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MAYOR JAKE: FAKE NEWS ABOUT THE ECOCARE DEBT 26.02.2021
We are getting used to the gung-ho, rah- rah- rah comments of Mayor Jake extolling his own personal achievements in steering the good ship SS Kaipara on a steady course.
In his latest MAYOR’S MEMO in the Mangawhai Focus and the Kaipara Lifestyler he celebrates the fact that the EcoCare debt has been paid. This is what he has to say:
Before we start out into that next plan, a major milestone from former Kaipara times has recently been crossed and deserves special mention: the district-wide portion of the Mangawhai Community Waste Water Scheme has been paid in full, earlier than expected. This legacy from a painful part of Kaipara’s story has hung heavily for years but a tough era has now passed. I feel lighter for this and acknowledge all the hard work of many here, and the clouds continue to lift. How we are moving on. Keep safe as you go.
Really? It is always hard to trust any figures emerging from the KDC but we must accept at face value what the Mayor says. But look closely, the reason for his rejoicing is not that the EcoCare debt has been repaid, but that “the district-wide portion” of the debt has been repaid. That description will be lost on most readers.
The overall debt referred to is the debt incurred in building the ill-fated EcoCare wastewater plant, now known as the Mangawhai Waste Water Community Scheme (MCWWS).
The “district wide portion” is that part of that debt that the KDC commissioners dumped on all Kaipara ratepayers to pay for the incompetence of the KDC. The rationale was that it was only fair that all ratepayers bear some of the burden given that the councillors and mayor who were responsible for the financial carnage represented the whole of the Kaipara community.
That district-wide proportion was to be paid out of general rates. It has now been repaid, apparently.
The point that needs to be made is that while Mayor Jake beats his own drum about the repayment of this small portion of the overall debt, he remains absolutely silent about the major part of the debt that will remain a burden on the Mangawhai community for generations to come.
The EcoCare plant opened in 2010, so it has been operating for the past 10 years. Back in the dark days the KDC secretly agreed to increase the size of the plant and to increase the contract price without following the legal consultation process with the community, as required by the Local Government Act.
According to the Auditor-General’s report on the debacle, the cost of the EcoCare plant was estimated at about $63.3 million.
The current 2018/2028 LTP noted that the EcoCare debt was $58 million which was allocated as follows:
The Mayor’s Memo refers to the last category only. But, as stated above, that part of the debt was reduced to $1.4 million during the commissioners’ appointment as a result of the sale of assets and a $5.3 million out of court settlement from the Auditor-General for her Office’s role in the EcoCare debacle. As at 1 July 2018, when the LTP took effect, there was only $1.4 million allocated to that part of the debt.
So, if, according to the Mayor, the payment of that $1.4 million over the following 3 years brought an end to the legacy and painful part of Kaipara’s story that has hung heavily for years, are we entitled to ask about the rest of the debt that remains unpaid?
Mayor Jake may feel lighter and the clouds may have lifted around him, but what of the community that still has to bear the major part of that debt?
The 2018/2028 LTP states that the $13.4 million allocated to the existing Mangawhai community is to be repaid over 30 years. The KDC has not revealed the current amount outstanding under this allocation.
The $26.2 million portion is allocated to what the LTP calls “future community” and is to be repaid over 40 years. In the interim, 50% of the interest on that amount is to be paid from general rates and the other 50% capitalised and added to the debt, to be recovered from the future community development contributions. On that basis, it is presumed that this part of the debt will continue to grow. The current amount of this part of the debt is not known.
It is unclear when the 30 and 40 year periods started. What is clear is that there is substantial amount of money still owing on the EcoCare plant after ten years and it may be many decades before it is repaid.
Fallacy of repayment
In the secret negotiation to increase the size of the EcoCare plant we were promised by Beca a plant with the capacity for 4,500 connections. The reality is that the MCWWS has struggled to make it to 2,000 connections. The difficulty that the current council has is that the capacity of the plant is fast running out with only 389 connections still available (figure provided by the KDC) before capacity is reached. That means that there will be not enough connections from the “future community” to pay its allocated share of the original debt. The plant will be long past its use by date in 40 years’ time.
The WSP report of 2019 estimates that the cost of a new disposal field at $38 million and that will be needed in the next few years. So who will pay for that? If new communities such as Mangawhai Central are allocated that new debt then who is to pay the substantial balance of the historic EcoCare debt?
Is the current council going to, yet again, dump the historic debt on to those currently connected to the MCWWS? Or will it spread the burden over the whole of the district?
The Mayor’s celebration of a very minor repayment of debt, while the major part of that debt still hangs over Mangawhai, with no prospect of repayment, does nothing to give the community any confidence in the leadership of the KDC. The reputation of KDC has already taken a severe beating because of its approach to Mangawhai Central and its grovelling endorsement of the proposal. The Mayor’s misleading comments on the repayment of the debt, and his failure to recognise public concern over the balance of the historic debt, only increases the distrust of the community.
Misleading spin from the KDC
I attended the KDC council meeting on 20 January 2021 when Sue Davidson (General Manager Finance) presented the Draft Financial Strategy to be included in the 2021/2031 LTP. Sue Davidson directed KDC staff “to communicate clearly that the Mangawhai Wastewater Treatment Plant debt has been repaid.” I was surprised at that statement because, unless a miracle has happened, it is simply not true. A minor portion of the debt had been repaid, but not the major part of the debt. Yet the statement was repeated in the Minutes of the meeting.
It seems that the KDC has adopted this fake-facts approach to mislead the community into thinking that the historic debt is no longer an issue.
By the time Mayor Smith wrote his column the situation was fine-tuned discreetly with his obtuse reference to “district-wide portion”, but the high level of spin and hyperboles shows the clear intention to create the wrong impression about the historic debt.
MASSIVE LEAP IN NEW BUILDING COSTS 26.02.2021
THE KDC and Mayor Jake have failed to publicly reveal the blow out in costs in relation to the Dargaville building which KDC will lease from the NRC once it is completed.
In September 2019 Kaipara Concerns revealed the secret plans of the KDC to lease part of a building to be constructed in Dargaville by the NRC. The new premises will replace the existing offices which have a doubtful future because of leaking and other issues.
Part of the negotiated agreement stipulated that the KDC would pay $400,000 for the fit-out of its offices.
Leap forward 16 months. At the KDC council meeting of 20 January 2021 KDC staff revealed that the cost of the fit-out had increased to $1.2 million. That is an increase of $800,000 or treble the original amount.
Councillors were less than pleased. Councillor Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock was especially annoyed. She asked why KDC staff had not negotiated a fixed price in the contract negotiations. She also pointed out that the increase reflected badly on councillors who had voted to proceed with the leasing on the basis of the figures presented by staff, only to find later that the figures had been increased. It diminished the credibility of councillors in the eyes of the community.
Councillor del la Varis-Woodcock asked for her concerns to be noted, and she requested KDC staff to explain how the increase in the negotiated amount came about.
Councillor del la Varis-Woodcock’s concerns are not noted in the Minutes of the meeting.
MANGAWHAI CENTRAL - BACK TO SQUARE ONE? 25.02.2021
Originally, in the halcyon days when Viranda courted the community with endless promises and financial inducements, with undertakings to consult on every issue, it was a given that it would have to provide its own water supply and wastewater system if Mangawhai Central was going to proceed.
Then, Viranda embraced the KDC, dumped the community, and spat the dummy in respect of providing the basic services for Mangawhai Central.
We all watched in amazement as the KDC staff and consultants endorsed the development proposals in every way and assured commissioners in two hearings (the supermarket consent and PC78) that there was adequate capacity for wastewater in the MCWWS. That was despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The KDC and their consultants showed the same myopia in respect of water supply. Despite the evidence of drought, and clear warnings that tank water on small sections and bore water did not guarantee an adequate water supply, they doggedly persisted with their alternative facts.
