

He has declined to supply the number of parties sued by the Council following an MRRA Official Information request - so much for his much vaunted transparency - and the Association has been forced to rely on comments that Honest John made in local newspaper reports.

In the Mangawhai Focus of 10 November 2014 he was reported as follows:

:Mr Robertson said that the process of collecting overdue rates from those defaulters who did not have mortgages was just beginning.

“We have several hundred demands to serve; formal court documents which are a Notice of Proceedings,” he said.

In the Dargaville and District News of 12 November 2014 he was quoted by Annette Lambly as follows:

Robertson says about 300 people had been issued with a notice of proceedings and the banks or mortgage holders on another 200 properties have been advised of the outstanding rates.

In an affidavit sworn by Council employee Alison Puchaux, who is fronting all the legal work of the KDC, the figure of 300 was denied and the District Court was advised that only 107 proceedings had been issued.

That is quite a difference.  Only a third of what Honest John said.  How can it be explained?

Alison Puchaux's figure was given under oath so is presumably true, but that would mean that Honest John was telling porkies.  Or was he misreported, or did he get confused by all the smoke and mirrors that seem to envelop him?

LIMITATION PERIOD   10.12.14Further to the post immediately below, it seems that the statutory limitation period of six years looms large in the minds of many who were involved with the Kaipara debacles.  A lot of people and a lot of firms have a lot to hide and a cynic might suggest that the delay of the Commissioners in taking action aggainst anyone culpable has been calculated to let them off the hook through the expiry of the limitation period. 

Even Mike Sabin suggested that the OAG delayed its report so that it could escape liability by pleading the limitation period.

There are those who have a very murky involvement with the KDC and do not want the financial records and archives scrutinised by independent forensic experts, and it seems somewhat coincidental that the Commissioners refuse to have independent experts in and cloak the reords with so much smoke that it looks like an Australian bushfire.

The return of democracy means a return of transparency and that would never suit those who have a great deal to hide.

Only a month ago (here - scroll down to  05.11.14) I did a blog on DEMOCRACY DEAD IN THE WATER in which I predicted that democracy woud never return to Kaipara.

I said:

A return to democracy would invariably mean that, for the first time, the books would be opened and the financial reality laid bare. The EcoCare project would be exposed to the laser light and exposed for the fraud that it is. And all of those who have played a role in concealing the truth over many years and conspiring to bankrupt the ratepayers of the district would be exposed for what they are, not what they pretended to be.

It now seems, from a report in the Kaipara Lifestyler here , that the National Party supporters in the district are getting together to pressure the government to ensure that the the Commissioners continue their reign of terror and obfuscation until the Kaipara skeletons can be safely buried in the new Unitary Authority in 2016.

Many current and past councillors and employees of the Council are concerned that if democracy is returned to Kaipara and the financial books and archives are opened to the public for the first time then a lot of reputations will go down the tubes.

They don't put it that way, of course.  This is the National Party's "Dirty Tricks" brigade at it again with their smoke and mirrors.dissimulation.  This is what they have to say:

 “As a group of concerned Kaipara residents and ratepayers, we humbly ask the Government to consider extending the term of the Kaipara District Council Commissioners until at least 2016 to coincide with any future rationalisation of local government in the Northland region.

“We strongly believe this extension of the Commissioners’ role would add stability to our region in a period where far-reaching decisions will be made about the future shape of Northland.”

The letter circulating to anti-democracy supporters says the appointment of Commissioners has resulted in the Council’s finances being stabilised, and then adds:

“However, there is still much work to be done and we are fearful that an early termination of their role will have many disadvantages for our District.”

The reality is that Kaipara has been a festering rort and Ponzi scheme for many years and those involved would like to see it buried in concrete.  A return to democracy in 10 months time would haunt many of those who have an awful lot to hide.

Local MP, Mike Sabin, who promoted the Validation Bill that denied all Kaipara residents their legal rights and validated 6 years of incompetence and illegality, has indicated his approval of the latest move that, yet again, denies ratepayers their rights to a democratic local council.

No doubts he is echoing the sentiment of the National Party caucus that is determined that Kaipara must not fail and that all the rorts of the past and present must be buried and locked away beyond investigation.

