.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The Scales of Justice

Welcome back to Kaipara

.

See our Facebook page at Kaipara Concerns

CANDIDATE PROFILES
Can be seen here.

CANDIDATES QUESTIONNAIRES  
The candidates' responses to Martina Tschirky’s questionnaires can be seen here

LATEST NEWS

HONEST JOHN CAN'T HELP HIMSELF  29.09.2016
In his column Beneath the Surface in the latest Kaipara Lifestyler, Honest John shows his mastery of the art of smoke and mirrors.  He reports on the recent High Court decision and states that the Court dismissed the claims of the MRRA and Bruce and Heather Rogan against the KDC.

All true.  But the interesting point is what he failed to say. 

Firstly, the case that the KDC brought against Bruce and Heather Rogan has still to be decided.  That is the test case for ten other cases.  These are the remnant of 100 or so District Court cases that the commissioners pursued against ratepayers.

Secondly, the High Court found that all the rates of the NRC for the last 5 years for the Kaipara area are unlawful.  The Court has now required the NRC to provide it with more information to see if the the NRC rates for the Far North and Whangarei areas are also unlawful.

The decision obviously as huge ramifications for the NRC but it has equally broad ramifications for the KDC.  After all  the NRC rates are included in the joint rates assessments and invoices issued by the KDC.  If those documents include unlawful rates then they themselve are unlawful and would have to be reissued.

The amazing thing  is that the KDC and NRC entered into an agreement whereby the NRC delegated powers to the KDC to assess the NRC rates, to add penalties, and recover unpaid rates on its behalf.  The Court held that the NRC had no power to delegate such matters and that the KDC acted unlawfully in acting on behalf of the NRC.

Believe it or not, both councils were acting under the old legislation that was repealed in 2003.

Even more staggering is that the lawyers who act for the KDC and the NRC did not realise this.  Not only that, they also vetted the rates resolutions and penalty resolutions of the NRC which the Court also held to be unlawful.

These were not just minor errors.  This is what Duffy J had to say about these fundamental breaches:

 [120] The errors that I have identified are serious and substantial. In short, the NRC has failed to exercise its statutory powers properly when determining rates resolutions and it has unlawfully sought to delegate the performance of a number of its functions in relation to rates to KDC. These are substantial and grave errors that warrant recognition by this Court making declarations of invalidity.

KEEPING TRACK OF VOTING  29.09,2016
You can keep track of the daily voting for each ward here.  As at 28 September 3,200 votes had been received being 21.84% of eligible voters.  Voting closes at midday on 8 October.  Postal votes must be posted by 5 October.

Note that the daily vote count does not show how each candidate is faring.

WHO WILL BE THE CROWN OBSERVER?  29.09.2016
With only 9 days to go before the election result is announced, the Associate Minister of Local Government has not yet announced who is going to partner Peter Winder.

The rumours are that Louise Upston wants to appoint a woman for the role and is trying to find a suitable qualified candidate from ex National Party MPs.

With either Bruce Rogan or Greg Gent as Mayor it will need a very experienced and qualified Observer to be able to offer advice that is of any relevance.

Watch this space.

"I'm feeling lonely."

WELL AND TRULY STITCHED UP  19.09.2016
Only three weeks to go and the commissioners and their supporters have well and truly stitched us up. Here we go:

Mangawhai Focus
The Mangawhai Focus is at it again.

Have a read of the latest Mangawhai Focus and you will see what I mean.

It starts off with Rob Pooley, a mate of the commissioners, and an avid government supporter, taking an opportunity to lambast the MRRA (and indirectly Bruce Rogan) for most of his ED SAID column.

And the problem? Some issue with seating and microphones at the Mangawhai candidates meeting. Frustrating? Yes, I was there, but not all the fault of the MRRA. And why use something so petty as an excuse to denigrate all the sterling work that the MRRA and Bruce Rogan have done for this community? And just as the voting starts.

Note also the brief report about High Court decision. Comment from the NRC but nothing from the MRRA or Bruce Rogan. One-eyed reporting.

Greg Gent
And then there is Greg Gent. He has made it absolutely clear time and time again at candidates meetings that he only intends to work one and a half days a week even though the Mayoralty is classed as a fulltime job and is paid as a fulltime job.

He has also made a big issue of his governance experience. Letters to the Mangawhai Focus (and a letter to the Lifestyler) previously questioned his conflict of interest in relation to his appointment as chair of the KDC review team in 2012. He failed to reveal that he was in fact the chairman of BNZ Partners Northland at the time.

In a letter to the editor in this week’s Focus he advises that he revealed the conflict to both the BNZ and ANZ Banks who both had hefty loans with the council. Heaven knows why. Surely they both knew who he was and what his two roles were.

The real point - that he side-stepped so deftly - is that he pressured the councillors into resigning, and into requesting the Minister to appoint commissioners. He also threatened the councillors with Armageddon if they did not adopt the Long Term Plan which was a prerequisite to the commissioners taking over.

In doing this he failed to reveal to the councillors or anyone involved that he had a very senior role in the very bank that was owed over $20 million by the KDC, and that all the actions that he had pressured the councillors in to taking were the requirements of the BNZ and the ANZ.

Not pretty, and nor is the fact that he has refused to explain his actions at the time.

My concern with Greg Gent, despite all his self-confessed abilities and experience, is his attitude and where his heart lies. He says that he was born in Kaipara and will die in Kaipara. As Bruce Rogan quipped at one meeting: “He is the only candidate who knows where he is going to die.”

He has undoubted competence which is a big tick, but he is going to be a part-time Mayor, squeezed in between his many chairmanship and directorship roles.

He denies any affiliation to the National Party and that he is the government’s chosen candidate, but has expressed his admiration for the work of the commissioners and has been the government’s go-to man on several occasions.

He makes it clear that he not interested in the past which suggests that the skeletons will remain well and truly buried under his Mayoralty.

He is a forceful man, some would say aggressive, and one gets the feeling that the can be very pushy and controlling. If he gets elected, the councillors are going to have a rough time if they disagree with him.

Honest John
He’s still at it stitching up the council and ratepayers before he leaves. Have a read of his column (if you can read it behind all the smoke and mirrors).

The big news is the appointment of the Mangawhai Town Plan panel. He appointed himself to be the sole selector of the panel and despite criticism of him making such a selection so close to the new council being selected, he has gone and ahead and done it.

The panel is to be headed by CEO Graham Sibery with ex CEO Jill McPherson guiding the process. The rest of the panel look to me like the anointed ones, chosen, like all Honest John’s panels, for their loyalty to the cause. (Apologies to those who are not.) It is interesting that architect and designer Christian Simon, an avid campaigner for Mangawhai’s development, was turned down by Honest John.

Buried at the end of the article are two more stitch-up announcements.

First the new bylaw for septic tanks is going to be passed even though there is absolutely no evidence to show that the harbour is polluted or that septic tanks are the cause. It is ironic that candidate Peter Wethey shows photos of the testing he is doing as a member of Honest John's panel. It seems bizarre that the bylaw is being passed on the recommendation of that same panel before any testing was carried out and any conclusions reached . Only In Mangawhai.

It also seems that the bylaw will grant the council the power to require private schemes to connect to the Wastewater Scheme. That’s a new one. So be warned all those who have private wastewater systems. They’re coming to get you.

The other important issue is that they are not going to change the fire water tank requirements. So the retention of the silly water tanks that house owners cannot use when their house burns down is going to be the legacy of Honest John.

Funny how they are rushing it through just before they quit.

WHAT IF ...DUNEDIN?   18.09.2016
See how this website reported the High Court decision. 

RADIO NZ ON HIGH COURT DECISION   17.09.2016
See Radio NZ's Lois Williams' article here and listen to Sally Murphy on Checkpoint.  You can hear Duffy J reading part of her judgment and Bruce Rogan's comments.

PRESS RELEASE FROM WINSTON PETERS  16.09.2016
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has just issued a press release in respect of the Duffy J's High Court decision. 

LESSONS FOR GOVT IN MANGAWHAI RESIDENTS COURT WIN

There has at last been some justice for the long suffering Mangawhai ratepayers in Northland, says New Zealand First Leader and MP for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“Their partial victory in the High Court is a reward for the trojan effort they have put in to restoring their rights after years of incompetence, which has been brushed under the carpet by the National government.

“In an interim judgement, the High Court at Whangarei has upheld the judicial review brought by ratepayers, Bruce and Heather Rogan, against the Northland Regional Council.

“The judge has declared that the council’s rates for the Kaipara District Council region have not been lawfully set or assessed for the rating years from 2011/2012 to 2015/2016 inclusive.

“Congratulations to the Rogans for pursuing this sordid mess which began in 2003 when the Kaipara council told residents the cost of the sewerage scheme would be no more than $10.8 million, but it blew out and the council borrowed $57.8m.

“In the long running saga, which included a failure to take legal action against the contracted company and rates validation was pushed through Parliament by the National government, residents were left facing a debt of $74m.

“New Zealand First has maintained the government must clear the debt.

“This judgement must force the government to legislate and hopefully this time not repeat the unethical and disgraceful sidelining of local interests in covering off central government incompetence.

“In short, this is a government-condoned mess and the people of Mangawhai have a right to expect that this time central government will act with a modicum of principle rather than bludgeoning, block-headed arrogance.”

THE VOTING SYSTEM  16.09.2016
Postal voting in the local election starts today and many have already received their voting papers.

I looked at mine and was throughly confused by the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system.   It looks simple if you just list your candidate preferences as 1, 2, 3 etc.  But if you try to understood what happens to the votes after your first preference then it gets very complicated.  It is so complicated that it is done by computer.

Essentially you vote for the candidates in order of preference, so your No1 vote is very important.  That is why candidates have been pressing people to vote for them as No 1.

The best explanation that I have found is here.

If you find it complicated then relax. 

It's a job for a computer

Votes are counted using specially developed computer software - the formulae involved are too complex for counting to be done by hand.

The computer program:

## Works out the quota needed by each candidate to be elected

## Keeps track of the preferences each candidate receives including transfers between candidates

## Calculates the result.

Have fun.

INTERIM HIGH COURT JUDGMENT RELEASED 16.09.2016
Duffy J has made an interim judgment in respect of the judicial review brought by the MRRA and Bruce and Heather Rogan challenging the lawfulness of rates set by the NRC and the KDC.

She has made the following decisions:

NRC
1. The NRC rates were not set lawfully for the 2011/2012, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 rating years. [27]

2. The NRC’s delegation to the KDC of the assessment of rates and recovery of rates for the rating years between 2011/2012 and 2015/2016 inclusive was unlawful. Accordingly those rates were not lawfully assessed. [58]

3. The NRC’s delegation to the KDC to add penalties to NRC rates was unlawful. Therefore the penalties imposed on rates in respect of NRC rates was unlawful. [74]

4. The Validation Act only validated the unlawful rates of the KDC. It did not validate the unlawful rates of the NRC. [111]

Result

[129] I make the following declaration: The NRC’s rates for the KDC region have not been lawfully set or assessed for the rating years from 2011/2012 to 2015/2016 inclusive.

Duffy J has not yet decided what order to make in respect of ordering the NRC to refund the unlawful rates charged. She has invited the NRC to make further submissions and especially to examine how this ruling might affect the legality of the rates that it has set for its other constituent areas – Whangarei and the Far North. Those rates might also be unlawful.

She will make her final decision once both parties have made further submissions.

KDC
Duffy J dismissed claims that the KDC rates were set unlawfully or that penalties were added unlawfully.

However, because the NRC’s delegation of the assessment of its rates and the recovery of its rates to the KDC was unlawful, it follows that the actions of the KDC in assessing the NRC rates and in attempting to recover those rates were also unlawful.