Perhaps the KDC and Viranda are now realising that they are back where they started. Even if the commissioners rubber stamp PC 78, which is more than likely, the simple fact is that without water and without wastewater the proposal simply cannot proceed. They may be successful in changing the plan, but that does not mean they can obtain subdivision consents and building consents if the lots are not adequately serviced for water and wastewater.
WATER SUPPLY 25.02.2021
In the resumed hearing earlier this month Mangawhai Central Limited (MCL) virtually acknowledged that its proposals for water supply were inadequate. Harvesting rainwater on lots too small to have tanks of sufficient size was never going to work. The right to draw water from a bore when all bores are struggling because of the drought was of no help.
MCL shocked everyone by announcing the water right granted by the NRC on 8 January 20. It has the right to draw ground water from two unnamed tributaries of the Mangawhai Estuary.
The consent is two take water from the two locations at “high flow”, which will only occur in winter or when there is excessive rain. That means that the water will have to be taken and stored in a reservoir for use in dry periods.
At the resumption of the hearing earlier this month, counsel for the MCL revealed that MCL has no plans yet in respect of the taking of the water, the storage of the water, the treatment of the water or the reticulation of the water. It suggested that a 100,000 m3 reservoir would be needed, but because of its size there may have to be several reservoirs.
Because the water take is from natural wetlands, MCL provided a legal opinion to establish that the water take consent complied with the newly-released Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020. MCL argued that the proposal to take the water was a “specified infrastructure” because MCL was a “lifeline utility” under Part B of Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 because it is “An entity that supplies or distributes water to the inhabitants of a city district, or other place”.
Counsel for MCL also argued that Regulation 52 would not apply because:
We are advised by the independent experts who have undertaken investigations and reporting on the Proposal that the ongoing water takes and associated activities will not (and are not likely to) result in the “complete or partial drainage of all or part of a natural wetland”. Given that water will only be taken when flows are above median flows, we are advised that the take will not (or at least are very unlikely to) result in the complete or partial drainage of all or part of the wetland(s) involved or a reduction in their extent.
MCL provided an expert report on the water flow at the two locations as at August 2020. Because there was no flow monitoring data available, the assessments of flow was based on the expert’s “professional judgement and understanding of the local soil type and underlying geology”, along with NIWA’s estimate of rainfall and evaporation, and the application of standard modelling.
The conclusion reached was that there would be only minor changes to the inundation of the wetland area during moderate to high flow events.
However, this assessment came with a substantial caveat:
It should be noted, while the catchment flow modelling and reservoir water balance assessment detailed above provide an appropriate preliminary assessment, the catchment flow models have not been calibrated/validated against measured flow data. Therefore, the reliability analysis and assessment of impact on downstream flows is considered indicative relative responses only at this stage, and we recommend installation of flow gauges at both take locations to confirm the median flows.
Site of water takes
The plan below shows the site of the two water takes. They are both culverts that run under the farm track that runs off Old Waipu Road through the middle of the MCL land.
Take 1 is in the natural wetland that runs south-east into the farm of Glennis McCarthy and then through culverts under Molesworth Drive into the Estuary.
Take 2 is on a watercourse that immediately after the take runs north-east into the McCarthy land and then into the wetland.
Photos of the two take locations
Take 2 (February 2021)
Take 2 watercourse (February 2021)
A mountain to climb
MCL has a veritable mountain to climb in proving that it has a secure and adequate water supply to service Mangawhai Central. The KDC has washed its hands of any reticulated water supply for Mangawhai, so MCL is all on its own.
There is absolutely no guarantee that the two water takes will supply enough water within the requirements of the NRC for flow volume, and the placement and construction of the reservoir will create untold problems and add hugely to the cost of the project.
Water Services Bill
The Water Services Bill is currently before the select committee of parliament. The Bill is draconian. It places strict requirements on water suppliers that will be very difficult to meet and will make water a very expensive commodity.
Mangawhai Central will have to become a water supplier and comply with all the statutory requirements. The KDC will also have oversight obligations that it will not be able to shirk or ignore.
The full effects of the legislation are still not apparent, but it will be a nightmare for any water supplier. (See the post below for details of the Bill)
So, even if the commissioners rubber stamp the PC78, as they did with the supermarket consent, MCL is basically back to square one with its issues with adequate supply and the new statutory regime..
One of the experts for MCL provided this insight in its report to the NRC to support the water take application:
Mangawhai largely relies on rainwater collection systems for potable and domestic use. An options assessment has indicated groundwater, because of existing saline intrusion, is a less viable option as a resource for the proposed development, and water supplied from harvesting rainwater off roofs is not sufficient for meeting firefighting and potable water needs.
So, the Mangawhai Central proposal hinges on drawing sufficient water from the two water takes shown in the pictures above.
One wonders how MCL could have gone so far, spent so much money, and employed so many consultants, and yet they have ended up two pathetic, occasional watercourses to supply its development.
Rumour has it that the commissioners’ decision is not too far away.
Next: The wastewater fiasco
WATER SERVICES BILL 19.02.2021
The Water Services Bill is before Parliament.
An Explanatory note can be seen here:
This explains the reasons for the Bill and summarised the provisions of the Bill.
Speeches in the First Reading are here:
The draft form of the Bill can be seen here:
The closing day for submissions is midnight on 02 March 2021. Submissions can be made here:
A USEFUL COMPARISON: HOW DOES WAIHEKE ISLAND DEAL WITH WATER SUPPLY AND WASTEWATER SERVICES? 09.02.2021
Waiheke Island has been in the news recently because of the overcrowding and the shortage of houses. An article in the Herald on Sunday of 7 February quotes One Roof editor Owen Vaughan:
Waiheke like Mangawhai, Mt Maunganui, and Papamoa, is targeted by Kiwis looking to snag a holiday home.”
So how does Waiheke cope with that demand?
Waiheke It is part of Auckland City. It has a population of about 10,000. So it is where Mangawhai will be in a few years.
Like Mangawhai, it is a very desirable place to live or to have a holiday home
Its infrastructure is interesting as a comparison to Mangawhai. It has two primary schools and one secondary school. Which is what Mangawhai will need in the near future if development continues.
Despite its size, Waiheke has no public water supply system. All properties are obliged to utilise rainwater harvesting with tank storage. Water deliveries are commonplace during the three to four months of summer when rainwater storage runs out. Very much like Mangawhai.
Wastewater services are provided by individual septic tanks or private systems. Each private residence and commercial establishments must install a septic tank and septic field to handle sewage. This is a requirement in every building consent. There is also a by-law requiring compliance with septic tank cleaning etc.
There is also a small wastewater plant at Oneroa:
In 2001 Auckland City Council constructed the Owhanake wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The WWTP currently serves the commercial centre of Oneroa Village (where the operation of on-site systems had become unsatisfactory) and the Matiatia Wharf facility. Properties that are connected into the WWTP are required to retain a septic tank, with the liquid effluent being drawn off and piped to the WWTP for treatment and the solids being retained in the septic tank for treatment as usual (i.e. the septic tanks provide primary treatment). (Wikipedia)
So how can Waiheke cope with a rainwater water supply and no wastewater infrastructure, yet it has a population of 10,000?
It copes adequately, and the community is happy with the present situation. However, pressure is being exerted by Auckland City with its grandiose plans for the future. It is very much the same as we are hearing from the KDC with its Spatial Plan, infill housing, and of course the KDC’s love affair with Mangawhai Central.
Proposals for development of Waiheke Island
Mike Lee is a well-known figure on Waiheke. Ex Auckland City Councillor, and Chairman of the ARC, he has been a battler for the Hauraki Gulf islands. Now retired, he is fighting the proposals of Auckland City for development of Waiheke and the introduction of wastewater plants.
On his personal website he has a letter that he published in Gulf News last year and updated this year. It is headed:
Auckland Council bureaucrats’ sneaky plan for Waiheke’
He spells out how the Auckland city bureaucrats have manipulated the Waiheke community into thinking that all the proposals for the future were driven by the local board. Much of what he says will ring bells here in Mangawhai.