The question is whether the ratepayers of Kaipara are going to accede again to a blatant denial of their democratic rights or whether they are going to make a stand and insist on the return of democracy.

The road to Democracy in Kaipara

This was the cartoon that appeared on kaiparaconcerns two years ago when John Key met with Vladimir Putin.

John Key has repeatedly ducked for cover over Kaipara.   He feigns no knowledge of what is going on  - Manuel style, if you know Fawlty Towers.

"I know notheen, Mr Smith"

The reality is that John Key is very aware of what is going on in Kaipara and he and his advisers accept that Kaipara is the bellwether of the state of local government in New Zealand.  That is why the government, Local Government New Zealand, and the Department of Internal Affairs have done all they can to crush the Kaipara rebellion, very much as Vladimir Putin suggested.

John Key knows that if Kaipara goes down then it is the first domino to fall.  Many of the other corrupt and incompetent local authoritIes will follow.  That will mean that the sham that is local government in New Zealand will be fully exposed and the rich feeding grounds for banks via the Local Government Funding Agency will disappear.


It is not looking good..  The fact that 500 property owners have been individually targeted, 300 through the courts, suggests that the rebels are determined to fight this battle to the end.  They are defending their non-payment of rates in the District Court and the indications are that the Commissioners, who were appointed to crush the rebellion, are going to be forced to admit the illegality of their rates.

Kaipara is going down fast and John Key will be watching closely and devising his plan B. 

Surprise! Surprise! New Zealand has lost its place as having the world's least corrupt public sector. (See Scoop story here)

The rankings are based on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Note the word "perception". The test is not the actual corruption in a country but what is perceived as the level of corruption.

But whose perception is it?

Transparency International is seen by many as a front for big businesses who wish to promote New Zealand as a country that it is easy to do businesses with, and the rankings are just propaganda to achieve financial ends.

There is no doubt that most New Zealanders know of the rankings and pride themselves on being one of the least corrupt countries in the world, but ask any individual and they will tell you of rorts in the public sector and elsewhere that they are aware of.

Local government in New Zealand has in the past in many cases been run like a fiefdom for those in charge with broad opportunities to enrich the favoured ones.

Nothing much has changed except the forced adoption of unitary authorities means that the big businesses that effectively control local authorities in this country can entrench themselves more easily and not have to go through the pretence of legal compliance, transparency and consultation for a multitude of individual councils.

Look at the promises about Auckland's unitary authority and reducing costs and rates, and look at the reality with big businesses and plutocrats running the show on the edge of the law, strictly for their own benefit.

Wellington is next, and watch out for the move to swallow Kaipara up into the Far North Unitary Authority. That will probably be revealed just before Christmas when ratepayers' thoughts are elsewhere.

Transparency International is not the slightest bit interested in the corruption and rorts that have plagued Kaipara for many years . Nor is it interested in similar problems with other local authorities in New Zealand and the fact that local government in New Zealand is corrupt from one end of the country to the other.

To acknowledge the true state of affairs would not be good look and would spoil the illusion of New Zealand that it wants to present to the world.

Perhaps a name change? Opacity International?

A BRIGHT LIGHT  04.12.14
Penny Bright has given Kaipara ratepayers huge confidence in their fight against the tyranny of John Robertson and his fellow Commissioners.  The District Court has made some rulings that should warm the cockles of ratepayers' hearts in Kaipara and throughout he country.

The decision challenges the whole approach of the Commissioners to illegal acts and illegal rates.  The KDC, on advice from its solicitors, has stated that all the decisions and actions of a local authority are legal until the court decides otherwise, even though they are blatantly illegal.

They also say that section 60 of the Rating Act requires ratepayers to pay rates even though they are illegal, unless they have filed proceedings in the High Court.The NZ Herald reports that Judge Mary Beth Sharp has swept all that away:

Judge Sharp said Ms Bright would have a "substantial argument of defence" if she was correct. She said every ratepayer had an obligation to pay rates but the imperative did not "crystallise" until council fulfilled its obligation.