The appeal by the Rogans from the District Court
Duffy J will make her decision in that case once she makes her final decision on the judicial review.

The Rogan case hinges substantially on whether the rates assessment notices and the rates invoices of the KDC (which include the KDC and NRC rates) complied with the law.

The finding that the NRC rates were unlawful may result in the Court finding that the rates assessment notices and the rates invoices were unlawful because they included rates (NRC) which were unlawful. The amount due in the rates invoices was therefore not correct. The lawfulness of all penalties charged also becomes a major issue.

What next?
It will be panic stations in the NRC, in the KDC, and in the government. The High Court ruling affects all ratepayers in the Kaipara district and possibly those in Whangarei and the Far North.

The unlawfulness is so fundamental that it cannot be fixed by the councils themselves. It will need another validation bill. The government has been very aware that Duffy J might deliver such a judgment and the preparation of a draft bill is probably already under way.

The importance of the ruling
In 2012 over a thousand KDC ratepayers withheld their rates because the KDC refused to acknowledge that the EcoCare rates that it set were unlawful. The MRRA responded by filing an application for a judicial review. The commissioners responded by pushing through the Validation Act that validated all the unlawful rates.

The action of Parliament in changing the law retrospectively to nullify a case already before the courts was nothing short of shameful. It was a fundamental breach of the rights of all New Zealander to apply to the courts to challenge unlawful decisions on the basis of the law as it was at the time the decisions were made.

The mistake that the commissioners made was to insist that the penalties and the penalties on penalties were also validated. If they had not been so arrogant and vindictive then all rate arrears would have been paid. In fact those rate strikers whose rates were outstanding tendered payment of the outstanding rates, but without penalties, to the commissioners – an amount close to $1 million - but they refused to accept it.

Instead the commissioners launched a legal attack on ratepayers issuing over 100 summonses and demanding payment from striking ratepayers’ mortgagees.

About 10 ratepayers still refuse to pay rates with the Rogan test case to be decided by Duffy J in the High Court.

It needs to be made clear that all the ratepayer who withheld their rates, and I disclose that I am one, did so on a question of principle. They acknowledge that they are legally obliged to pay lawful rates but that there is an equal duty on the council to comply with its legal obligation when setting rates. Rates are a tax and the law is clear that the legal procedure for setting rates must be followed to the letter.

The protesting ratepayers are more than willing to pay their share of rates. However they are not prepared to pay the vindictive and unlawful penalties. They also want to ensure that the culture of illegality that the KDC has embraced comes to an end. In the future all rates and everything that the council does must be legally compliant.

This comment of Duffy J should be read by all ratepayers:

[120] The errors that I have identified are serious and substantial. In short, the NRC has failed to exercise its statutory powers properly when determining rates resolutions and it has unlawfully sought to delegate the performance of a number of its functions in relation to rates to KDC. These are substantial and grave errors that warrant recognition by this Court making declarations of invalidity.

Through their arrogance and vindictiveness, the commissioners have created a legal problem of massive proportions and it unclear at this stage how the tangle they have created can be unravelled.

Ironically they only have a few weeks ago and they are going to bequeath the fruits of their incompetence for others to resolve.

In the meantime, to all of those ratepayers who supported the fight to have the rule of law returned to Kaipara, you can pat yourselves on the back. You have been vindicated.

Now we all have to knuckle down sorting out the legal mess that the commissioners have left us with so we can get Kaipara back on track.

The Scales of Justice

Welcome back to Kaipara

A NIFTY SIDE-STEP    15.09.2016
Coincidentally with my post about Greg Gent’s role in the sacking of the previous councillors, the Lifestyler published a letter querying his conflict of interest.

The response from Greg Gent is a complete red-herring.

He points out that he declared his senior role in the BNZ at a meeting with the BNZ and the ANZ when seeking a waiver from the banks and an assurance that the KDC loans would not be called up.

Greg Gent was the Chairman of BNZ Partners Northland at that time. Following the meeting the KDC received letters of waiver and comfort from both banks.

The letter from the BNZ was from BNZ Partners Northland and was signed by Gerald Farmer, Partner-Commercial.

That is the same bank that Greg Gent was the Chairman of.  Clearly Gerald Farmer and those in the BNZ who made the decision knew who Greg Gent was.  So why make a big deal about disclosing the conflict of interest?  Both banks knew who he was and what he was.

The real conflict of issue arose in his relationship with the councillors of the KDC

As chair of the review team he became a close adviser to the councillors. He was even allowed into important council meetings. He persuaded the councillors to resign and to request the Minister to appoint commissioners. He also issued his Armageddon threat and applied immense pressure on the councillors to adopt the LTP.

He did not reveal to the councillors or to anyone else his association with the BNZ. And he did not reveal to them that the actions that he persuaded them to take were all actions that the BNZ (and the ANZ) required the councillors to take to protect the banks’ best interests.

Greg Gent knows what the real issue is here and it is disappointing to see that he elected to avoid it.  It is also rather sad that he used the opportunity in the Lifestyler to take a cheap side-swipe at Bruce Rogan knowing that he has no right of reply

On a more positive note, Greg Gent fronted up at the Kaiwaka meeting last night about his contacts with Louise Upston or government representatives.  He answered a very positive NO.  However, he did admit to signing the petition to defer democracy.  He maintains he did so because having an election one year prior to this year's Local Authority elections was pointless.

WHO DO WE PICK FOR MAYOR?  14.09.2016
Selecting the right person for Mayor is the most vital decision that we all have to make in the next few weeks.

The two realistic contenders are Bruce Rogan and Greg Gent.

Bruce Rogan is known to all of us and needs no introduction.  With Bruce, what you see is what you get.

Greg Gent is an enigma.  Incredibly popular out West and in farming circles but scarcely known in the East.

He comes across as experienced in governance and in business, But I hold some real concerns about what his real agenda is. 

We all know that local National Party supporters managed to defer democracy for a year and there is a concern amongst many that Greg Gent and others are National Party "plants" under the guise of independents who will ensure that the policies of the commissioners' regime are continued and that Kaipara will effectively be ruled by the government with ratepayers having little say.

If you are concerned about electing the right leader for the next 3 years then go to the next page: Who do we pick for Mayor?

CAN'T GET TO THE MEETINGS?  14.09.2016
If you can't get to a candidates meeting then watch online interviews by the Kaipara Lifestyler with:

Bruce Rogan

Greg Gent

Kaiwaka tonight a 7 pm.  See the schedule above.

GOVERNMENT BEFORE RATEPAYERS   13.09.2016
We get rid of three government men in a month’s time, although one of them stays but wearing a different hat. I am referring to Peter Winder. He is not a popular man and his role as Crown Manager which is unlawful, unwarranted and undemocratic is going to put him in direct conflict with ratepayers, and hopefully the newly elected council.

We want a council that for once will act in ratepayers' best interests and not be forced to jump to the dictates of the government.

Having Peter Winder around is bad enough but the last thing that we want is to actually elect representatives whose loyalty is with the government and its policies.

Remember last year when Louise Upston the Associate Minister of Local Government (who was handed the poisoned chalice of dealing with Kaipara) met with carefully selected local people sympathetic to the government who petitioned her to delay the return of democracy.

If anyone has a copy of that petition then please send it to me. contactus@kaiparaconcerns.co.nz

Ratepayers need to know from each candidate:

*Did you meet with Louise Upston or any other representative of the government or National Party about delaying the return to democracy?

*Did you sign the petition supporting the delay in the return to democracy?

*Have you had any contact with Louise Upston or any other representative of the government or National Party about standing in this election?

THE BIGGEST BULLY OF THEM ALL   12.09.2016
Have a look at Whale Oil’s comments here on an article written by Rodney Hide for NBR (it is behind a pay wall).

It is interesting to see Hide’s new perspective on government especially as he was one of the Ministers of Local Government who turned a blind eye to the illegalities and reckless incompetence of the KDC.

How about this:

The government is the biggest bully of them all.

It is run by politicians driven by public opinion that’s breathtakingly ignorant of the issues and government operation. Politicians are rabbits caught in the headlights of public opinion not sure where the car will jump next.

The great, massive government departments that turn the cogs and wheels do so completely in the dark. They have no clue what people want, the cost of anything, the trade-offs involved and don’t know what those in their own departments actually do.

I also like the final sentiment:

There was a time people’s foolish belief made me angry and despairing. It now only amuses me. I keep as far away from government as I possibly can and whenever I get the chance I poke the nasty bully with a stick.

The trouble is that in a situation like Kaipara the government effectively takes control of your whole life and wallet. One has to fight back.

But there were dolphins in the Harbour this morning. Orcas a couple of weeks ago. At least the government can’t stop that.

ANOTHER ECOCARE   12.09.2016
We think we are the only ones with a lemon for a sewerage system.

The reality is that there are many of them all over the country but largely they creep under the media radar.

Take a look at the latest fiasco in Whanganui which will ring quite a few bells with Kaipara ratepayers.

Note the incompetence, the secrecy and all the rest of it. It is the fundamental problem of local authorities. They are run by amateurs who are conned by their staff and rorted by consultants, advisers and contractors. The watchdogs are asleep and at the end of the day no one goes a damn because the government compels the ratepayers to pay all the bills.

And most ratepayers don’t give a damn. They don’t protest. They simply pay the bills and spend their time criticising those who do make a stand rather than challenging those who ripped them off.

The interesting difference in this Whanganui case is the council had the guts to sue the contractor and obtained a confidential settlement. That outcome was denied Kaipara ratepayers because the commissioners and the government allowed those responsible to escape any liability.

Take a look at the figures. The sewerage lemon for Kaipara cost in excess of $60 million in 2011 and is at capacity serving just over 1,700 connections.

The population of Whanganui is about 43,000. Their sewerage system cost $27 million in 2007. I don’t know how the population equates to the number of connections, but that lemon was clearly considerably cheaper than the KDC lemon.

The new system being built will service the whole of Whanganui and cost $41 million. And that is at today’s prices.

Go figure.

APATHY   10.09.2016
It was good to see a good turnout at the Mangawhai candidates meeting last Sunday. But sadly it was the same old faces with scarcely anyone under about 45.

Winston Peters levelled some accusations against Mangawhai ratepayers when he was here a few months ago. He said that we weren’t angry enough. We had been dumped on by the Key government time and time again but the majority accepted their lot without complaint.

It is an attitude that pervades our district.

I know of many people who simply don’t care what the government does. They are not interested in such abstract concepts such as fairness, democracy, legal compliance and the rule of law. They can’t understand why a few of us get so excited about such abstract ideas.

They seem quite happy to see the rorters who ripped the heart out of Kaipara get off scot-free but, I suspect, that if the same circumstances were on Fair Go they would be seething with anger.

At the first candidates meeting one candidate said that we had to accept that we stuffed up. We had to suck up, move on and put it all behind us.

Is that right? Did we ratepayers stuff up?

I thought that we ratepayers were a pretty innocent party who tried to alert the authorities to the rorts and illegalities that were going on but they would not listen.

I thought that there was a whole row of suspects who had clearly failed in the duty to ratepayers and in their statutory and contractual obligations.

I thought it was patently clear that the government and its regulatory agencies had turned a blind eye to the trail of destruction, and when (through ratepayers’ efforts) it was finally acknowledged, the government retrospectively validated it all and made us pay for the destruction.

I don’t get the attitude that fails to acknowledge how the A-G, the government and the commissioners collaborated to delay any action against the A-G so that the limitation period ran out and our recovery of damages was severely diminished.

In short, I thought that we were the victims of gross incompetence on the part of many other parties.

I spoke to another ratepayer who put it very succinctly. He said that we had to accept responsibility for our own failure because, at the end of the day, we elected the councillors and we were responsible for their illegal actions.