I write in regard to Auckland Council’s perfunctory ‘Draft Waiheke Area Plan’ public consultation. Gulf News readers may recall I warned the public about what the council was planning last year. Clearly nothing has changed since then. The opening sentence of the feedback form, (so revealing of Auckland Council’s manipulative culture) states the plan is “led by the Waiheke Local Board” and “is a 30-year vision…to ensure a more sustainable and more liveable future”. Frankly those claims are not true. The truth is the direct opposite. The essence of the plan was conceived in Auckland Council’s headquarters tower by planning bureaucrats, no doubt as the result of lobbying by developer interests.
It is all about driving the non-sustainable growth of Waiheke Island, facilitated by a series of hugely expensive sewerage reticulation schemes which Waiheke ratepayers will be forced to pay for. All the rest is secondary to those two intimately connected goals.
He spells out the way in which Auckland City manipulates the consultation process:
The real plan is to turn Waiheke into something much closer to a crowded city suburb. The trick in the disingenuous public consultation process is to contrive a narrative that rather than reticulation and suburbanisation being imposed on Waiheke by city planners, it is in fact the brain child of the local board – and if the feedback responses can be finessed well enough – even the public itself. Do not believe it.
The Council officers in their public consultation meetings have been evidently careful to downplay the real agenda but it hasn’t taken many question by alert members of the public to draw out the real objectives.
This agenda is unwittingly revealed in the ‘Have Your Say’ feedback form where after some vague questions about “vision”, the 5th and 6th questions (leading questions I might add) get to the point. They make it clear that the council considers it a bad thing that most of us live in “single family homes on large sections” (perusal of their planning maps confirm that by “large sections” the planners are not talking about mansions on lifestyle broad acres – no, just the rest of us).
The diligent Waiheke Islander completing the questionnaire is then deftly steered to suggest alternative forms of housing. I know from the numerous confidential closed-door briefing sessions I attended last year, the answer the bureaucrats are fishing for is for more “intensive” development (à la Auckland suburbia). i.e. infill, units and apartment buildings, (including no doubt shoebox apartments) initially focussed on Ostend [around the Countdown supermarket], and planned to begin in Oneroa, high-rise tourism accommodation.
Then comes the polluted harbour trick which the KDC used to promote the EcoCare plant. (As it turned out there was no recorded pollution in the Mangawhai Harbour. Subsequent tests suggested that any pollution was from bovine sources from farms.)
But as this (the proposed development) is quite impossible with our present onsite sewage treatment system, so we have the next leading question wherein quite disingenuously the council claims it is concerned about maintaining the island’s water quality and “the health of the Hauraki Gulf”. The behind-closed doors solution to this according to council planners is reticulated sewerage to be progressively rolled out in packets across the island.
But it doesn’t take much reflection to realise reticulated sewage will be disastrous for our island and our coastal waters. Just look at the Waitemata Harbour where more than 2.2 million cubic metres of raw sewage, and sewage contaminated storm water is spilled into the isthmus streams and harbours every year from the city’s reticulated system.
Then we get down to the real driving force behind the council plans:
The council bureaucrats know this as much as anyone but they know reticulation will open the way for quantum increases in property development, much more people and many more dwellings, And just think how much ratepayers’ money the council’s private construction contractors will be eyeing up.
Then there will be the disruption and environmental impacts of the construction itself which is likely to go on for years – how long? Well, have a look at the simple culvert Downers are trying to build outside the refuse transfer station. How long have they been at that now, – over a year? And how much is that costing? It would be a bad joke if the implications did not constitute such a grave threat to our island way of life – and our environment.
The people of Waiheke do have an alternative to the Super City agenda and its “Waiheke Area Plan” and that is to protect, maintain and where necessary improve our own sustainable onsite wastewater and roof tank systems. The Waiheke Area Plan public consultation ends this evening but the battle for our island is only beginning.
The battle we are fighting in Mangawhai at present is very similar to the one being fought in Waiheke. We have no reticulated water supply. The difference is that we already have a wastewater plant but it does not have the capacity for any further substantial development.
We have a council that insists that because of expert projections it is a given that Mangawhai will grow substantially in the next few years. Therefore we will need infrastructure to meet that growth. That is what the recently adopted Spatial Plan is all about. Growth, new housing development, infill housing on small sections. The KDC is bending over backwards to accommodate Mangawhai Central.
But there is the alternative suggested by Mike Lee. Stay as we are. Cap the capacity of the MCWWS. (There are only 389 connections left.) Refine the wastewater harvesting system with more tanks. If we do not have the infrastructure for development then we cannot develop. We stay as we are. If Waiheke can cope with a population of 10,000 without a water supply and central wastewater system then surely we can do the same.
Footnote: Matiatia redevelopment
Waiheke had its Mangawhai Central moment. In the year 2000 Waitemata Infrastructure Limited (WIL) bought a large piece of land by the Matiatia Harbour where the ferries berth. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it:
In 2002 WIL proposed to change the Operative District Plan rules for their land to build a major shopping and hotel complex with 29,000 m2 (312,153 sq ft) of gross floor area on buildable land of approximately 3 hectares. This united the residents of the island in opposition. Over 1,500 adult residents of the island (out of perhaps 3,000) joined together in an incorporated society, the Community and People of Waiheke Island (CAPOW), to oppose the private plan change in court. Church Bay resident and former newsreader John Hawkesby became "the voice of the campaign" that included a showdown with then mayor, John Banks, when Hawkesby made a deputation to the city council hours after the press revealed that Banks was in business with two (of three) directors of WIL.
The upshot was that the community group won the case in the Environment Court, Auckland City bought out the interest of WIL, and much smaller development went ahead.
REPORT ON RECONVENED PC78 HEARING - 3 FEBRUARY 2021
Those who attended the first hearing in November last year would have noticed a distinct difference in the approach of the hearing panel in yesterday’s reconvened hearing.
At the earlier hearing in November the 200 odd submitters from the community who opposed PC78 were allowed to have their say, and many took advantage of the opportunity.
In respect of the provisions of wastewater services and a water supply for Mangawhai Central, the submitters presented compelling evidence to rebut Mangawhai Central Limited’s (MCL) assertions that there is currently adequate capacity in the Mangawhai sewerage scheme (MCWWS) to accommodate the proposed loading from Mangawhai Central of 1,000 to 1500 connections.
In respect of wastewater, all of the expert witnesses for the KDC and MCL had concluded that the MCWWS, at the present time, has adequate capacity for the proposed development. This was based solely on confirmation to that effect from discussions with unnamed people at the KDC, and with staff and the sewerage plant. All of the experts adopted the conclusions of the other experts. There was no assessment by the engineering experts of the current capacity of the MCWWS or an analysis of the extra capacity required for the development.
At the earlier hearing the submitters from the community completely rebutted this proposition. One of the main factors was the WSP report of 2019 which was presented in evidence. This report had been kept secret by the KDC but was discovered just before the hearing. This report from experts in sewerage plants presented an analysis of the capacity of the MCWWS and the need to take immediate action to plan and implement an increase in capacity to meet future demand for capacity, based on an average increase in connections of 100 per year. Extra capacity for Mangawhai Central was not taken into account.
The WSP report states that at current rates of increase of connections a new disposal facility will be needed by 2026 and that planning should have started last year (2020). A new disposal field is estimated to cost $38 million.
In respect of the water supply, the submitters countered the proposal from MCL (supported by the KDC) that an adequate water supply would be provided by rainwater harvesting (water tanks) and water drawn from the bore on the property. Evidence from the submitters on the effects of drought, the insufficiency of tank water, and the drying up of bores, was very persuasive.
The Commissioners were clearly impressed with the response from the community. Several times they stated emphatically: “We hear you Mangawhai”.