The obligation on ratepayers to pay the rates is not absolute but conditonal.  Ratepayers are only obliged to pay the rates IF the Council complies with its side of the bargain and complies with the law.  That ties in with the argument that we have put forward that section 60 only applies to "rates "as defined by the Rating Act, and rates that are not set, assessed and invoiced in compliance with the law are not rates within the mening of the Rating Act.

Judge Sharp goes further and states that the District Court will entertain and consider the question of illegal rates.  It is not necessary to file proceedings in the High Court.

The Commisoners, their banks, the Department of Internal Affairs and everyone in local government in New Zealand will be gob-smacked by the decision.

And it is all happening on the day that the first statement of defence was being filed by an MRRA member on pretty well the same grounds that Penny Bright has argued.

All very serendipitous for ratepayers

If you are being individually sued by the Commissioners for non-payment of rates then you should take action very quickly.  Many ratepayers have understandably yielded to John Robertson's reign of terror and coughed up, but there are many who are determined not to pay a penny in illegal rates and penalties.

The deadline for filing a statement of defence is 25 working days after you were served with a Notice of Proceedings.

The MRRA is offering a standard statement of defence and list of documents that you can use.  Fill in your name and details and file with the District Court.  There is a $75 filing fee. Contact Bruce Rogan on  mrra@vodafone.co.nz 

The MRRA has also applied to the District Court to have one one representative case heard by the Court and the rest of the cases held in abeyance until the outcome of that case is available.  Bruce and Heather Rogan are the guinea pigs for the representative case.

It is hoped that hte Chief District Court Judge will make a ruling on the matter sometime next week.  However, it is vital that you still file your statement of defence within the time-frame otherwise they will enter judgment against you as fast as a rat up a drainpipe.

A careful scrutiny of the rates assessment notices and rates invoices issued by the KDC shows that they do not comply with the requirements of the Rating Act.  I will not go into detail at this stage but one important matter needs to be highlighted.

KDC rates are now payable in four instalments, and each instalment is billed via a rates invoice which is supposed to set out the amount payable on that invoice for that instalment.  Ratepayers are entitled to pay the amount of the instalment on that invoice without a penalty provide they pay the invoiced amount by the due date.

There is a notice on the invoice that states:

Any portion of the current instalment remaining unpaid after (date) will incur a 10% penalty....

That sums up the legal situation perfectly.  A ratepayer is only obliged to pay the instalment being invoiced.  There is no obligation to pay the outstanding arrears.

That's where the KDC - yet again - wanders off the path of legality into the dark world of gouging ratepayers with illegal actions.  The KDC is insisting that all previous arrears and penalties are paid with the instalment, and if they are not then a penalty is payable.

Not only that, they are pointing to a "policy" in the smal print on the back of the rates invoice which states:

Any payments that you make towards your rates will be credited first towards the oldest amount due.

The Commissioners are rejecting cheques sent in payment of the invoiced instalment only.  They are citing this policy and stating that they are not "authorised" to accept a cheque in payment of the instalment only.  They also state that the policy is part of their "penalty regime".

All of that is absolute rubbish.  It is not part of their penalty regime because no such penalty policy is allowed under the Rating Act, and it is not part of the penalty resolution that is passed each year.

The fact is that ratepayers have a right under the Rating Act to pay the instalment only without penalty and the Commissioners - even in the dectatorship role that they have adopted - cannot change that.

The upshot is that the rates invoices and rates assessment notices (which also include the illegal penalty policy) delivered to all ratepayers over many years are illegal. and do not comply with the very strict requirements of sections 45 and 46 of the Rating Act    What the effect of this is will be decided by the District Court, but, from where I sit, it looks to me that the Commissioners have some very serious problems ahead of them. More work for Simpson Grierson, the KDC's lawyers, but in this instance I doubt if "all the KDC's horses and all the KDC's men can put poor old Humpty back together again".

The Commissioners have responded to pressure from ratepayers and are proposing to change the Fire Service Rules which became operative as part of the District Plan about a year ago.  The Summary is here.  The Evaluation Report is here.  The Public Notice here.  An online submission form will be available.

The proposed Plan Change has a submission period of Monday 08 December 2014 to 5pm on Friday 30 January 2015. This will be followed by a Further Submission period, Hearings and then Council will make a decision. All submitters have appeal rights to the Environment Court.