It is very simplistic approach and defies logic. After all, we elect councillors on the understanding that they will act prudently and lawfully. We cannot bear the responsibility if they run of the rails and act outside the law, can we?

How can we be held responsible if the government turns a blind eye to persistent, blatant rorts and the government auditor makes a dog’ dinner of the audit for year after year?

How can we be responsible for a chief executive who flouted the law and the standards of financial prudence with reckless abandon?

But, of course, such considerations do not come into the picture. We are dealing here with the government and the council. The rules that apply in normal commercial transactions seem to disappear when the government is involved. It seems to be part of our inherited psyche that we believe implicitly what the government says and it takes an awful lot to persuade us that we could have been misled.

As Mark Twain said:

“It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

And it is even truer when the central government and local government are together doing the fooling.

So what about the cost of the Kaipara debacle that the government has decreed is the sole responsibility of ratepayers, and which many ratepayers are happy to accept?

Here are some figures.

According to the 2006/2016 LTP the total KDC debt (pre EcoCare) in 2006 was $9.45 million which, given a population of 18,250 at the time, gave a debt per resident of $518.

Just think about that.

By the time the Tiller council quit in 2012 the acknowledged debt was about $80 million with another unknown amount for monies pillaged from the Mangawhai Endowment Fund, the Reserve Funds and many other funds that contained monies held on behalf of ratepayers.

The total debt of the KDC could therefore have been in excess of $100 million in 2012.

These figures show the costs attributable to the EcoCare debacle. Between 2006 and 2012 our debt increased by $70 million at the very least.

Subtract from that amount the true value of ta sewerage plant that services only 1700 connections and you can see how much went down the gurgler to nowhere.

It is also worthwhile pointing out that under the Treasury Policies adopted by KDC in 2006 the total debts of the KDC were not allowed to exceed half the operating income. The operating income for the 2005/2006 year was $29.235 million. That meant that the limit for total debt was $14.6 million.

As there was already a debt of $9.45 million the KDC was only entitled to borrow a further amount of just over $5 million for the EcoCare project.

As we have seen, it exceeded that amount many, many times over and the auditor did not take a blind bit of notice.

So, if Mark Twain is right and those who are happy to accept the blame for the default of others are not going to change, then clearly we must put greater effort into ensuring that those that we elect this time are not going to repeat the errors of their forerunners.

I am not sure how we do that but one would suspect that those who are of that mind might put a bit more care and scrutiny into selecting the candidates who they feel will act lawfully and with integrity

But honestly, I cannot see that happening. I suspect that they will simply go through the motions and when things go pear-shaped again, as sure as night follows day, they will trot out the same old clichés they used before, and then, like all those who expect others to do their hard work for them, will put it all down to Winston Peters because “he has done nothing for us”.

On a more positive note, well done all those staunch ratepayers who understand what this is all about.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM   10.09.2016
So far in the election campaign there has been a total refusal of the candidates to acknowledge that the new so-called democratic council will have a massive elephant in the room, or even two, the cabinet appointed Crown Manager in the guise of commissioner Peter Winder and the yet to be appointed Crown Observer.

.

Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston announced the appointment of the Crown Manager and Observer with a large dose of understatement and spin. They have been appointed, she said, to merely help and advise the new and inexperienced council:

Newly-elected council members will then be able to focus on providing effective governance and on the district's future, rather than being distracted by past issues.

That is not true and the terms of reference under which the appointees operate, and their powers under the LGA tell a completely different story.

The government has to return democracy to Kaipara but it is highly concerned that a new, democratic and liberal council might expose some of the rorts that have been buried and pursue some policies in the best interests of ratepayers that may run counter to the government’s own policies. The new council may even decide to pursue some of the trough-feeders who have fed indiscriminately at the Kaipara trough.

To prevent that the Crown Manager has, according to the terms of reference, the sole power to make decisions relating to past legal and rating issues without any consultation with the council.  If the new council wants to remedy some of the unfair decisions of the past or reveal information that ratepayers should know about, it will be stopped from doing so.

Forget all the fluffy nonsense from Louise Upston and her minions, some of whom are standing for council, about the Crown Manager being an adviser only. As Winston Peters pointed out at his meeting in Mangawhai recently:

Why should any possible court action be taken from the scrutiny of a mayor and councillors elected by ratepayers and left to a Crown Manager?

He went on to quote the powers of the Crown appointees set out in the LGA:

That sounds like the handbook for a little despot answerable to only one person, a dictator from the government in Wellington.

The Crown Manager will have his hands on the steering wheel and the council will be sitting in the back seat and told to shut up.

As for the Crown Observer, Ms Upston says “the observer will not be involved in decision-making and will only offer advice or guidance."

The observer will be the little despot’s enforcer and navigator sitting in the front passenger seat, making sure the locals stay in line.

Any advice he gives will have to be followed.

And what happens if the locals in the back seat rebel?

Ladies and gentlemen, Ms Upston’s words that the Kaipara community has an opportunity with the local body elections to determine its future are pure propaganda.

The government’s hands and those of their associated vested interests have been all over the Kaipara council, brushing incompetence and corruption under the carpet.

This will continue under the Crown Manager and Crown Observer.

They will be determining the course of the council’s future – not the elected council, and the Mangawhai ratepayers will have to pay for it.

The appointment of the Crown Manager and the Crown Observer and their roles are fundamental to this election but so far all the candidates have looked the other way.

That cannot be allowed to continue.

Each and every candidate needs to front up and declare how they will respond to the Crown appointees having control of some areas of decision-making that should be in the domain of elected councillors.

This is an issue that goes right to the heart of local government and how much it can be controlled by central government.

The terms of reference for the Crown Manager
The powers of an elected council are set out clearly in the LGA. In 2012 the National Government passed an amendment to the Act which granted greater powers to the Minister of Local Government to interfere if the Minister considers that a council is not performing adequately.

We therefore have an immediate conflict between the competing statutory powers of an elected local authority and the powers of the Minister to intervene and limit those statutory powers.

The problem is that in setting the terms of reference of the Crown Manager the Minister has exceeded his statutory powers.

The terms of reference of the Crown Manager contain the following powers:

Extent of Authority
The Crown Manager will manage outstanding and future legal actions relating to the development of the Scheme and the setting or collection of rates during and prior to the Kaipara Commission’s term on behalf of the newly elected Council, including the following matters:

• The Council’s legal action against the Council’s former Chief Executive;

• any additional legal actions against any party relating to the development or operation of the Scheme prior to 2013;

• the judicial review action against the Council challenging the legality of rates and penalties relating to the 2011/12 to 2015/16 rating years (CIV-2015-488-95);

• any additional legal actions against the Council relating to rates for the 2016/17 rating year and prior rating years; and

• any legal action that is required by the Council to collect rates due for the 2016/17 rating year and prior rating years.

The Crown Manager is therefore able to:

• make decisions relating to the legal actions within their management responsibilities, including the power to initiate and manage new legal actions, or discontinue current legal actions, that fall within their responsibilities

In other words the Crown Manager has the power to make decisions and take actions in relation to the matters outlined in the terms of reference. This is independent of and without any reference to the elected council.

Crown Manager's powers under the LGA
Unfortunately the Minister does not have the power under the LGA to grant such powers to the Crown Manager.

For the Crown Manager to be appointed (s 258D) there must be “a significant problem” as defined by section 256 of the Act. Merely helping an inexperienced council does not come within the definition of a "problem" under the Act.

But of even greater concern is the power that a Crown Manager can exercise.  That is set out clearly in the Act.

Section 258D grants the power “to direct the local authority to act to address the problem”. (My emphasis)

That is the limit of the power that the Minister can bestow on the Crown Manager. The Crown Manager is a statutory appointee and can only have the powers prescribed by statute.  Those powers cannot be exceeded.  Therefore the Minister does not have the power to grant the Crown Manager responsibility for the decision-making and management of certain matters as is suggested in the terms of reference. The appointee can only have the power to direct the council on how it must make the decisions in respect of the matters included within the terms of reference.

So the power of making the final decision is still vested in the council.

Of course the same section also states that a local authority must cooperate and comply with the directions of the Crown Manager and if it fails to do so then the Minister may bring in commissioners again. (See section 258F)

The terms of reference of the Crown Manager as gazetted are therefore outside the law and ultra vires, and it would be unlawful for the Crown Manager to act pursuant to the terms of reference.

The appropriate course of action is for the government to reissue terms of reference in the Gazette that are legally compliant.

But the elephant in the room becomes even bigger. Councillors cannot simply put their heads in the sand and ignore those areas ascribed to the Crown Manager. They will be responsible for making the final decisions in those areas.

There will inevitably be a fundamental conflict between the directions of the Crown Manager that reflect the will of the government and the best interests of the trough-feeders, as against the councillors’ own concerns to act transparently, in the best interests of ratepayers and pursuant to requirements of the legislation.

It will be ding-dong battle. With the threat of commissioners being returned if the councillors are not compliant with the Crown Manager’s directives, it will be a real test of integrity and moral strength to see whether the councillors will put ratepayers’ interests first.

That is why the candidates must acknowledge the elephant in the room and come clean about their attitude to the Crown Manager. We have had enough of central government dumping on Kaipara and we need to be sure that we elect councillors who have the desire to act in the best interests of the ratepayers and have the strength to act according to their convictions, despite the threats of central government.

HONEST JOHN'S LEGACY  10.09.2016
In Your Questions Anwered - see the post below - Honest John paints a picture of the past:

Community discomfort at the Council’s performance was at an all time high. Around a thousand property owners withheld rates as a means of protest in the 2012/13 period. That has come to an end, with Council community engagement now in good shape. Only a handful of property owners and the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association are continuing to protest, this time by seeking remedies for themselves through the Courts.

If you read that and the whole article you will get the picture of a totally unlawful and financially incompetent council that was dysfuncional in virtually every way.

The problem was that the KDC itself refused to acknowledge the situation and the government and the government agencies that are supposed to protect ratepayers from errant local authorites sat on their hands and did nothing.  Ratepayers' protests were ignored and it was only when, as Honest John says, around a thousand ratepayers withheld their rates, that the KDC actually took steps to acknowledge its unlawful actions.

But even that wasn't the end.  Following legal advice from Simpson Grierson and comments from the A-G, the KDC adopted the view that its actions and decisions were deemed lawful in law until a court of competent jurisdiction (i.e. the High Court) declared otherwise.  Ratepayers were left with no alternative to do just that - get a declaration from the High Court.

We all know that the commissioners and Mike Sabin, prompted and directed by the the government and the Department of Internal Affairs, launched a massive offensive with all the power at their disposal.  They forced through a validation bill to validate all the illegalities retrospectively, ensured that vindictive penalties on rates remained to punish the ratepayers for complaining, allowed all the guilty parties to escape liability, dumped all the illegal debts on the ratepayers, and finally cruahed most of the remaining opposition with over a hundred individual legal actions in the District Court.

Only about ten legal cases remain outstanding.  That is the "handful" that Honest John refers to.  The test case against Bruce and Heather Rogan was heard in the High Court in May and we are still waiting for the decision of Justice Duffy.

Each of the ratepayers before the courts is maintaining that the rates invoices delivered to them were unlawful because they flout the requirements of the Rating Act in multiple ways.  To that extent it is a personal matter, but, being one of those defiant ratepayers, I can assure you that all the protesting ratepayers are taking a stand on behalf of all ratepayers in Kaipara, and ultimately all ratepayers in New Zealand.

The ruling of the High Court will affect every ratepayer in the district, and perhaps the country, and if the ruling of Duffy J is in favour of the ratepayers then expect the government to swoop in with a massive retroactive validation bill, the likes of which has never been seen in New Zealand.