The Commissioners were also at pains to point out that they were completely independent and that they would make their decision based on the facts before the hearing. This was despite the fact that they were appointed by the KDC, and despite the fact the one of them, Anna Curnow, is the current Deputy Mayor of the KDC At the hearing she was wearing a different hat.
Events during the recess
When the hearing was adjourned in November the Commissioners issued directions. They sought further information from the KDC on:
The new information was to be provided in writing by a date in December and would be presented in person at the reconvened hearing on 3 February 2021.
It seemed clear that the Panel was concerned about conflicting evidence relating to the current capacity of the MCWWS and needed some clarification. However, the application for PC78 was based solely on the current capacity of the MCWWS. The Panel was now seeking new evidence on the potential (future) capacity of the MCWWS, or any alternative option. If that was allowed then there should also be a right for submitters to make submissions on any new proposals.
I filed a Memo with the Panel objecting to the direction. The Panel dismissed my objection.
KDC’s further information on wastewater
Mr Sephton, the KDC General Manager infrastructure, duly provided the further information requested by the Panel. He reiterated the same conclusions of the expert witnesses - there is currently adequate capacity for Mangawhai Central. Somewhat surprisingly, he acknowledged that there only 389 connections available in the MCWWS before it reaches capacity. That appeared to contradict his assertions of adequate capacity. It also provided, one would have thought, conclusive evidence that the MCWWS could not cope with the 1,000 to 1500 connections required for Mangawhai Central.
In respect of planning for future capacity, Mr Sephton would not give details from the draft 2021/2031 LTP because it was not yet completed. He gave vague assurances that there was planning for future capacity.
This response did not sit comfortably with me. Following the hearing in November I filed a LGOIMA (official information) request with the KDC for any reports on the MCWWS. In December I received from the KDC, somewhat begrudgingly, 16 reports and other documents on the issues and capacity of the MCWWS. They painted a dire picture of issues with the plant and warnings on capacity.
I also perused the various reports that had been presented to council meetings over the past couple of years about the MCWWS, its issues, its lack of capacity, and the need for urgent future planning to increase capacity.
The draft 2021/2031 LTP and the draft Infrastructure Strategy, soon to be adopted for consultation, have no plans for increasing the capacity of the MCWWS. They simply propose what is called a Road Map. That means that options for increasing capacity will be discussed in the next few years and finalised in time for planning and consultation in the 2024 LTP. In the meantime, reprts show that the KDC staff have adopted a “Do Minimum” policy which means that issues with the MCWWS will only be attended to once they become urgent.
An example is the balance tank which is to be installed in 2021. It is a retention tank that holds back sewage in peak periods so that it can be discharged to the plant later when capacity is available. The overflow of sewage in peak periods was identified as one of the plant's many issues in 2018 but it is only just being attended to.
There was clearly a huge disparity between the KDC’s continuing assertion of “adequate capacity” and planning for the future and the cold blunt facts available in reports held by the KDC. However there was no opportunity for submitters to counter the assertions of Mr Sephton.
Consequently, I filed Memorandum 2 with the Panel setting out the issues and lack of capacity of the MCWWS and providing details of the various reports that I had just obtained from the KDC. I also provided evidence to show that the KDC was not planning any increase in capacity of the MCWWS and had adopted a “do minimum” approach.
I also suggested that the submitters should be allowed to make further submissions on the information provided by Mr Sephton about future capacity as it was outside the scope of PC78. Submitters should be entitled to make submissions on all aspects of PC 78, including proposals introduced at a later stage. A denial of that right would result in an unfair process and a breach of natural justice.
I was also aware that the Panel had advised that they could only make a decision based on the facts presented to them. They had only invited the KDC to provide further information. I knew that at the reconvened hearing no submitters were allowed to address the Panel. So, although I was not invited to provide any information, I felt it essential that it there was to be a fair hearing that the “true” facts had to be placed before the Panel. I therefore filed my Memorandum 2 not knowing what reception it would receive.
Panel’s response to Memorandum
The Panel responded by stating that it would consider the issue of Memorandum 2 at the reconvened hearing. At that stage Memorandum 2 was not made available on the KDC PC78 website page. It was not sent out to submitters, but I understand that it was sent to the expert witnesses for KDC and MCL. Presumably it was made available to the KDC and MCL.
I took from this response that it was most likely that the Panel would not allow my further information to be part of the proceeding.
The Panel had also directed the KDC to provide the following information:
What is the infrastructure planning being undertaken for water supply/water security given the issues raised in the PC 78 hearing about whether or not there is sufficient water supply/water security to provide for the development within Mangawhai, including the additional capacity that would be enabled should PC 78 be approved as notified? (My emphasis added)
Mr Sephton’s response for the KDC was unambiguous:
Currently there are no plans for KDC to fund or construct a reticulated water supply for Mangawhai.
Any reticulation for the proposed development in PC78 would need to be funded and constructed by the developer to service development within the subject site.
In the earlier hearing submitters had presented strong evidence that the reliance on harvested rainwater and the bore on the property could not offer a guaranteed water supply for Mangawhai Central. We felt comfortable that we had successfully countered the proposals for water supply in PC78.
NRC water rights
Out of the blue, on 28 January 2021, MCL’s water consultant filed documents with the Panel advising that the NRC had granted MCL a resource consent to draw water from two unnamed tributaries of the Mangawhai Harbour on MCL land. The consent was applied for in December 2020 and granted on 8 January 2021.
It appears that the tributaries are in fact fairly insignificant watercourses that dry up in summer.
The new proposal was that water would be taken at “High Flow” in winter and stored in a huge reservoir and reticulated throughout the development
[There are unanswered questions to be resolved about the consent. Was it publicly notified or partially notified to those directly affectted? The streams will have a catchment area of over 1 square kilometre each and will affect the water rights of all properties in that area. We also need to establish whether the NRC’s consultant who advised on the consent was independent.]
The issue here is that MCL was supplying information, unrequested by the Panel, about an alternative proposal for a water supply that was not within the scope of PC78. The direction from the Panel clearly referred to “PC78 as notified”. (See the emphasised part in the Panel's direction above)
MCL acknowledged that this was an amendment to PC78 but the KDC's legal counself filed submissions with the Panel suggesting that the amendment could reasonably be seen to be part of the original application. The submissions contained extensive legal argument with supporting legal precedents. If that argument was accepted it would mean that submitters would not be allowed to make submissions on the new proposal. Not only that, they would be barred from challenging the legal argument that the new proposal was part of PC78 as notified. [It seems quite bizarre that counsel for the KDC should take up the cudgels on behalf of MCL to bar the rights of submitters.]
I drafted a further memorandum, Memorandum 3, rebutting that argument on the basis that this was a distinct, alternative proposal that was not anticipated in PC78. To allow it as part of the original application would deny submitters the right to comment on a fundamental, new proposal. It would also deny those who might be affected by the amendment to make submissions on the issue. In any case, I argued, the proposal contained no details. No provision had been made for drought conditions. A secure water supply could not be guaranteed.
I also voiced concern at the failure to include Memorandum 2 on the website page and to send it out to submitters.
Immediately the document was sent out along with further submissions from submitter John Dickie who was also objecting to the process.
Reconvened hearing of 3 February 2021
The timetable set for this part of the hearing consisted solely of further evidence from KDC and MCL. As part of the RMA process submitters were not allowed to address the Panel.
An important issue was how the Panel would deal with my Memoranda 2 and 3, and with John Dickie’s further information documents.
We did not have to wait long. In the first few minutes the Chair of the Panel made the position of the Panel absolutely clear. He stated that the Panel had requested factual further information of the KDC and that Mr Sephton had provided factual information on behalf of the KDC. The Panel accepted that information as factual.
In respect of further information from submitters, the Chair said there had been no request for that information and it was therefore not part of the hearing. Submitters had no right speak at the reconvened hearing and it would be unfair to all submitters if some submitters were allowed to provide further information.