The old rules were utterly draconian, inspired by bureaucrats in Wellingon and endorsed by our autocratic Council with a view to gouging more money out of ratepayers and turning our beautiful district into a Tank Farm.  Actual fire fighting considerations were irrelevant.  The rules only apply to new houses and the local fire service already has a water tanker that it takes to fires.

The changes are minor.  That should be the proposed changes but there is no democracy in Kaipara and, athough the Commissioners are obliged to go through a consultation process with ratepayers, it is nothing more than a sham, and the whole outcome is a pre-ordained jack-up between the Commmissioners and the Fire Service.

Under the amendments a new residential property with no reticulated water supply will, without a consent, be able to reduce the dedicated water strorage tank from 45 cubic metres to ten cubic metres.  Dedicated means that it must be solely for fire-fighting.  You cannot use your normal water tank

The fire fighting tank must be 6 metres from any building if it is made of plastic which would create massive problems on a 600 square metre site.  So concrete it is.. 

But the big rub is disguised in the proposal. This is what the rule will state:

Any building is permitted if:

a) It does not impede the movement of fire service vehicles or equipment or generally restrict access for fire fighting purposes; and

b) Water supply for fire fighting and access to this supply complies with the New Zealand Fire Service Fire Fighting Water Supplies Code of Practice SNZ PAS 4509:2008,

That means that any new house will have to be designed around access for fire-fighting trucks.  The tank will have to be at the front of the property and there has to be a concrete driveway and turning area on site for the fire truck and a hardstansd next to the tank.

But more than that, take al look at this:

Note 1: For fire safety, the New Zealand Fire Service advises that buildings should be at least 20m from the dripline of any tree and that these setbacks are also appropriate from scrubland and other similar vegetated areas.

No trees within 20 metres of your buildings.

I understood that the whole point of the District Plan and the RMA was to protect the environment not to turn it into a concrete jungle with no vegetation allowed.

All ratepayers are urged to have their say and take advantage of this opportunity to stop the madness.

Rob Stock reports in the Sunday Star Times (here) of the Commissioners "reign of terror" in Kaipara.  He reports that "New Zealand's only non-democratic local council has issued summons to around 300 rates "strikers" and is seeking to add rates arrears to the mortgages of another 200".

Incredibly, the Commissioners, in a fit of irrational pique and spiteful retribution, have issued 300 separate sets of proceedings against the owners of 300 properties.  John Robertson has long criticised the MRRA for using the court to resolve the KDC's problem, even when the KDC bluntly refused to acknowledge the illegality of its acts, but is now showing his true colours by spending a vast sum of ratepayers money on a ruthless and vindictive campaign through the courts.

Note that 300 sets of separate proceedings have been issued with bailiffs and process servers chasing down the owners of the 300 properties.

It is nothing more than an act of terror

It is an affront to democracy and illustrates to New Zealand the true nature and purpose of the Commissioners forced occupation of Kaipara.  Local government in New Zealand has never seen the likes of it and the fact that so many good, honest citizens are still resisting the ruthless regime of the Commissioners shows that things are very seriously amiss in Kaipara.

The Commissioners were appointed by the Minister of Local Government and act under the authority of the MInister. 

Do we have a Minister?

Fancy adopting a white elephant?  The KDC has several which it is offering to a good home.  The Dargaville swimming pool eptitomises the incompetence of our Council and has drained both water and money since the KDC got involved and is now on offer to anyone who will take it (see Kaipara Lifestyler).

The Hakaru tip is another white elephant with a massive haemorrhage and no doubt more elephants will be discovered in eleven months time when democracy returns to Kaipara and the books are opened for the first time.

If Kaipara ratepayers are worried about their own white elephant or lemon, the EcoCare scheme, they should see the problems that Dunedin ratepayers are facing.  Down south they have a supersized white elephant in the shape of the Dunedin Stadium that was rushed through at massive cost, and against the wishes of many locals, in time for the last Rugby World Cup.  Read about the local ratepayers' woes here.