Honest John loves to ascribe selfish motives to others and struggles to comprehend that the protesting ratepayers have integrity and are motivated by fairness, equitable principles and respect for the rule of law.  If ratepayers are obliged to pay rates then local authorities are obliged to comply with the law and ensure that the rates are lawful and that their rate demands comply with the rules meticulously laid down by Parliament.

History will eventually be the judge and assess the legacy of the commissioners.  They will be gone in a month.  I suspect that when they have left and the smoke clears, their mirrors are packed away and the propaganda machine grinds to a halt, they will finally be seen in their true light. 

SMOKE AND MIRROR ANSWERS    08.09.2016
With only a month to go Honest John cannot help trying to boost his legacy with more trumpet-blowing and smoke and mirrors in his Your Questions Answered column in the latest edition of the Mangawhai Focus.

Here are some of the comments:

Rates had not been set by elected members in accordance with the law for many years. Steps needed to be taken to address this matter. Commissioners turned to Parliament for assistance, resulting in the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Act being passed in December 2013 with the support of most Members of Parliament.

Let’s be blunt. The rates fiasco was only acknowledged by the KDC because ratepayers were forced to go on a very effective rate strike following the refusal of the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, the Minister of Local Government, and the National government to take any action to curtail the unlawful actions of the KDC. They were all fully advised of the persistent unlawfulness of the Council in 2010 but chose to ignore it.

Even when the unlawfulness was finally acknowledged 2012 the KDC proclaimed that according to administrative law principles the rates were deemed lawful until a court declared otherwise.

The MRRA reached agreement in early 2012 with the former Council for the issues to be resolved between the council and ratepayer representatives. Soon after they came to power the commissioners reneged on the deal and pursued the Validation Bill proposal without any consultation.

At the instigation of the Department of Internal Affairs – which runs local government in New Zealand – the vindictive penalties and penalties on penalties were not remitted.

Ratepayers had to be taught a lesson to toe the line.

Bringing those responsible for the state of the Council to account was important for Kaipara ratepayers. Commissioners filed proceedings in the Courts against the former Chief Executive Jack McKerchar and the Auditor General for their shortcomings. The latter has been settled. The former is before the Employment Court.

Everyone knew that filing proceedings within the 6 year limitation period was vital for successful claims against those responsible. The commissioners failed to file holding actions and deliberately waited until the OAG report was released before filing proceedings against the A-G. The A-G delayed the report until the limitation period had expired.

When proceedings were eventually filed, the A-G responded, as expected, that the limitation period had expired. She was allowed to swan off and continue her career unblemished with a mingy $5 million damages payment (paid by the government’s insurance company), without any finding of liability, with a confidentiality agreement, having effectively dumped a massive burden of illegal debt on the citizens of Kaipara.

As for Jack McKerchar, there was a claim in respect of his severance pay only and that has now progressed to the Employment Court. Quite staggeringly given his central role in the debacle outlined in detail in the OAG report, no action in negligence was taken in the High Court against him. He would have had indemnity insurance and any independent receiver would have launched such an action with confidence.

Sadly the government pulls the commissioners strings and suing a chief executive of a local authority would send the wrong messages and undermine confidence in the system.

The Commissioners chose not to file proceedings against consultants to the Council or against former elected members.

Why not? It is shameful that the councillors responsible and consultants were not made responsible for the carnage that they caused.

All in all nice and cosy arrangements directed from Wellington to ensure that those at the trough escaped without any serious liability and the burden of unlawfulness was placed where it belongs in the Key scheme of things, on the shoulders of ratepayers.

Only a month to go with Honest John and his smoke and mirrors. Hopefully the pall of reflective haze that he has cast over Kaipara will disappear forever. Sadly, somehow I do not think that will be the case. The tentacles of the National government reach far into the heart of Kaipara and I suspect that in the future we will see the continued negation of our fundamental rights camouflaged by the usual spin and encouraged by our own apparent indifference.

Negation of rights?  Read the next post.

A MUST READ  08.09.2016
All ratepayers must read this article in the elocal magazine by Historian John McLean entitled:  The inconvenient right of ratepayers - How National is Killing Local Government.  It can be found on page 24.

It spells out how the latest amendment Bill to the Local Government Act is designed to force amalgamation of councils, with ratepayers having no say.

THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN  07.09.2016
Only a month before they quit the commissioners are trying to set in place their chosen allies in important roles.

The Mangawhai wastewater panel was hand-picked by Honest John to ensure the right outcome in his quest to whitewash his pet white elephant, the Mangawhai wastewater scheme .  The panel was not allowed to look into the past or to consider the costs of any proposals.  In the end they came up with nothing.  Except of course for recommending a WOF regime for all on-site sewerage systems because there was "well-documented evidence" that those systems were responsible for the pollution of the Mangawhai Harbour.

It was, of course. a load of baloney.  Honest John himself has stated that, surprisingly, there has been little testing of the water and as a result the panel is now carrying out testing in various locations.  A novel idea, to reach a conclusion before you do the testing.  But even then the testing has been panned by critics because it is highly selective and does not include the important locations.

Now Honest John and his crew are going to hand-pick members of the Mangawhai Town Plan Community Advisory Panel which will make recommendations for the future development of Mangawhai..  This is what the terms of reference say:

The membership of the MTP Panel will comprise:

 Six community members including a Chair. Chair and members to be chosen by the Commissioners;

We will have a (sort of) democratic council in just over a month.  Why not leave the matter until then?   The commissioners made a dog's breakfast of the wastewater advisory panel, and the appointment of the Chief Executive, and they should just leave things as they are.

BRUCE ROGAN   07.09.2016
Mayoral candidate Bruce Rogan now has a website and a Facebook page.

FLASHBACK TO THE VALIDATION BILL   06.09.2016

Letter to the Editor of the Kaipara Lifestyler (here) 18 December 2012

Dear Editor,

I was very pleased to read that local MP Mike Sabin is prepared to sponsor a Bill through Parliament to resolve the invalid rates related to the Mangawhai area.

This initiative shows true leadership from Mr Sabin and has a number of advantages for us in Kaipara.

Firstly, and very importantly, to a district struggling for cash the solution will sit with and be paid for by Central Government not the embattled residents of Kaipara, and secondly the draft legislation will follow a full democratic process including select committee where all parties will have an opportunity to make their views known and therefore informed of the final decision.

We now await the finding of the office of the Auditor General around their investigation into the Mangawhai waste water debacle.

Both of these issues need to be resolved before the District can move on and build for tomorrow.

Greg Gent

Ruawai

Note: Paid by the Central Government?  Parliamentary Library research has shown that the average bill considered by Parliament costs the taxpayer around about $1.43 million, and every hour that Parliament sits costs about $20,000.

The fee for the KDC to lodge such a Bill with Parliament is minimal but the legal costs incurred by the KDC in helping to draft the Bill and on legal advice in respect of its content and countering the legal claim of the MRRA (which was filed before the Bill was promoted) was absolutely humungous.

Democratic process?  There was no democratic process in making the decision to proceed with the Bill.  And I would be surprised if there was anyone who really believes that the Parliamentary process in respect of the Bill had anything to do with democracy, fairness or the rule of law.

WHICH CANDIDATES SUPPORT DEMOCRACY?   29.08. 2016
Whilst Associate Minister Louise Upston waxes eloquent about “the return of democracy to Kaipara” the reality is that it is a travesty of democracy; it is democracy chopped off at the knees and shoulders.

By degrees John Key’s government does what all autocratic governments do, they proclaim loudly to the masses that they are serving the high principles of democracy and the rule of law - and all the other basic principles of a democratic society - whilst at the same time behind the scenes, subtly and ignored by the media, they are slowly disenfranchising the people and imposing a system of government, central and local, that benefits the chosen ones at the expense of the general populace.

The newly elected democratic council of Kaipara is not going to be a council as mandated by the Local Government Act. It will, if the government has its way, be a mock council, a half-pie council with stunted powers and no-go areas involving fundamental issues and the future of Kaipara that will be the sole domain of the Cabinet appointed Minders.

But that is not all. The new Local Government Amendment Act is designed to ensure that the government can force amalgamation and unitary authorities on all councils irrespective of what the ratepayers want.

And then there is the issue of unelected Maori representation which is threatening to be a real election issue next year. Many councils throughout the country have already appointed unelected Maori representatives and the precedent will no doubt be followed by many more as the government pressures local authorities to toe the line. This is pay-back for the support of the Maori Party in Parliament.

This is an issue that Dr Muriel Newman and the NZ Centre for Political Research have brought to the attention of the voting public. The Centre is polling local election candidates in each council to see which of them supports democracy with only elected candidates making decisions and which ones are undermining democracy by supporting unelected appointees having voting rights.

The results so far can be seen here. To date none of the Kaipara candidates have responded. As the campaign progresses voters should press candidates either in writing, on websites, or in meetings, to make public their attitude to this fundamental issue.

THIS IS A GEM    27.08.2016
One of the things that has really irked ratepayers in Kaipara is the commissioners turning our townships into tank farms. The Tank Farm Trio – Robertson, Winder and Booth – have incorporated the Fire Service Rules into the District Plan which means all new houses have to have a concrete water tank that can only be used for firefighting.

The original requirement was for a 45,000 litre tank but by paying for an extortionate fee for a resource consent and jumping through all sorts of hoops this could be reduced to 10,000 litres.

This is the interesting bit.

Ratepayers are not to be trusted, so the Rules contain a provision that the water in the dedicated water tank can only be used by the Fire Service via a special coupling on the outlet of the tank. But that creates a problem.  In its summary of the Rules the commissioners state:

A homeowner cannot use this water while waiting for the Fire Service to arrive at their property to extinguish or retard the progress of the fire.

So despite the cost of a water tank and all the consents, and having ample water to fight the fire, the homeowner has to stand and watch whilst the house goes up in flames.

And, of course, when the fire brigade eventually arrives it brings with it its own water supply in an accompanying tanker.

Crazy stuff.

And don’t forget that the Rules require a 20 metre setback of all trees and vegetation from the house. In most residential lots that means a bare garden and even a neighbour’s trees could breach the rules.

The commissioners are currently assessing whether to change the Rules. With only six weeks ago before they quit the question is whether they will leave it for the new council to bring some common sense to bear or whether it will be part of Honest John’s legacy.

Honest John's legacy?

THE SLOW EROSION OF RIGHTS    27.08.2016
Little by little under the Key regime our democracy, our rights and the rule of law are gradually being whittled away without our knowledge.

The 2012 Local Government Amendment Act granted broad powers to the Minister of Local Government to effectively run a local authority that was out of step with government policies. The increased powers were introduced because the government had problems in 2012 under the previous legislation in bringing the errant KDC into line.

The new powers have now been used to appoint a Crown Manager and Crown Observer in Kaipara to ensure that the newly elected democratic council cannot pursue those responsible for the Kaipara debacle or resolve the rating issues fairly and in the best interests of ratepayers.

John Key also recently threatened to use the powers to appoint commissioners for Auckland City if the Unitary Plan was not adopted.

Another Local Government Amendment Act is before Parliament at the moment. This is what Worzel has to say about it:

The latest initiative in the Key government centralisation agenda is manifest in the proposed Better Local Services Bill. One of the longest serving and better performing mayors in New Zealand history has drawn attention to this Bill that threatens to further undermine New Zealand democracy and force centralisation upon an unwilling populace. In much the same way that they steamrollered their way through asset sales opposed by a majority of voters, so too they have now proposed a Bill that will allow state control of Local Govt services.