In other words, the highly important information that was absolutely necessary for a fair hearing was excluded on a technicality, and also because it might prejudice the rights of other submitters. The rights of the community to make submissions on a completley new and fundamentsal proposal in PC78 were clearly irrelevant.
Tone of the reconvened hearing
These initial comments set the tone of the hearing. In the earlier hearing the Panel had been extremely considerate to the submitters and had gone out of their way to listen carefully to their submissions. As stated above, they had assured the community of their independence and that they had taken the community’s heartfelt submissions on board. “We hear you, Mangawhai.”
The reconvened meeting was all about the KDC and MCL reinforcing their assertions without any possibility of rebuttal.
At one stage the audience raised some gentle murmurs of disapproval at something said by Mr Gordon, legal counsel for MCL. The chair of the Panel admonished the audience, and insisted that Mr Gordon should be able to make his submissions uninterrupted,
Mr Bangma, legal counsel for the KDC, reiforced his legal submissions about the new proposal for water supply being reasonably part of the original scope of PC78, and that no new submissions should be allowed
Mr Sephton was allowed to confirm what he said about current capacity and to claim that planning was under way for increasing capacity. The Chair acknowledged that some submitters did not agree with the information provided by Mr Sephton but that Mr Sephton had responded with what the Panel had asked for. He added: “We accept it as a factual statement.”
There was a lot of talk about the final draft of the changes to the plan for Estuary Estates. It was evident that the KDC and MCL are working closely together on that matter. The finished draft will then be presented to the Panel.
The various expert witness of MCL confirmed all of their original evidence including the conclusion that the MCWWS has capacity at present to accommodate Mangawhai Central.
Mr Williamson the water supply expert provided background information on the new proposal for taking water from two watercourses, storing it in a reservoir or several reservoirs, treating it, and reticulating it through the development. It was clear that there were no plans for the proposal and that it would all be sorted out somewhere down the track. There was some consideration of the Building Act requirement that each property must have and “adequate supply" of water, which set a somewhat vague and low threshold.
The KDC experts were then allowed to confirm the opinions that they had adopted in their evidence. Mr Rankin reaffirmed that his conclusion that the MCWWS has capacity at present had not changed.
Mr Gordon, counsel for MCL, ended the proceeding with his final submissions in favour of the acceptance of the PC78. They were a bit painful at time for the audience especially when he suggested that the current community had no right to dictates how Mangawhai was going to develop in future. His comments on the perceived grievances of submitters in respect of the failure of MCL to consult with the community, and his comment that MCL “have genuinely sought to address concerns’, struck a raw nerve with those present.
Mr Gordon also thanked Mr Bangma, counsel for the KDC, for his excellent submission relating to the new proposal fo the water supply being part of the original PC78. He confirmed his endorsement of the arguments and added that he could not have done it better.
Mr Gordon also let out an interesting snippet: "The supermarket is expected to connect to the wastewagter network in 2021, and then residential lots are expected to connect in 2022. There are only 389 connections to the MCWWS available before capacity is reached, according to Mr Sephton of the KDC. They are taken up at the rate of about 100 per year, but that may be greater with the recent increase in building. It seems inevitable, without any plans to increse capaicty in the near future, that the KDC is heading for a massive logjam in applications for connections..
And then we were adjourned.
Note that all of the documents relating to PC78 can be viewed here on the KDC website.
I find it hard to comprehend these RMA processes. I am used to the normal legal process whereby there are two parties competing, with an independent judge presiding and making a ruling. In hearings under the RMA, such as a plan change, there is an applicant, there is the local authority, and there are the submitters. The hearing panel is made up commissioners who are appointed by the local authority.
The decision of the hearing panel is a recommendation only and can be accepted or rejected by the local authority.
What I don’t understand is that the panel advises the local authority of its decision on the plan change. The local authority then responds to that advice, by accepting it or not. Yet throughout PC78 the KDC has embraced and endorsed the proposal in every single respect. The KDC has made up its mind long ago. It granted consents for earthworks. It endorsed the consent for the supermarket. It advised the MCL that there is capacity in the MCWWS for Mangawhai Central when clearly there is not. It is already preparing the final draft of the changed District Plan with the applicant. And it has just sided with MCL to bar any further submissions of the community.
On the other hand the community has virtually no say. It can be sidelined by discreet but lawful advertising for submissions. The notice for the supermarket consent was not included in the Mangawhai Focus and it was advertised in the Kaipara Lifestyler just before the Christmas break in 2019. As a result onlu three submissions were received.
Submissions from the community opposing an application are generally dismissed by the expert consultants of the applicant and the local authority. The hearing panel invariably adopts the views of the "experts". As we have seen, where there is a dispute as to whether a new proposal is an amendment to the plan change as notified, the applicant and the local authority can present legal submissions through expert legal counsel to persuade the hearing panel. Submitters have no right to be heard on tha matter either personally or through legal counsel.
The whole thing appears to be a charade that involves many fundamental breaches of narural justice. .
Truth appears to have little relevance in such proceedings. Decisions appear to be based on the views and conclusions of expert consultants. Those with money can assemble an army of experts who support each other and do what is necessary to produce the desired result.
It was interesting that in his final submissions, Mr Gordon for MCL, attacked the credibility of some of the expert witnesses of Mangawhai Matters because they lived in the community and were not, therefore, offering independent expert views. Mr Gordon stated that their demeanour suggested, heaven forbid, that they felt strongly about the issues they were speaking to, and that their evidence should be given reduced weight. Presumably an expert witness who is only concerned about the pay cheque he is to receive is more reliable.
That approach may have some legal precedents to support it, but from where I sit the experts mustered by MCL and KDC in the area of wastewater did little to earn the accolade of “expert”. One of them adopted the view of adequate capacity on the basis of hearsay from unnamed persons at the KDC and at the MCWWS plant. All the other experts relied on the opinion and conclusion of that first expert (which they are allowed to do under their code of conduct), and they all supported each other. Not one of them did the hard yards and made actual enquiries into the actual current capacity of the MCWWS or bothered to ascertain what capacity was needed to accommodate Mangawhai Central.
There were ample reports available to assist them but why hid behind their blind assertions of adequate capacity. Even when the WSP report of 2019 was made public, and they received copies of my Memorandum 2 with all its other reports, they still stood loyal to their original opinions.
Like lawyers, consultants are not experts. They have been given an exalted position under the RMA. They have expertise and they present arguments to support a client’s case in return for payment. They are hired guns and nothing more.
Facts, real facts, as presented by the submitters from community in PC78 appear to have no relevance. The RMA denies submitters the right to present further vital information to counter new proposals or incorrect statements advanced by the applicant or local authority. By excluding the submitter, the process can also exclude the truth.
Despite the ominous feeling at the final hearing, we have to hope that the Panel is true to its word, that it genuinely “heard Mangawhai” and that it acts fairly and independently in reaching its decision.
As for the KDC………..
More of that later.
MANGAWHAI CENTRAL HEARING TOMORROW 02.02.2021
The hearing for PC78 will reconvene tomorrow for one day only at the Library Hall in Mangawhai Village.
Date: 03 February 2021
Time: 9.30 am
Venue: Public Library Hall at 45 Moir Street, Mangawhai
The Hearing Panel will hear further evidence from the applicant and its experts followed by responses from the KDC.
The applicant has recently advised that it has just obtained (8 January 2021) a consent from the NRC to take water from two unnamed tributaries of the Mangawhai Harbour. It appears that the locations are on the land owned by Mangawhai Central Limited. Only geodetic datum co-ordinates are supplied so the exact locations are unclear.
The amended proposal is to take sufficient water to support Mangawhai Central, to store it in a reservoir, treat it, and provide a new reticulation network throughout the development
The applicant acknowledges that this is an amendment to PC78 because it advances new proposals for a water supply. The KDC is arguing that consent to the amendment should be given because the amendment comes within the scope of the PC78. If that argument prevails the Hearing Panel could make a decision without hearing further submissions.