Also have a look at What if, Dunedin which highlights the concerns of locals.  Note Elizabeth's comment about what locals call the Glasshouse:

The glasshouse-fubar though, has bred of itself a bloated money-sucking monster for DCC, ratepayers, and residents. For accountability and transparency, need we ask if fumigation and sterilisation are enough to eradicate white collar aphids and fungal rorting?

The Council has even considered moth-balling or pulling down the stadium.  The same decision will soon face the KDC and ratepayers in respect of the EcoCare scheme.  The current debt is well over $60 million (if you include the monies filched from the Mangawhai Endowment Fund and other funds) and is simply too large for Mangawhai and Kaipara ratepayers to pay.  But like the Dunedin Stadium, the scheme needs further massive sums spent on it in the future if it is to continue functioning. That means even more debt and higher rates.

All will be revealed in the new LTP due out probably in the New Year.

LGFA  21.11.14
The Local Government Funding Agency will become well known to New Zealanders in the next few years.  It is a scheme proposed by local government and central government to rort the people of this country.  The idea is that all local authorities in the country join the scheme and they all cross-guarantee the debts of the others.  The benefit of this, which is the only thing that you will hear about it, is that local authorities have access to slightly cheaper loans, because the money is effectively guaranteed.

The debts are guaranteed by the councils, but what they do not explain is that every Council debt across the country is effectively guaranteed by all the ratepayers in New Zealand under the protected transaction provisions of the LGA.

That means that all ratepayers in New Zealand will be responsible for the EcoCare debts when Kaipara eventually folds. That is if they cannort extort the monies out of the Kaipara ratepayers.

Likewise every ratepayer in New Zealand will be responsible for the Dunedin white elephant, the Auckland City blow-outs, and every other local government rort that has become endemic in New Zealand.

Kaipara does not meet the requirements of the LGA at the moment and cannot join.  It is in breach of its banking covenants and could face serious financial problems if the Court of Appeal endorses the arguments of the MRRA. 

The Council is being pressured by the banks and the Department of Internal Affairs to mop up the rates revolt and that is why it has now resorted to terror tactics to extort the last drop of penalties from ratepayers.

A decision in the Court of Appeal that ratepayers are not responsible for debts entered into for an illegal purpose (which the High Court ruled that EcoCare was) would completely undermine the guarantees that are fundamental to the NZFA concept.  And that is why the the government, the banks and local government are fighting the MRRA proceedings.

Local authorities are not subject to the law. Sure there are very strict requirements set out in the Local Government Act and the Local Government (Rating) Act but neither the Ombudsman or the OAG will have anything to do with their enforcement.

But what of the courts? What of the rule of law?

As a general principle of law illegal acts of a local authority are voidable which means that a court has the power to declare them to be illegal and of no effect. But effectively that means that a local authority can do anything that it likes, legal or not, and its actions are not deemed to be illegal until a court makes that ruling.

The catch is that it is incredibly expensive to go to court - the MRRA has stumped up $200,000 so far - and, if anyone has deep enough pockets and the intestinal fortitude to opt for the legal lottery, the local authority will use every trick in the book to block your access to justice, using ratepayers' money, of course.

And, if all else fails, they will get the government to legalise their malfeasance and gazump the legal system, using ratepayers' monies, naturally.

So, in this so-called democracy local authorities have unlimited power with the auditor and OAG looking in the other direction and the court system rendered nugatory because of its cost, its delay, and its manipulation by local authorities.

That is why councils can flout the law so arrogantly and openly. And that is why they are pursing the whistle-blowing rate strikers through the court, at huge expense to ratepayers again. They and central government (through the DIA) want to send a message to all ratepayers in New Zealand they that they must be obedient serfs who must pay for the excesses and illegalities of local authorities without objection and protestation.

It is not just compliance with the law that is now extinct in local government. All the fine principles of civilised behaviour that we like to think reflect our society are also at risk. No one could imagine more acute malfeasance and dishonesty then the activities of the KDC over the last few years, and yet every one involved has, so far, got off scot-free and Parliament has seen to fit to sanitise all the legal transgressions.

The true extent of the KDC's rorts have not been revealed because those in local government do not want to destroy the image of local government that they wish to present to the world. So we get white-wash and smoke and mirrors.