In an open letter to Mr Key, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadblow says: “Then along comes Central Government with a brand new Minister of Local Government and announces that they have a wonderful new plan for us. It’s called the Better Local Services Bill. How cute is that? In my view it should be called the ‘Crushing of Local Government Democracy and Seizing Control of Their Assets Bill’. I feel that I have no other option than to vigorously oppose your latest attempt at reforming local government.”

But that’s not all. The NZ Lawyer in an article headed All New Zealanders should be very worried draws attention to a last minute government amendment to the Health and Safety Bill currently before Parliament. According to the NZ Lawyer:

The provisions will allow a person to be tried and convicted of a criminal offence without seeing all the information relied on by the Crown and without the right to be present - or to have their representative present - during all the proceedings.

The New Zealand Law Society maintains that the processes inserted by Schedule 2A directly impact on very significant constitutional rights:

“Because Schedule 2A was not in the Bill when introduced, it has not been subject to the Bill of Rights vetting process and will miss public consultation and input.”

So what? As long as there is no major outcry and the docile main-stream media side-steps controversial issues, Teflon John will ignore peripheral protests knowing that the majority of New Zealanders don’t give a toss about their rights.

CAUGHT UP IN THE SYSTEM?   26.08.2016
In the post THEY’RE AT IT AGAIN 15.08.2016 I referred to the omission of my submission from the report on the Wastewater Drainage Policy and Bylaw that the KDC had prepared.

As a result of my complaint to the commissioners and CEO Graham Sibery I received a telephone call from Venessa Anich of the KDC apologising for the oversight. Apparently my submission had got “caught up in the system”.

She intimated that I would receive correspondence from the KDC on the matter.

Nothing so far. However I note that my submission was included in an amended version of the report which is available here.

WHO PAYS FOR THE KDC’S FOLLY?   26.08.2016
In the latest Letters to the Editor in the Mangawhai Focus Christian Simon, who is standing for Mayor, puts forward the following proposition:

The current policy of the district amounts to this: a poor family living in a garage and with a modern composting toilet that avoids any pollution pays about $250 each year to subsidise a flushing toilet for a multi-million dollar property owner at the waterfront in Mangawhai. Can this possibly be right and just? Everyone who stands for this election has to answer this question.

That outcome was never intended. In the early days the KDC adopted a “segmented debt policy” for the EcoCare debt which was the brain-child of Larry Mitchell.

Under this policy the normal borrowing ratios for the Council’s debts could be ignored if the debt for the specific project were treated separately (“segmented’) from the general debts, and (this is important) all the costs relating to the project could be recompensed from those who were connected to the new facility. There could be no recovery from the general ratepayer.

It was deemed that on the financial models provided by some top accountancy firm in Australia that the EcoCare debt could be supported by those connected to the system.

Of course the whole thing was a farce, as was everything else related to EcoCare. How could 1,500 connections support a debt of $60 million and pay for the annual overheads?

The treasury policies of the KDC including the debt to income ratios and the segmented debt criteria were all ignored as the KDC went on a wild spending spree enriching contractors, consultants and advisers, and just about everyone associated with the scheme.

The KDC’s auditor – the Auditor-General and Audit New Zealand - sat and fiddled as Kaipara was pillaged.

Rather than attack the unlawfulness of the debt and make recoveries from those responsible, the government directed the commissioners to ensure that the debt became the sole responsibility of the only innocent party involved in the rort – the ratepayers.

Pursuing this policy, the commissioners split the debt into three parts. Users of the EcoCare scheme were to be responsible for the amount that they were promised the scheme would cost. All ratepayers in the district were to be responsible for part of the balance – presumably on the basis that all ratepayers should pay for the stuff-ups of their council. The third part was allocated to future users of the scheme, with the interest on that part of the debt being capitalised.

The problem is that the whole scheme has almost reached its capacity and will need a massive injection of further capital (i.e. debt) to accommodate future users. The development contributions of those future users will be used up paying for new reticulation and servicing new debt for expansion of the scheme. There will be nothing left to meet the interest and principal of the old debt.

The truth is that the DEBT will haunt Kaipara for generations to come. Forget all the rubbish that Honest John spouts about balancing the books and putting the past behind. The reality is that the DEBT has emptied the cupboards of Kaipara. The Mangawhai Endowment Fund disappeared years ago and is just a fantasy that the commissioners like to spin. Likewise the various funds accumulated for reserves and flood protection etc, and the provision for depreciation. All poured into the bottomless pit.

The Fire Service requirements that are turning Mangawhai into a tank farm and the proposed WOF for onsite sewerage systems are nothing more than grabs for money. And ask any developer about the extortionate fees that the Council is charging for consents.

Christian Simon’s premise of “user pays” is laudable but that is not the situation here.

When ratepayers are being forced pay the EcoCare debt they are not paying for a sewerage system that is used by others, they are paying for the “Folly” that was committed by their council and many others. If “user pays” is to apply then those who were responsible for the “Folly” should be responsible for meeting the debt.

KEY WAVES THE BIG STICK 25.08.2016
John Key has jumped in with some alacrity in Havelock North and ordered an inquiry into the water contamination in the district. He has even suggested that criminal charges or civil charges could be laid against anyone found responsible.

That speedy action has to be contracted with his response to the more far-reaching debacle in Kaipara where rorters were allowed to pilfer tens of millions of dollars from the local council in flagrant breach of the law, the Council’s treasury policies and in breach of all audit requirements.

In the Kaipara case the Auditor-General and its side-kick Audit New Zealand turned a blind eye to the rorts. When ratepayers presented detailed submissions showing flagrant and persistent breaches of the law by the KDC, the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, the Minster of Local Government, and John Key all refused to take any action. They advised that it was a matter for the courts to decide.

And when ratepayers challenged the legality of the KDC’s actions in the High Court the government- backed commissioners did all they could to strike out the proceeding on the basis that there was no cause of action.

When that failed the commissioners and the government conspired to pass a validation act validating all the illegalities and ensuring that ratepayers were punished with vindictive penalties.

Whilst John Key suggests criminal and civil actions in Havelock North, in Kaipara his government took every step that they could to ensure that those responsible were not held to account. They are all swanning around as if nothing happened whilst the ratepayers of the district will bear the financial burden of their malfeasance for generations to come.

The Auditor-General escaped any finding of negligence by the courts, and Parliament – her employer – simply ignored her gross incompetence. The CEO who wreaked the havoc will get off scot-free and will be protected in perpetuity by the government-appointed Crown Manager. The consultants and advisers whose incompetence was remarkable were allowed to slope away. Even the councillors who were responsible for crippling Kaipara escaped any liability and are free to put themselves forward for election to the new council.

But that is John Key’s New Zealand.

WORZEL'S WORLD   24.08.2016
Take a look at Worzel's latest column in the Mangawhai Focus.

His comments on democracy, the ruthless regime of the commissioners, and the government becoming the enemy of democracy should be compulsory reading for all people in the district.

LOCAL AUTHORITY INCOMPETENCE HIGHLIGHTED 24.08.2016
The debacle over the Havelock North water supply is another reminder of the incompetence of local authorities in New Zealand. Largely they are run by a bunch of amateurs who have little idea of what they are doing, with very little expert advice to draw on.

If you read Brian Rudman’s article in the NZ Herald It would appear that it is nothing more than a matter of good luck that more New Zealanders are not poisoned by their local water supply.

Given the crisis in Hawkes Bay one must have real concerns for the quality of water provided by the Kaipara District Council. I do not know how it tests reticulated drinking water where it is available but if its track record on testing the harbour waters is anything to go by then the alarm bells should be ringing. Its approach to testing water quality is utterly amateurish and shows a total disregard for genuine scientific analysis.

The latest proposal of the Council to introduce WOFs for sewerage systems on the premise that our harbours are polluted and the cause is onsite sewerage systems is a disgraceful attempt to extort monies for ratepayers based on financial greed and with no scientific basis.

Earlier posts on this website have highlighted the contradiction between Honest John’s recent advice that there has been little testing of our harbour waters and the conclusions in the statement of proposal justifying the annual WOF for on-site sewerage systems because of “well documented evidence” that the harbour is polluted and that the cause is on-site sewerage systems.

In response to an Official Information request querying the existence and the reliability of the “evidence”, the KDC has advised:

The Wastewater Drainage Policy and Wastewater Drainage Bylaw was developed with the help of our professional advisor, consultant Rob Bates. Input was also sought from the Northland Regional Council, Council’s consulting engineers and it was reviewed by our legal advisors.

It adds that it is impossible to identify any particular staff member who was responsible for the conclusions in the report. The comment about the “well documented evidence” is ascribed to the Auditor-General and to NRC studies.

The Auditor-General’s findings in her EcoCare report that there was “clear evidence” of poor water quality back in the early 2000s was based solely on what she was told by the Council, and on some vague unsubstantiated comments about earlier surveys in the 2003 statement of proposal for EcoCare which was prepared by the contractor at that stage, Simon Engineering.

The NRC surveys date back to 1996 and 1997 (i.e. 20 years ago), and found some evidence of pollution and simply guessed at “the likely cause”.

To base a policy and bylaw in 2016 on such out-dated, inconclusive reports reflects the standard of governance that Kaipara has been blighted with by the government-directed commissioners. Their total failure to put the horse before the cart and ensure that any reactive polices are based on prior, thorough and processional research shows their total disinterest in doing things competently and with integrity.

It will be fascinating to see whether, following the exposure of the lack of evidence to substantiate the adoption of the wastewater policy and bylaw, and the negative submissions received from ratepayers, the commissioners have the brazenness to ignore the lack of scientific research and the will of people and impose this new ticket-clipping burden on ratepayers.

It is also remarkable that the silent villain of the piece – bovine pollution – escapes without any mention in Kaipara, whilst in Hawkes Bay the finger is being levelled at cows as the cause of pollution of the water, and, closer to home, Millan Ruka in the Bream Bay News has presented telling evidence of bovine pollution of the Waipu and Ruakaka River catchment areas. Perhaps the commissioners realise that it’s hard to make cows pay council charges, and the farmers responsible appear to be Teflon-coated. On the other hand ratepayers, as usual, are the easy targets.

Is this the real culprit?

Any decision on the wastewater policy and bylaw will be made at the Council meeting of 26 September, the commissioners’ final meeting.

CANDIDATES WEBSITES

(Please advise any other sites) 

Bruce Rogan  See below

Libby Jones   http://www.libbyjones.co.nz/

Anna Curnow  http://www.voteforanna.co.nz/

Peter Wethey  https://www.facebook.com/peterwethey1/?sk=timeline&app_data&pnref=story

Victoria de la Varis Woodcock  See post on 16.08.16 on https://www.facebook.com/Kaipara-Concerns-204339632917746/

CANDIDATE STATEMENT FROM BRUCE ROGAN   17.08.2016

• A vote for Bruce Rogan Number 1 for mayor is a vote for democracy. .

• My candidacy boils down to respect for democracy.

• True Democracy defeats the excesses of corporate power. The counter to the corporates is community empowerment, and my commitment and integrity.

• Some people say “You can’t fight City Hall”. I think democracy is our means of changing City Hall for the better. No Council should behave in a way that causes distress for ratepayers.

• A defining feature of my candidacy is reviving democracy in this community.

• Democracy is the basis of our civil society. My great-grandfather, Judge John Rogan the founding judge of the Maori Land Court, who lived in Te Kopuru, passed on to me his legacy of seeking fairness for all through disputes resolution. Our family is proud of its strong historical and on-going links to the Kaipara.

• As mayor I will transform Kaipara into a District that works for its people. I would not have to work alone. Thousands of Kaipara ratepayers want a better deal than they are getting.

• With the help of the government’s Crown Manager, I will do everything I can to lift the illegal burdens off Kaipara’s ratepayers. I served on council for three years, 2001-2004, and sounded unheeded warnings about where Council was headed. With my knowledge and experience of local government we will learn the lessons from the past, rather than simply ignoring them. We will plan for a successful affordable future.