Several submitters, including myself, have made submissions to the Hearing Panel arguing that the amendment is substantial, and that there is insufficient information to establish that the water right will actually provide security of water supply. In addition, submitters would be deprived of their right in law to make submissions on all aspects of the proposals. There are also those (neighbours) who will be directly affected by the new proposal. They would be denied the right to makes submissions on the issue before a decision was made.
Submitters do not have the right to be heard.
Apparently the Hearing Panel is going to consider these issues at the beginning of the hearing.
WHO IN THE KDC MISLED THE HEARING COMMISSIONERS? 14/12/2020
The misrepresentations in respect of wastewater capacity made by KDC officers during the process for Plan Change 78, and the earlier supermarket consent process, reveal the ugly underbelly of the KDC.
In both instances KDC officers made statements in respect of the capacity of the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme (MCWWS) that were indisputably incorrect. More than that, those making the statements must have known that the statements that they were making were incorrect. They also knew that the Hearing Commissioners would be misled if they relied on those statements.
In the supermarket consent process a KDC engineer stated in the Resource Engineering Assessment that:
The present Mangawhai waste water treatment plant have capacity to accept the propose loading from the development. (The typos are in the original)
In the section 42A report a planning consultant for the KDC stated:
9.124 The proposed infrastructure a for reticulated wastewater system is able t to service the proposed development as there is capacity within the Council treatment plant for the proposed loading. (The typos are in the original.)
This was confirmed by a KDC engineering expert:
9.128 Council engineering expert, xxxxxxx confirms all of infrastructure services acceptable. I adopt xxxxxxx’s position, and confirm the proposed servicing appropriate which does not create downstream effects
The content of the section 42A report was reviewed and approved for release by a KDC senior planner.
At the hearing, in response to an inquiry of one of the commissioners, a representative of MCL stated that KDC staff had confirmed that the MCWWS “has capacity” to accommodate the proposed supermarket etc development. This was then orally confirmed by a KDC senior planner.
As a result of these unequivocal statements in respect of wastewater capacity, the capacity of the MCWWS was not an issue. The consent for the supermarket etc was granted without any further consideration of wastewater capacity.
Plan Change 78 process
This was like a game of Chinese whispers with expert engineers and consultants from KDC and Mangawhai Central Limited (MCL) stating unequivocally that the MCWWS had the capacity to accommodate Mangawhai Central, based on advice from the KDC and from expert witnesses.
In his statement of evidence Mr Dufty, and engineer from Chancery Green, stated on behalf of MCL:
4.4 The Council has confirmed during initial planning meetings that there is sufficient capacity in the wider network at the treatment plant to provide for development of the PC78 site.
The KDC’s independent experts relied on the same confirmation from the KDC and also relied on conversations with unnamed KDC staff, and also on the conclusions of other expert engineers.
The source engineer, whom the others relied on, had actually read the WSP report of 2019 but his conclusion that the MCWWS “has capacity for additional connections” was incredibly vague and completely misrepresented the principal conclusions of the WSP report.
During the plan change hearing there was some dispute about whether the Mangawhai Central proposal - its capacity and funding etc - had been considered in the Long Term Plan of 2018/2028. This was a vital piece of information. A senior planner at the hearing sought confirmation from the KDC and reported back to the hearing. He advised that a senior manager had confirmed that the Mangawhai Central proposal was considered in the 2018/2028 LTP.
This was not correct. I checked the LTP again and confirmed that Mangawhai Central was not considered at all in the current LTP. I advised the hearing during my oral presentation that the advice from the senior manager was not correct.
This report, dated 28 November 2019, sets out in very clear terms that there is a looming crisis in capacity for the MCWWS, especially in relation to the disposal of waste from the plant. And that is without any consideration of the loading required by Mangawhai Central.
It appears that there were two earlier reports obtained from WSP, in 2018 and 2017. The KDC General Manager of Infrastructure Services, Jim Sefton, tabled a report at the Council meeting of 4 December 2019 advising that a further report was being obtained from WSP to look at future upgrades to meet capacity and the impending need for a completely new disposal system. (The report advised that: “We are now at 100% coverage of land that can be discharged to.”)
The Sefton report stated that “the findings of the investigation will be reported back to Council”.
That has never happened. Elected members have been left completely in the dark. Since the existence of the WSP report was exposed during the plan change hearing, Councillors have made enquiries of the KDC staff about the report, but without any response.
The WSP report itself also stated that it was to be used as a “basis for the Mangawhai Master plan to be shared with the community”.
The important information in the report has not been shared with the community even though it is over a year old.
Not only did the KDC staff keep the report secret from the elected members and the community, they also deliberately ignored the warnings in the WSP report and deliberately misrepresented the capacity of the MCWWS to the Hearing Commissioners.
KDC’s breach of LGOIMA
The KDC has continued to keep reports secret. Immediately after the hearing I made a LGOIMA request to the KDC chief executive, Louise Miller, asking for copies of not only the 2019 WSP report, which I have already, but also the earlier ones of 2018 and 2017.
Louise Miller advised that a response would be made at the end of the 20 working day period allowed for in the legislation. That takes the date of response to 24 December. However, under the legislation any day in “the period commencing with 20 December in any year and ending with 10 January in the following year” is not a working day. That means that the response would be delayed until the 11 January 2021.
I have pointed out to the chief executive that she has misquoted the legislation. Section 13(1) states that a local authority shall respond to a request “as soon as reasonably practicable, and in no case later than 20 working days after the day on which the request is received”.
As the WSP reports are held in electronic format and easily accessible the reports should be made available without any delay.
The chief executive has not responded. She appears determined that the earlier reports are not revealed in the public arena or even to the elected members.
Who is driving this fundamental failure of good governance?
Who is behind the deliberate misrepresentation? It is certainly not the elected members, who probably know less about the issue than those in the community who keep up to date on social media.
Clearly someone in the KDC made the decision to keep the WSP reports secret, to ignore the compelling facts in that report, and to adopt the position that the MCWWS “has capacity” to accommodate Mangawhai Central. The clear intention was to mislead the Commissioners.
The responsibility for the decision must sit with the chief executive. The chief executive of a local authority employs all the staff. They are answerable to the chief executive, and likewise the chief executive is responsible for the actions of her staff.
No doubt that issue is running red-hot in the KDC at the moment.
Response from the KDC
The Commissioners were well aware of the subterfuge carried out by the KDC. The revelations in the WSP report, which were part of my Statement at the hearing, were chilling in the extent to which they contradicted all the conclusions of the expert witnesses on both sides. Several times in the hearing the Commissioners affirmed their independence from the KDC. In respect of the “real picture” presented by submitters of the critically limited capacity in respect of water supply and wastewater, the Commissioners stated time and time again: “Mangawhai, we hear you.”
As a result the Commissioners have placed a requirement on the KDC to provide the following information on wastewater and water supply:
With respect to wastewater for the Mangawhai area we request officers provide a written report on:
- What is the infrastructure planning being undertaken for wastewater disposal given the issues raised in the PC 78 hearing about whether or not there is disposal capacity or potential capacity in the existing scheme, or an alternative scheme, to accommodate further development within Mangawhai, including the additional capacity that would be enabled should PC 78 be approved as notified?
- In relation to the above bullet point, what are the funding decisions that have been made or are being contemplated by the Council in relation to the provision wastewater treatment/disposal (i.e. what has been committed and what is contemplated in the Council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) or the next review of the LTP.
- We request this information be provided in relation to a 30 year time horizon, given this is the ‘long term’ as defined in the NPSUD.
With respect to water supply for the Mangawhai area we request officers provide a written report on:
This is an incredibly onerous task that must be attended to by this Wednesday 16 December 2020.
The Commissioners have confirmed that the information provided will be made available to all submitters to Plan Change 78. I will ensure that it is available to the wider community.