Dishonesty in the present to cover up the dishonesty in the past.

Hence the current regime in power at the KDC will not allow independent experts in to look at the true state of the finances. That is why they gloss over the defects of the EcoCare scheme. And that is why they will never allow a democratically elected council back into Kaipara. Too many skeletons in the cupboard (and no money to boot) which a new crop of councillors might expose to the world.

The lid on Pandora's Box must remain nailed down and padlocked.

Since the Commissioners have been in power they have spent a vast fortune on legal advice. Virtually every decision that they have made has been preceded by an expensive legal opinion. It has been suggested that John Robertson even consults David Goddard QC on his choice of breakfast cereal each day, but that is probably an urban myth.

Spending money on lawyers is irrelevant to the Commissioners, as it is not their money. They criticise the MRRA for appealing the Heath J decision and wasting Council money that could have been spent on roads, but they selectively choose to ignore the vast sums that they have poured down the gullets of lawyers to achieve the ends of the banks and the DIA and to deny the ratepayers of the district their legal rights.

They gloss over the fact that Heath J awarded the MRRA indemnity costs in their High Court action, which is as rare as integrity and transparency in local government.

That award of about $150,000 was a clear message from the Judge to the Commissioners that they had denied ratepayers their legal rights by introducing the Validation Bill to gazump the MRRA legal case.

But John Robertson and his men just laugh it off. After all it is not their money.

The NZ Herald (here) reports on the public perception of the SFO:

Far fewer victims of financial crime are satisfied with the sentences handed to white collar criminals than two years ago, according to a Serious Fraud Office survey.

One of the SFO's aims is to increase public confidence that the perpetrators of financial crime are held to account.

One of the biggest problems is that the SFO has effectively been excluded from an area where financial "crimes" are rampant, and that is in the local government arena.

For some reason that is incomprehensible to ratepayers, local government rorts and fraud are outside the bailiwick of the SFO. Councils are free to rip off their ratepayers with impunity and the SFO will sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

It is not just the SFO that becomes impotent at the mention of local government. The Ombudsman runs for cover and defers to the OAG, and the OAG, the watchdog and the auditor for all local authorities, not only ignores the blatant breaches of the law and the impoverishment of local communities at the hands of rogue councils, but implicitly encourages the plundering and pillaging of ratepayers.

In the Kaipara debacle Auditor-General Lyn Provost sat on her hands for years while the bandits destroyed Kaipara with their recklessness and blatant illegalities, and, when the SFO showed an interest, she ushered it away in a different direction. Local government and Kaipara were her baby and she would call upon the SFO only if fraud was revealed.

The official OAG report - a travesty of an independent inquiry reeking with the stench of conflict of interest - made the finding that there was no fraud perpetrated in the Kaipara debacle. Perhaps that was a bridge too far for the OAG to admit. It had ignored incompetence, financial ineptitude, legal transgressions but to admit to fraud being perpetrated on its watch was probably too much. That would have opened the proverbial can of worms that would have been too difficult to bury.

There was, of course, fraud in Kaipara. EcoCare was a fraud on a massive scale. All of the major parties involved were aware of the illegalities that were perpetrated but were only concerned with their own enrichment at the expense of ratepayers.

Ratepayers were completely duped and ended up with a scheme that does not achieve its purpose, was massively expensive and does not work. The ratepayers of Kaipara have been ripped off to the tune of over $60 million for EcoCare alone. And if you add in all the other rorts and excesses, and the theft of reserve funds and endowment funds, the loss is much greater.

The failure of Adam Feeley, then head of the SFO, to override the OAG injunction not to interfere in Kaipara left the impression that the SFO's targets are selected on a political basis. His surprise departure soon after, and his appointment as chief executive of a local authority, suggested to many that he had been reluctant to muddy the local government waters and smear the reputation of a fellow local government chief executive.

I wonder what Aldous Huxley would have thought of it all?

Aldous Huxley, British writer and philosopher, writing in the 1930s and 1940s, was concerned about the future of democracy. He had this to say:

Under the relentless thrust of accelerating over-population and over-organization, and by means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms--elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest--will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial--but democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

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