• Uniquely, as your mayor, I will hit the ground running. That’s real Value for money!

Bruce Rogan.

FINAL LIST OF CANDIDATES 15.08.2016
The final list of candidates for the Kaipara local election (with their affiliation in brackets) is shown below.

Kaipara District Council Candidate Final List

Mayor
GENT Greg (none)
ROGAN Bruce (Independent)
SIMON Christian (none)
TANE Jay Ben (none)

Councillors (8)

Dargaville Ward (2 members)
BOYD Peter (none)
JOYCE-PAKI Karen (none)
WADE Andrew (Independent)

Otamatea Ward (3 members)
BONNER Adrian (Independent)
HAMES Ken (none)
JEPSON Craig (none)
JONES Libby (none)
LARSEN Jonathan (none)
SAMPSON Lynda (Independent)
SCOTHERN Philip Shaw (Independent)
WETHEY Peter (Independent)

West Coast/Central Ward (3 members)
CURNOW Anna (none)
DEL LA VARIS-WOODCOCK Victoria (Independent)
GEANGE Julie (Independent)
TANE Jay Ben (none)

THEY’RE AT IT AGAIN    15.08.2016
Our government-imposed masters – Booth, Robertson and Winder - are up to their dirty tricks again.

You will recall that the Wastewater Drainage Policy and Proposed Bylaw were open to ratepayers written submissions recently. The submissions are now to be heard in person on this Tuesday 16 August in the Mangawhai Domain Hall, Moir Street, Mangawhai, commencing at 2.00pm.

A report on the proposed meeting and copies of submissions received can be seen here.

The interesting thing is that the report states that 15 submissions were received but in fact copies of 16 submissions are attached to the report.

What is more interesting is that the lengthy submission of Legal Eagle and Mrs Eagle has been completely excluded from the report and presumably from any consideration.

The report also states that the electronic copies of submissions from ratepayers are available through the Council’s website. They are only to be found as part of the report and exclude the Eagles’ submissions.

This is either shoddy work from council staff or a deliberate decision by the commissioners to exclude a submission that was highly critical of the proposal and scathing about the commissioners introducing such a measure immediately prior to their departure.

This was a matter that should be decided by the new democratic council.

In addition, Legal Eagle is still waiting for a response to his Official Information request to find out which staff member and which consultant were responsible for the utterly misleading conclusions that the Harbour is polluted and that on-site systems were to blame.

There is not one skerrick of scientific evidence to establish that conclusion. Honest John has stated that and that is why tests are being carried out at present.

A formal complaint is being lodged with the commissioners and the CEO this morning. It will be interesting to see if they hide behind the smoke.

The majority of submissions are opposed to the Policy and bylaw but that will not stop the steamroller. The decision has already been made in Wellington.

WHY THE COYNESS?    05.08.2016
With only 1 week to go before nominations close for the October election there has been a remarkable lack of candidates indicating that they will stand for council.

Louise Upston (with the help of the Department of Internal Affairs) has been the mistressmind behind the pseudo-democracy being imposed on Kaipara and she has had a bevy of selected National Party supporters in the district the she meets with to plan strategy.

They supported the extension of the regime of the commissioners for another year from 2015 to 2016 and no doubt they are behind the appointment of the two gorillas, the Crown Manger and the Crown Observer, who will between them effectively dictate what the new council does.

It also seems most likely that part of the plan is to put forward a team of candidates that will complement the Crown appointees and ensure that the rorts and illegalities of the past are well and truly buried, that the perpetrators escape scot-free, and that ratepayers are dumped with the illegal debts. In other words they will ensure that Kaipara is run directly from Wellington.

I suspect that from a tactical point of view there will be no public announcement, with the nominations being made without any fanfare just before the closing of nominations.

WHO WILL IT BE?     05.08.2016
Why are we waiting? It is some weeks since the Crown Manager was appointed but there is still no word on who is to be the new Crown Observer.

Are they struggling to find someone with the competence for the job or is simply a tactical move to wait until the nominations for Mayor and councillors close?

Peter Winder, commissioner and Crown Manger appointee commented in the Mangawhai Focus on the role of the Crown Observer:

The next appointment by Hon Louise Upston will be that of Crown Observer whose brief will be as a ‘critical friend’ to council with no decision-making power but a watching brief to perhaps intervene in any areas of difficulty with advice and/or guidance. It is important that newly-elected council members have the right support to be successful in their demanding and somewhat complex role.

Which would suggest that the "critical friend" should have a profound knowledge and experience of local government. But given the track record of the departing commissioners it is more than likely that they will appoint a bunny who knows nothing about local government.

Take a look at the appointment that Winder, Booth and Robertson made for CEO. The CEO is the lynchpin of a council: the adviser to the council responsible for all the council staff, the records of council, compliance with the law and ensuring that the council acts lawfully, follows good accounting practice and acts with due diligence.

That cannot be disputed by anyone.

That being the case, why did the three wise men appoint an absolute bunny who has no experience or knowledge of local government?

Why did they appoint a totally inexperienced person when the situation was screaming for a skilful and experienced operator?

Why did they appoint him for the maximum term allowed by law of 4 years?

And why did they appoint him just before the new council took office?

Are they buffoons? Or it is all part of a plan to justify the appointment of the Crown gorillas because the new CEO, as well as the new councillors, are all babes in the wood, and will need the guidance and help of Mummy and Daddy Gorilla?

So don’t hold your breath about the appointment of the Crown Observer. Think outside the square. How about David Beckham? His football career may be close to an end and he and Peter Winder go back a long way. He may know nothing about New Zealand and even less about local government, but those qualifications must almost guarantee him the job.

One has to feel sorry for Graham Sibery. We don’t know the man and we are trying not to be unfair to him. Some people say give him a fair go. But that is not the point. This job is highly paid and demanded the appropriate expertise and experience. In appointing him Winder, Booth and Robertson have stuffed up completely. Quite simply they did not appoint a candidate that was fit for purpose.

Or perhaps they did. But it was for a different purpose altogether.

ANDREW WADE RAISES HIS HAND  04.08.2016
Andrew Wade, a former councillor under the Tiller/McKerchar regime, has raised his hand for election as a councillor in October.

Full details can be seen in the Kaipara Lifestyler.

THE POWER OF COUNCILS    03.08.2016
Whale Oil has been remarkably astute in his assessment of the illegal exercise of powers by the Auckland City Council – and other councils - in his post here.

He opens up with:

Let me start by stating that Councils are notorious for ignoring case law (court interpretation of the law) in favour of their own interpretation.

It is not just case law. We have seen with the Kaipara District Council, during both the Tiller/McKerchar regime and during the reign of Honest John and his mates, that the requirements of the LGA and the LGRA were consistently ignored.

Councils ignore the law quite simply because they can. It is a fundamental principle of administrative law that an action or decision of a local authority is deemed lawful until a court of competent jurisdiction rules otherwise.

So, a local authority can make a decision which is blatantly in breach of the law with the knowledge that in law it will viewed as perfectly legal.

In administrative law there is no police force to take action when there is reasonable cause to believe a breach of the law has been committed. The watchdogs in local government - the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, the Minister of Local Government, and the Department of Internal Affairs - have all shown that they are not concerned with breaches of the law by local authorities. They will simply ignore them, and if it looks likely that a court might declare an action to be unlawful the government will wheel in the validating machine to retrospectively validate the unlawfulness.

Ratepayers are, of course free to challenge any decision in court, but, as we have seen, that is a soul-destroying and costly exercise and the courts in New Zealand appear to be more interested in political outcomes rather than applying the black letter of the law.

Whale Oil goes on to comment about councils meddling in how land owners deal with their properties and that such interference should stop. He states:

It is important to pause and take stock that limitations on authorities are utterly important if we are to live in a purely democratic and free society. As soon as property rights are reduced in favour of a few controlling people in society then we’ve taken the first step towards a feudal dictatorial state. That notion is inconsistent with freedom and liberty.

He concludes:

Control isn’t always at the barrel of a gun like we see in some dictatorial countries around the world. All one needs to control another is power. Permission is power over another. It’s subtle by (but) also all consumingly dangerous in a free society. The power to grant permission to another person to do something when they should have the right to act freely is always a step too far. In some countries like Germany those rights to build on one’s own land are enshrined in constitutional law. Why? Because it safeguards freedom from those who would seek to take and dispense it at their will. Just like a fascist dictator.

Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) has always been seen as a supporter of John Key's government and his criticism is indicative of an increasing concern about the direction the present government is taking.  Media commentators are becoming more critical of John Key's lack of planning, his apparent disdain for the underclasess, and the gradual erosion of basic rights.

NEW CANDIDATES FOR OCTOBER ELECTION   29.07.2016
As we know Greg Gent has put his hand up for Mayor in the forthcoming elections.  Two candidates for councillors have announced that they will be standing: Peter Wethey in Otamatea and Anna Curnow in West Coast Central. 

Peter Wethey's details can be seen here and Anna Curnow's details are here

THE ARROGANCE OF POWER   28.07.2016
The Tiller/McKerchar regime illustrated a sublime mix of incompetence and arrogance in exercising the powers delegated to them under the LGA and the LGRA. But they are not alone. We have seen the commissioners’ arrogant disdain for consultation with the community and that even continues whilst some of them are packing their bags ready for their next junket.

This whole business of the wastewater polluting the Mangawhai Harbour and the proposal for a bylaw compelling onsite sewerage systems to have a warrant of fitness, superbly illustrates that the mix of incompetence and arrogance is still thriving in Kaipara.

If the Harbour is polluted then action should be taken. But the first question is to ascertain by scientific testing whether the Harbour is polluted. And that means proper, professional and comprehensive testing, not just urban myths and hearsay.

Readers of the Mangawhai Focus will be horrified to read that the new testing process recommended by Honest John’s carefully selected Advisory Panel is, according to the letter from Barbara Pengelly only testing a few locations in the Harbour and ignoring the sites that are the most important. So the results that we will be bombarded with will be totally baseless and will no doubt reach conclusions based on scanty evidence but massive doses of spin.

Apparently the Advisory Panel have rebuffed suggestions of a more comprehensive study.

It amazes me how people of some intelligence and experience allow themselves to be influenced by political persuasions and predetermined outcomes when approaching matters that require nothing more than honest and thorough scientific analysis. But give these folks a bit of power and their values seem to evaporate.

Just when is the spin and bullshit going to end?

WHEN SPIN BECOMES A LIE     28.07.2016
Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston and appointee Crown Manager Peter Winder have already been taken to task on this website for their deceptive comments about the role of the Crown Manager. The spin and misleading statements continue with the article in this week’s Mangawhai Focus headed “Crown Manger to support Kaipara District Council”.

The “support” that is mentioned is not what one might expect, that is a subordinate, helping role to advise the elected council in making its decisions. The only way that it is supportive is in the sense that a large part of the council’s responsibility is taken away from it and becomes the sole domain of the Crown Manager.

There are certain no-go areas that the democratic council cannot tread, where the Crown Manager has complete and exclusive powers to make decisions without any reference to the elected council.

These powers are spelt out in full in the terms of reference.

Peter Winder is quoted in the Focus article as saying that the terms of reference do not have to be carried out to the nth degree. That is simply not true. That is the statutory role that he has been appointed to and those are his statutory powers.

Ratepayers can rest assured that those powers will be used to their full if that proves necessary.

Look at the following scenarios. Say, a liberal council is elected which wants to:

• Challenge the validity of the EcoCare debts on the basis that they were not entered into in good faith and therefore not protected transactions.