MANGAWHAI CENTRAL Plan Change 78 27.11.2020
The hearing of Plan Change 78 was held in the Domain hall this week. There was insufficient time for a right of reply by the Viranda people so it will continue in late January or early February next year. It may take the Commissioners some time after that to to issue their decision.
In simple terms, Viranda was seeking a change to the current Estuary Estates part of the operative District Plan to enable it to proceed with the Mangawhai Central development. The decision that the independent commissioners make is a recommendation to the KDC, and the KDC is not bound to follow it. However, it is very "persuasive".
A big thank you
I would like to extend a big thank you and congratulations to those in the community who attended, and especially those who stepped outside their comfort zones to speak to their submissions. Only three people filed submissions in respect of the supermarket consent, mainly because no one knew about it. With Plan Change 78 there were over 200 submissions objecting to some aspects of the proposed development.
The newly formed Mangawhai Matters was only formed a few months ago yet they managed to put together a superb effort with a lawyer, expert consultants and locals, who presented a compelling presentation of the issues arising from the development as proposed.
There were also many locals who made a terrific impact with their sincerity, their love for Mangawhai as it is now, and the "real facts" about the issues of water, wastewater, and the destruction of the amenity values of our township.
It was a wonderful opportunity for the community to air their grievances about the KDC and how it has failed us by embracing the Mangawhai Central proposal in secret and without the consultation with the community, as required by the law..
What we learnt
It is quite amazing that Mayor Smith comments regularly on the issue of lack of water. We all know the crisis that we faced last summer and is now hitting us again, but earlier in the year. Yet the KDC took the stance at the hearing that there is an adequate water supply for the Mangawhai Central proposal.
Successive speakers told the "real facts" about the crisis in water supply. That was capped by a couple who supply bore water to the community. They spelt out in detail the facts and figures of water issues. The commissioners were left in no doubt what the true situation is.
The KDC through its planners, its engineers and its expert consultants stated unequivocally that "there is capacity" in the wastewater plant to accommodate the Mangawhai Central proposal.
We established that not only was that statement not true, but that the the KDC knows that it is not true.
It is beyond any dispute that the KDC deliberately misrepresented the capacity of the wastewater system to the Commissioners.
For years several of us in the community have tried to obtain details of the capacity of the MCWWS (EcoCare/sewerage plant) from the KDC. All efforts have been rebuffed.
With a stroke of luck, a few days before the hearing we discovered a WSP-Opus report on the capacity and future capacity of the plant that was published last year.
The report warns that the plant itself will need upgrading by 2026, but more importantly a completely new disposal field (or other alternaive method of disposal) will be required. The startling revelation is that this will happen even with the assumed normal growth of 100 connection per year. That does not take into account the increased growth we are experiencing at present. And that is without a single connection from Mangawhai Central.
The plant only has a capacity for 3,000 connections and there are already 2,230 connections.
The cost of a new disposal field is estimated to be, roughly at today's prices, $38 million. Discharge to the estuary would cost $26 million, and discharge to the sea would cost $47 million.
The original EcoCare plant cost $63.3 million for a promised 4,500 connections. The debt incurred was $58 million. The current long term plan states that the "historic" debt will be repaid over the next 30 to 40 year depending on how the debt is attributed to present and future connectors. Most of that debt is still outstanding and will remain outstanding decades after the MCWWC has reached capacity.
So those connected to the scheme will be obliged to pay off the old debt for generations to come, and will also be lumbered with another debt of $38 million or so.
The frightening thing is that the WSP report states that the KDC should have started planning for the new disposal system in 2020, given that it takes 6 years to look at options, decision-making, consultation with the community through a long term plan, planning, consenting and building. That warning has been spelt out loud and clear in the draft Spatial Plan, yet the KDC is still dithering about considering options.
The WSP report states that the report was intended to inform not only the KDC but "community stakeholders" and was "to be shared with the community".
The KDC kept it secret from the community. Not only that, it also kept secret two earlier WSP reports of 2017 and 2018.
Perhaps even more troubling is that the KDC kept the reports secret from the elected members. They are completely unaware of the crisis in respect of wastewater facing the community.
The upshot is that not only do we have a crisis in water supply and wastewater, irrespective of Mangawhai Central, we also have a crisis of governance within the KDC. The elected members should make all the decisions on behalf of the KDC. Yet they have been side-lined, deprived of vital information and excluded from the decision-making process.
SPIN, SPIN AND MORE SPIN 02/08/2020
If you have read the Mayor’s message accompanying your latest rate demand you may have felt a little nauseous, and especially so when you saw how much your rates are increasing.
From the tone and contents of the letter Mayor Smith appears to live in a parallel universe where all is light and sunshine and the magnificently performing KDC is his personal gift to the people of Mangawhai.
Fresh from publicly rewriting history about the KDC’s legal actions against Bruce and Heather Rogan and hundreds of other ratepayers (See DIRTY TRICKS FROM KDC post below) he is now pulling out every bit of spin to justify the rates increase and other actions of his council.
He claims that there is no "budget hole" to fill but chooses to ignore the massive debt incurred to finance the Mangawhai wastewater plant. According to the 2018/2028 LTP Part 1 at page 34 it will take 40 years from 2012 to repay that original debt of $58 million. In addition the LTP Part 1 at page 57 provides for $20.05 million of new debt to fund the extensions and upgrades to the plant over the next 10 years. However several sources state that the current plant will have reached its capacity by 2026 or 2027 and a completely new plant will be needed. And that is without taking into account the demands of Mangawhai Central.
No budget hole? More like a massive crater.
Mayor Smith's justification for the rates increase is the KDC’s “chequered past for its road network”. He suggests that the rates increase was needed for the roads:.
Any rates increase less than 3.97 % would certainly have meant worse roads for Kaipara people.
And yet just a week or so ago, at an open day for the press at the Mangawhai wastewater plant, Mayor Smith said that the rates increase would be spent elsewhere. In respect of the need to upgrade the plant’s pump network, the Mahurangi Matters reported Mayor Smith as follows:
Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith said the upgrades would be funded by the recently announced 3.97 per cent rates increase.
That same rates increase is probably also being used to fund the consultants on the Mangawhai Community Plan, the consultants on the Spatial Plan, and the two new sets of consultants preparing new Urban Design Guides for Kaipara. (The latter two projects will be overtaken by proposed changes to the legislation. (See MANGAWHAI SPATIAL PLAN below.)
As leader of the KDC Mayor Smith appears to have no understanding of the changed world post Covid 19. Many in our communities are really suffering financially, and that applies to those considered “wealthy” as well as those on lower incomes. Covid 19 has destroyed many businesses and jobs and we still have no idea how much worse it is going to get
The last thing we need is a gung ho Mayor celebrating a rates increase, the smart new technology of the KDC, and suggesting that everything is “bright and new” when the communities of Kaipara are suffering the biggest economic blow they have ever encountered.
Mayor Smith’s attempt to put a spin on the current financial crisis facing the people of Kaipara is insensitive and completely inappropriate. It shows that he is completely out of touch with the people of the district.
THE FLAW OF AVERAGES 02.08.2020
Mayor Smith says the "average" rates increase is 3.97 per cent. Yeah, right. We know what that means. Houses in Mangawhai will incur much higher than average rates; and those in the west of the district a much lower increase, or even a decrease. It is the flaw of averages:
The drowning man represents Mangawhai ratepayers
ELECTED MEMBERS VOTING ON RATES INCREASE 02.08,2929
When the next election comes around we need to remember which of the elected members voted for the increased rates. At the April meeting of the KDC Councillors Larsen, Vincent and Wills voted to reduce the proposed 3.97 per cent increase to a 2.83 per cent increase, but were outvoted by the other elected members. All the elected members then voted for a 3.97 per cent increase, with the exception of Councillor Larsen who voted against it .