• Remit all of the vindictive penalties added to the rates of rate strikers.

• Issue legal proceeding in the High Court against Jack McKerchar and the former councillors for negligence.

• Issue proceedings in the High Court against the KDC’s former consultants and lawyers.

• Withdraw the legal claims outstanding against ratepayers.

• Take action to comply with the rulings of Duffy J in the High Court

• Issue legal proceedings for negligence against the commissioners

The truth is that no matter what the elected councillors want to do and no matter what the ratepayers want them to do, they will have absolutely no say in any of these matters. Any decision will be made by the Crown Manager in conjunction with John Key, his cabinet and the Department of Internal Affairs. Such a decision will be based strictly on political considerations. Those considerations are:

• Ratepayers are to be held solely responsible for all unlawful debts.

• All those who work in or for local government are to be exempted from any legal liability

• All unlawful actions of a local authority are to be retroactively validated by Parliament.

• All rate strikers and whistle-blowers are to be penalised with draconian penalties to discourage protests.

The government is desperately trying to pull down the curtain on the murky past of Kaipara as though it is all over and done. But the skeletons of the past still haunt the present as the judgment of Duffy J will hopefully highlight. A finding that the rates for many, many years, and including the current year, are unlawful is not part of the past. It is a massive problem for the present that must be resolved by the elected representatives of ratepayers and not by a government stooge.

And what of the illegal debt? John Key is happy to dump it on Kaipara ratepayers for generations to come and try and stop ratepayers from continuing the challenge, but the reality is that the viability of Kaipara in the present, and for generations to come, depends on that debt being shared amongst those who are responsible.

Peter Winder may project himself in his new role as an obedient monkey dancing to the tune of the organ-grinder. The reality is that he is an 800 pound gorilla who, when the time is ripe, will crush the organ-grinder and his organ.

THE ROLE OF THE CROWN MANAGER

The spin


The reality

"Let me make myself perfectly clear ...."

In the same article Peter Winder mentions that the next appointment is that of the Crown Observer whose brief will be as a "critical friend" with no decision-making power.  That is at odds with the Local Goverment Act and it will be interesting to see what spin accompanies the announcement of that appointment.

The odds are shortening on Honest John getting the nod.

VALE BILL GUEST   26.07.2016
Readers will be sad to learn that Bill Guest, farmer and ex KDC councillor passed away on the weekend.  Whilst a councillor Bill was an outspoken critic of the the council under Neil Tiller and Jack McKerchar.

Full details can be seen in the Northern Advocate here.

RIO, IOC and KDC      26.07.2016
The media is ablaze with negative comments about the IOC being gutless in not banning Russia from the Rio games. The local press sits on its high horse and takes the high principled approach.

But where was that same media over the last few years when John Key and his Cabinet (with the help of its appointed minions) did everything they could to cover up the outrageous and persistent illegalities of the Kaipara District Council?

Where was the media when Key and Co threw the rule of law and the fundamentals of democracy out of the window to ensure that the innocent ratepayers of Kaipara were dumped with unlawful rates and unlawful debts?

Since then John Key’s appointed henchmen have ensured that all those responsible for the Kaipara debacle escape from any liability, and, even when the new ”democratic” council is in place in August, John Key and his Cabinet will still be able to prevent any pursuit of the guilty parties through his directly appointed Bovver Boy, the Crown Manager.

John Key and his Cabinet make the IOC look quite tame. At least the IOC has not retrospectively validated all the negative drug tests of Russian athletes, taken steps to ensure that only Russians are awarded medals at Rio, and enacted new rules to impose intimidatory fines on protesting athletes from other countries.

DEADLINE THIS FRIDAY  26.07.2016
The deadline for submissions on the wastewater drainage policy and bylaw is next Monday 1 August.

For full details go here.

It is best if you draft your own comments and do not use the KDC online form which like all such forms from the KDC is drafted in such a way that you automatically approve the actions they are taking but have only a limited say on peripheral matters.

Feel free to use any comments on this website.

We should be taking every step we can to ensure that the rights to consultation are fully observed by the commissioners.  They rely on the apathy of ratepayers to push through their crazy ideas (eg the insane idea to turn Magical Mangawhai into a tank farm), but cannot cope if a large section of the community comes out against them.  So hassle all your friends and get them to make a submission and stop this warrant of fitness nonsense until we have a new council and until we have scientific proof that the Harbour is actually polluted and, if so, what is responsible for the pollution.

KAIPARACONCERNS HITS THE SOCIAL MEDIA    23.07.2016
With some hesitation this website has opened a page on Facebook.  See the link above.

Please take a look and feel free to post your opinions on matters relating to the issues that the website deals with.  I am struggling to come to terms with the Facebook process, so any help would be appreciated.

DEMOCRACY SLOWLY DISAPPEARS   23.07.2016
The right to make decisions in respect of water is being transferred to iwi and now the control of the sea is being placed in their hands as well, without any of us knowing about it.  The control of the Hauraki Gulf is being transferred to a Board whose majority is made up of unelected tribal represntatives.

Read Fiona McKenzie's article A Grab for the Gulf here.

OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS - Remarkable quotes

On Winston Peters

Ed Said in Mangawhai Focus on Winston Peters’ speech in Kaipara.

Remember the TV sitcom Seinfeld?

It ran successfully for nine seasons and was often described as being "a show about nothing". That was exactly what Winston delivered without most recognising it.

On Democracy

Ed Said in Mangawhai Focus:

We heard that, while local body minister Amy Adams* encouraged locals to vote in the upcoming elections she never once mentioned the word ‘democracy.’ So What?? According to many, New Zealand hasn’t arguably been democratic for some time. Perhaps Winston (there’s that name again) Churchill had it right when he said "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

*Actually it was Louise Upston

On Mangawhai Harbour Pollution

KDC statement of proposal on wastewater drainage policy and bylaw (4.1 Sensitive receiving environments):

There is well documented evidence and acceptance that privately owned onsite wastewater systems at Mangawhai have contributed to the degradation of the water quality in the Mangawhai Harbour with associated public health, safety and environmental issues.

Commissioner John Robertson in the Mangawhai Focus (slow to download):

You may be surprised to know that little testing has been done in the past; to understand harbour health a systematic and co-ordinated approach is needed that gives us knowledge of trends relating to the harbour’s health.

WHO IS IT GOING TO BE?    18.07.16
Any day soon we can expect Associate Local Government Minister, Louise Upston, to announce who is to be fill the vacant space at the Kaipara trough.

Peter Winder, one of the three commissioners, has been appointed as Crown Manager and we now await the appointment of his co-ruler, the  Crown Observer.

There is strong betting in favour of Honest John, so that effectivelyy the situation will not change with the Robertson-Winder diarchy still running the show.

The rocky road to Democracy in Kaipara

CONSULTATION ON WASTEWATER DRAINAGE POLICY AND BYLAW    14.07.2016
Because of their failure to consult properly the commissioners have now extended the consultation period for this statement of proposal until 1 August 2016.

Ratepayers are encouraged to read the proposals, read the criticism on this website and elsewhere, formulate thei own views, and then make submissions to the KDC on or before 1 August.

Details of the proposals and submission form can be seen here .

You are encouraged not to use the KDC submission form as the questions are all geared towards an acceptance of the proposal, with your views only relevant for minor issues.

Earlier posts can be seen on this page   - scroll down

The main issues that you need to consider are:

1. Should the commissioners, who have no democratic mandate, be pushing through with indecent haste a new policy and a new bylaw when they only have two months of their regime left?  This is the sort of issue that must be left to a democratically elected council.

2. Do the the presumptions on which the whole proposal is based have any basis in fact?

The proposal is based on two factors:

* The Mangawhai Harbour is polluted

* Onsite sewerage systems are the cause of the problem.

The proposal states categorically:

4.1 Sensitive receiving environments

There is well documented evidence and acceptance that privately owned onsite wastewater systems at Mangawhai have contributed to the degradation of the water quality in the Mangawhai Harbour with associated public health, safety and environmental issues. Onsite wastewater systems are still a concern for the ongoing health of sensitive receiving environments.

Suspecting that there is no such "well documented evidence", I sought more information from the KDC under the Official Information Act..

The reply that I received from Linda Osborne of the Council can be viewed here.  My comments on the response can also be viewed.

WINDER MISREPRESENTS HIS NEW ROLE    12.07.2016
The recently appointed Crown Manager for Kaipara, Peter Winder, has commenced his spin campaign to minimise and misrepresent his role in the yet to be elected council.

In a response to a Radio New Zealand enquiry Mr Winder said he would have authority to make decisions relating to debt and rates but the government's terms of reference make it clear he must consult and support the councillors.

The problem is that the terms of reference state nothing of the sort.

They state quite categorically that the Crown Manager is to take responsibility for existing and future legal actions relating to EcoCare and the setting of rates. In other words the decision-making in these areas is the sole domain of the Crown Manager.

The only reference to consultation with councillors relates to only two matters:

The Crown Manager must consult the elected Council before he or she decides to initiate new legal actions or discontinue current legal actions.

Two specific matters, and consultation only. And we all know that consultation commissioner-style is nothing more than a charade.

In fact section 258D(4) of the LGA states that the Crown Manager “must direct the local authority”. And on the other side of the coin, section 258D states that a local authority must (a) co-operate with a Crown Manager, and (b) comply with the directions of a Crown Manager.

The LGA gets even more draconian. Under section 258F(1)(b), the Minister can appoint a Commission to take over the council (and terminate the powers of the elected members) ”if the local authority refuses or is unable to comply with a direction of a Crown Manager”.

Peter Winder and his henchmen have a track record of simply acting on instructions from Wellington without any consultation, even where they have a clear legal obligation to consult. They launched the Validation Bill without any consultation with ratepayers and in doing so reneged unilaterally on the understanding with the former elected Council that the issue of illegal rates would be a joint decision between the Council and ratepayers.

Peter Winder has a reputation as an uncompromising bully-boy and there is absolutely no doubt that he has been appointed a Crown Manager to prevent a new, liberal council from pursuing those responsible for the unlawful losses of the KDC, from refunding the vicious and unconscionable penalties imposed on rate strikers, from challenging the “good faith” of ABNAmro in its protected transactions with the KDC, and from instituting proceedings against the commissioners for their dismal failure in taking action, or failing to take action promptly, to recover the unlawful losses of the KDC.

His job is to keep the lid well and truly on Pandora’s Box and protect the reputation of those who have plundered the KDC and its ratepayers, and the reputation of those who have failed in their duties and sat by and let the plunder happen.

He is also there to take control of the fall-out that the government expects from the decision of Duffy J in the High Court. The government is wetting itself in anticipation of the broad implications that any pro-ratepayer judgment will have on not only Kaipara but the whole of local government.

Peter Winder’s role is to ensure that the new council or ratepayers have no control over or say in the outcome. The government already has a plan in place to cripple any court decision and Peter Winder will move as soon as the decision is delivered.

We are now waiting to see who will be appointed as Crown Observer, the other eight hundred pound gorilla, to ensure that the new council does not wander off the path laid out by John Key.

CROWN MANAGER COMMENT    09.07.2016

From:

Doug Bone (ratepayer)

As you say, we have been well and truly stitched up!

Then there is the position of Mayor. If Gent stands, and nobody else bothers, then that will effectively be another Government appointment.

Then there are the Councillors. You can bet that most have already been hand-picked by the Commissars and had their brainwashing. Of course there will be a couple of token gestures in the form of “real” candidates, for what they will be worth.

So what the hell can we do ???

The sad thing is that most ratepayers are blissfully unaware of what is happening. They all think we’ve seen the last of the Commissioners after this Election.

RBR (ratepayer)

This ******* who has been put in to lord it over Kaipara’s ratepayers, will be a full time operator and he will charge $900.00 per day, for up to 7 days per week for three years.

Nothing in his brief says that he cannot charge for 7 days of each week and if he does that he will be collecting $328,000 per year, plus all expenses, such as accommodation and travel. But even if he has all the weekends off he will be costing us $234,000. So, the rates from somewhere between fifty and one hundred properties will be swallowed up by this totally unaccountable government-imposed autocrat.

And be aware, he cannot be held accountable for anything that he does, even if it has the effect of bankrupting the district, because, so long as he can show that he acted in “good faith” (which will be a determination made solely by his mate, the minister) he is absolutely unaccountable.

What is it going to take to wake this community up?

Levi (ratepayer):

We have witnessed :

•  government flunkies appointed to dispel any democratic considerations;

•  extension of their term to thwart the promised return to democracy;

•  a charade of an election that will result in a council that will have no say in running the district in accordance with government dictates;

•  appointment of a new CEO who apparently has a checkered background and no experience of local government;

•  and now - appointment of a Crown Manager (who will be boss) and a CrownObserver (adviser to the boss). We will have to pay for these people (at $900 a day plus expenses) as well as a mayor and elected councillors.

It appears that any outcome from the legal actions against the KDC and/or the NRC is being cut off at the pass - before any judgment has even been issued.

Also any thought of taking action against the numerous parties responsible for this mind-numbing treachery has been sideswiped by government decree.

Just how far are the ratepayers of Kaipara willing to be pushed and manipulated so that government wishes can be carried out?

Isn't it well past time we stood together to protest against all this slavery?

___________________________________

KEY THROWS DOWN THE GAUNTLET     09.07.2016
On the national stage Prime Minister John Key is struggling to exert any leadership as he ducks and dives and dithers over Auckland’s problems. His lack of planning, his ad hoc approach and his lack of solutions is making him look more and more “clueless” by the day.

He is looking like a hunted man, brittle and out of his depth.

Brexit in the UK, the Trump phenomenon in the US, and the split election in Australia have all sent out warnings that the underclasses are sick and tired of governments pandering to the elite. But John Key seems unable to read the new political climate and seems unable to take any actions that might offend those who have enriched themselves under his regime.

The underclasses seem to be irrelevant in his considerations and by ignoring the winds of popular opinion his political future has become very much aligned to the housing crisis in Auckland.

He has now committed an act of extreme arrogance that in the end may be the trigger for his political downfall. With his Teflon John image and what is termed a Third Term Arrogance he has shown less and less consideration for fairness and justice, has become more autocratic, with the result that many former supporters are leaving him in droves.

This latest action on Kaipara is the icing on the cake. No doubt he thinks that he can slide it through without it being noticed and tart it up with a heavy dose of spin, but his attack on the people of Kaipara and their right to democracy is nothing more than shameful.

The announcement a couple of days ago from Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston (see earlier posts) about the appointment of Peter Winder as Crown Manager was full of her usual deceptive understatements. She emphasised that the Crown Manager and the Crown Observer are being appointed to help and support a new, inexperienced council.

The reality is different. The actual terms of reference of the Crown Manager were not referred to by Louise Upston, and not surprisingly. They are, in a word, brutal.

They can be seen here.

In short, the Crown Manager will be:

taking responsibility for any outstanding and future legal actions relating to the development of the Scheme, and the setting or collection of rates during and prior to the Kaipara Commission’s term on the Council’s behalf.

This is spelt out in detail:

Extent of Authority

The Crown Manager will manage outstanding and future legal actions relating to the development of the Scheme and the setting or collection of rates during and prior to the Kaipara Commission’s term on behalf of the newly elected Council, including the following matters:

• The Council’s legal action against the Council’s former Chief Executive;

• any additional legal actions against any party relating to the development or operation of the Scheme prior to 2013;

• the judicial review action against the Council challenging the legality of rates and penalties relating to the 2011/12 to 2015/16 rating years (CIV-2015-488-95);

• any additional legal actions against the Council relating to rates for the 2016/17 rating year and prior rating years; and

• any legal action that is required by the Council to collect rates due for the 2016/17 rating year and prior rating years.

The Crown Manager is therefore able to:

• make decisions relating to the legal actions within their management responsibilities, including the power to initiate and manage new legal actions, or discontinue current legal actions, that fall within their responsibilities;

• direct the Council to act, as appropriate, to address the legal actions within their management responsibilities; and

• make recommendations to the Minister of Local Government as to whether the Minister should take any further action in relation to the Council, including whether the Minister should appoint another Ministerial body to the Council.

Note that the powers relate to past issues and to future issues. This is clearly intended to counter any adverse outcome from the judgment of Duffy J that is due out soon. It appears the government expects an adverse finding from the High Court and has taken the matter out of the hands of the elected council and will manage the issue itself.

Apparently it also expecting that the 2016/2017 rates will be unlawful following the judgment of Duffy J and the enforcement of those rates will be pursued directly by the Crown.

This edict comes from the top. It was decided by Cabinet on 30 May following the High Court action against the KDC and the NRC. So effectively John Key will be running Kaipara with the assistance of the Department of Internal Affairs.

But that is not all. Not only are Kaipara ratepayers losing their democracy but they are being forced to pay the costs of the Crown Manager who has usurped their democratic rights.

Peter Winder will be paid $900 a day plus expenses and that must be paid by the Council. It becomes a debt owing to the Crown and will be enforced by the Crown if not paid.

There has been no announcement in respect of the Crown Observer and what the terms of reference are, but the remuneration will be on the same basis.

We were forced to pay for the commissioners who were foisted on us, but at least there was no Mayor and councillors to pay over and above.

Under the new regime there will be a Mayor and councillors, an inexperienced chief executive with limited powers, and the two Crown appointments.

That is the cost of being denied democracy under John Key’s regime.

Opinions about this latest move are welcome at contactus@kaiparaconcerns.co.nz

My comments in the post below about recovering losses from other parties have been superseded by the new information. It was always presumed  that the commissioners were receiving their instructions from Wellington.  The pretence is now over.   John Key will direct operations and there will be no recoveries of money from anyone else.  And that is irrespective of what we as ratepayers want, and irrespective of what our elected representatives decide.

We have been well and truly stitched up.

“KAIPARA FARCE CONTINUES” – WINSTON PETERS     09.07.2016
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has come out with a stinging attack on the appointment of Peter Winder as the Crown Manager for Kaipara.

In a Press Release he states that the appointment of a government "mate” is unbelievable. He adds that the whole episode of the Mangawhai sewerage scheme has been a farce under National.

In respect of the Crown Manager he says:

This is an undemocratic move – the Crown Manager will be in control and the council will be told to shut up.

It is expected that his comments will be more biting once he views the terms of reference of the Crown Manager.

For those who missed Peter's speech  (Why denial of full democracy?) in Mangawhai recently, the full transcript can be seen here

In the speech he challenges the commitment of the people of Kaipara to protect their own democracy from the onslaught of central government:

This is a tawdry exercise in deception and with respect you ratepayers in Mangawhai have got to make a decision. It’s not a complicated choice. It’s whether you are going to tolerate duplicity, deceit and non-accountability where your interests are concerned.

In the 2014 General Election and in the 2015 by-election there is clear evidence that a great number of voters here are prepared to reward deceit and severe unfair economic treatment.

In short they went out and gave their vote to a political party that caused them to be financially oppressed as though such appalling central government behaviour was of little moment to them. The question tonight is, if some of these people don’t want help to have a serious wrong righted, as their vote suggests, then none of us can help.

It is over to you. If you want to fight back you have to decide to join the fight.

LIABILITY OF OTHERS FOR LOSSES   09.07.2016
Now that the claim against the KDC has been settled, I examine here the responsibility of other parties for the EcoCare losses and what action should be taken against them.

YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE IT?     07.07.2016
Peter Winder, one of the two Kaipara commissioners, has been appointed to be Crown Manager for Kaipara following the election of a new council in October. His appointment is for three years.

Peter Winder - John Key's Crown Manager for Kaipara

Details of his appointment can be seen here.

The announcement by Louise Upston, Associate Minister of Local Government states:

“Mr Winder will support Council members by taking responsibility for legal actions relating to past issues on their behalf. This will allow Council members to focus on the District’s future.”

This confirms the announcement of 31 May 2016 when she announced the appointment of a Crown Manager and Crown Observer, when she said

“I will appoint a Crown Manager to take responsibility for certain outstanding legal actions, on behalf of the newly-elected Council. Newly-elected Council members will then be able to focus on providing effective governance and on the District’s future, rather than being distracted by past issues.

If you read behind the smoke and mirrors, what it means is that the statutory powers of the elected council will be limited so that it will have no power to make any decisions relating to legal actions concerning past issues.

There is no doubt that the commissioners receive their instructions direct from the government. They have been instructed by the government and carried out the wishes of the government.

Returning democracy to Kaipara has created a head-ache for John Key. His concern was that a newly elected liberal council might start acting in the best interests of the ratepayers and undo much of the work of the commissioners. It might sue Jack McKerchar for negligence (not just make a claim in the Employment Court), sue the former councillors, and others who were responsible for the EcoCare losses.

It might, heaven forbid, even sue the commissioners for breach of their fiduciary duty to ratepayers and their failure to act in the best interests of ratepayers. For instance, they failed to file proceedings promptly against the former CEO, the former councillors and the Auditor-General, and as a result the KDC has lost many millions of dollars that it could have recovered if the commissioners had acted, and acted promptly.

The appointment of a Crown Manager and a Crown Observer has solved the problem. Democracy is to be returned but in name only and the actual decision-making will be shifted directly on to government agents

In fact, John Key has emasculated the new democratic council even before it is voted in and he will directly control the Crown Manager and dictate what decisions are to be made and which actions are to be taken. The commissioners were just a charade. They purported to act on behalf of ratepayers but the reality is that the government was pulling their strings.

All pretence has now gone. The “local” has been taken out of local government in respect of Kaipara because it will be run directly by central government in Wellington.

Someone who is privy to Louise Upston told me recently that I was wrong in my interpretation of the role of the Crown Manger. He and the other selected supporters of the commissioners were told by Louise Upston that the Crown Manager only had an advisory role.

Not true. Read the words of the announcements and you will see that the Crown Manager will have sole responsibility for legal actions relating to past issues. Democratically elected councillors will not only have no say, they are obliged by the provisions of the LGA to comply with the instructions of the Crown Manger. If they don’t, they will be gone by lunch-time.

The terms of reference, when they are published, will no doubt spell out the role in more detail.

Peter Winder’s appointment is ironic. Not so long ago his consultancy firm gave an award of excellence to the KDC (which effectively consists of himself and Honest John) with A-G Lyn Provost being one of the Judges.

Section 258D of the LGA states that "the Minister may appoint a Crown Manager to a local authority if the Minister has received a written request from the local authority to do so".

So Peter Winder (as a commissioner) writes to the Minister and requests the appointment of a Crown Manager, and then gets appointed to the role himself.

Cute.

Are we now waiting to hear that Honest John will be the Crown Observer?

Apparently that role is advisory. According to Louise Upston the Crown Observer is being appointed “to help ensure newly-elected Council members are well supported. The Crown Observer will not be involved in decision-making and will only offer advice or guidance”.

The problem is that this does not accord with the Observer’s statutory role and powers set out in the LGA. The role of a Crown Observer is to help resolve a specific problem and not act as an advisor. In fact elected councillors are obliged to co-operate with the Crown Observer.

So the Crown Manager deals with the past and the Crown Observer deals with the present and future and the elected councillors simply go into public excluded session to rubber stamp all of the decisions of central government.

And that’s democracy in New Zealand in 2016.

For earlier posts go here.