MANGAWHAI SPATIAL PLAN 31.07,2020
The community has the opportunity to give feedback on the draft Mangawhai Spatial Plan. The deadline is 9 August 2020.
The Spatial Plan is a non-statutory document that sets the agenda and direction for a review of the KDC District Plan. The District Plan is a set of rules that tells you what you can’t do, or have to do, when developing land. It was introduced to protect the environment pursuant to the Resource Management Act (RMA}.
There are two important issues arising from the draft Spatial Plan.
First the uncertain future for district plans and, in fact, for local authorities themselves as they exist at present.
Sadly the RMA and district plans throughout the country have become cash-cows and have allowed local authorities to gouge money out of those wanting to build or develop land. It is one of the biggest rorts in local government.
I am not alone in thinking that. Both major parties have called for a review of the RMA and a simplification of the rules so that building and developing become "can-do" activities rather than a "can’t do" set of hurdles. The RMA has been called a “legislative cockroach”.
Infrastructure Minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones says the RMA had become "calcified".
"It keeps battalions of lawyers and planners and various other busy bodies hired by local government engaged in activity that's inversely related to economic growth.
It has always struck me as ludicrous that every local authority has to have its own district plan. A property a few hundred yards up Cove Road from the Mangawhai Heads Road junction is in Whangarei district and has a different set of rules to comply with compared with its neighbouring property in Kaipara district.
District plans don’t come cheap. The new one for Kaipara will cost ratepayers north of $10 million which will poured into a trough for consultants, lawyers and KDC staff to feed off over the next how many years.
Quite coincidentally, an independent review has just been released which recommends doing away with the RMA and replacing it with legislation that simplifies the regulatory processes. Environmental Minister David Parkers said about the RMA:
“It has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment.”
One of the major recommendations is that the number of policy statements in the country be reduced from 100 to 14. That would mean a shared district plan over several regions.
The report also urges a reform of local government. The report ominously warns:
The existence of 78 local authorities in a nation of just five million people is difficult to justify.
That suggests that amalgamations of local authorities will almost certainly follow
If all those changes are in the pipeline, we need to ask ourselves why we are pouring far more than we afford into complying with a legal framework that is almost certain to go through radical change in the near future. The money will be completely wasted.
We have a council that ignores the obvious. While the financial effects of Covid 19 on the community have been massive, the full extent of the destruction has not yet been seen. And yet the KDC marches on as if nothing has happened.
Mangawhai ratepayers are finding that their rates have increased by more than 5 percent to fund an army of consultants to spend years on a district plan that is never going to happen, and on consultants for design criteria for buildings and developments (recently reported to council) that will change fundamentally in the next few years.
The KDC has committed itself to investing our money in smart new offices in Dargaville that suit its blinkered aspirations when it is likely that the KDC will not exist in a few years.
Given that context, the draft Spatial Plan is a complete waste of time and, more importantly, our money. The KDC should put on hold all such projects until after the election when the intentions of the new government in respect of local authorities and the RMA are announced.
The second issue is that we are being railroaded into accepting that growth is inevitable and that Mangawhai will, in the near future, become a new Orewa. (See the growth assumptions in the Appendices to the draft plan.) We are told that we have to plan for "the inevitable" by opening up more land for development, and agreeing to smaller lots, so we can crowd more people in.
Mangawhai Central is a Trojan horse. On the enticing pretext of a supermarket and convenient shopping, it has opened the door to a massive increase in population that is going to challenge not only our minimal infrastructure, but could end up in destroying our beautiful township.
If Mangawhai Central is given an open sesame for 1,000 new lots, and perhaps many more, (there is no set limit) then we will almost certainly find that our infrastructure, our facilities, our beaches, our reserves, our schools etc, are not able to cope with the increased population (and all of their guests and visitors over the holidays).
Surf Beach Mangawhai Heads 2025
We must try and limit Mangawhai Central to the existing limit of 500 lots, and reject the smaller sized lots that it is proposing. We must also ensure that development is not opened up elsewhere in Mangawhai..
We are being urged to vote for the opening up to development to fulfil the wishes of consultants and the KDC who can see a rich seam of gold to draw on, with scant regard for the infrastructure, and for the special amenities of our township. What we should be doing is ensuring that we protect what we have and do all that we can as a community to stop any expansion that ruins the very special nature of Mangawhai.
In other words we must keep the “Magical” in Mangawhai.
I urge those of you who share similar sentiments to make you voices heard loud and clear by giving your feedback to the draft Spatial Plan.
I also ask you to encourage everyone that you know to do the same. If we do not make our voices heard now then we cannot complain about what is inflicted on us in the future.
DRAFT SPATIAL PLAN FEEDBACK DETAILS
The KDC introduction to the spatial plan is here.
The draft Plan is here.
The appendices to the Plan are here.
The feedback form is here.
If you wish you can simply email your comments to the KDC. However it is best to make your comments under the same headings as in the draft feedback form, so that they can be more easily collated.
The deadline for feedback is 9 August 2020.
You do not have to write a lot. Under the headings just state, for example, that you are opposed to or support what is stated. Add your reasons if you wish.
I am lodging a fuller response, as follows:
I do not believe that the Spatial Plan and a new district plan is appropriate at this time for two reasons.
First, an independent review has just been released which recommends doing away with the RMA and replacing it with legislation that simplifies the regulatory processes.
One of the major recommendations is that the number of policy statements in the country be reduced from 100 to 14. That would mean a shared district plan over several regions.
The report also urges a reform of local government. The report ominously warns:
The existence of 78 local authorities in a nation of just five million people is difficult to justify.
That suggests that amalgamations of local authorities are being planned
If all those changes are in the pipeline, we need to ask ourselves why we are pouring far more than we afford into complying with a legal framework that is almost certain to go through radical changes. The money will be completely wasted.
Second, we do not yet know the full impact of Corvid 19 on New Zealand and our communities. Local authorities should just mark time and stick to the basics until we have a clear picture of what lies ahead.
In addition to that view, I do not agree with the premise or vision on which the Spatial Plan is based.
The predicted development is only an assumption based on past growth. Development cannot take place if it is not permitted under the rules of the district plan.
We only have limited facilities, amenities and infrastructure in Mangawhai. They struggle to cope with the present population, especially during the holiday periods.
We cannot increase those facilities, amenities and infrastructure, because we have no room for expansion, or the funds to pay for them.
We only have one surf beach with limited parking. We cannot create another surf beach or create more parking adjacent to the current one. We cannot increase the number of roads to cope with the increased number of cars, or parking areas for motor vehicles. There is no room for another boat ramp. There is not enough room for parking for cars with boat trailers, even with present population.
The water supply is not reliable in the summer months. The sewerage system cannot cope at present without immediate extensions and upgrades. (See below)
The scenario proposed by the Spatial Plan would destroy the delight of living in our very special place.
It would take the Magical out of Mangawhai.
Mangawhai Central is an unfortunate aberration that has been thrust upon us. We need to ensure that the minimum number of lots are permitted (500) and that those lots pay their fair share of the capital costs and upgrades of the infrastructure, The KDC has failed to be open and transparent in this matter and has lost the trust of the community.
As for other development, we should take steps to discourage it. We do not want smaller lots, we do not want infill lots, nor should we open up land for residential development.
I support minimal development so that any adverse effects on the nattural environment are limited
IWI AND CULTURE
My own personal view is that we should celebrate the history and culture of all residents of New Zealand.
The government is planning fundamental reforms of the three waters (drinking water, rainwater and stormwater) throughout the country, so any plans for the future are futile.
The most important point is that we do not have adequate wastewater facilities to meet even small growth. In the 2018/2028 LTP funding of $20.05 million was approved for extensions and upgrades to the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme for the next 10 years. (LTP 2018/2028 Part 1 page 57)
The MCWWS already has a massive debt (of $58 million in 2012) hich is to be repaid over 40 years (refer the LTP 2018/2028 Part 1 at page 34), and yet the scheme will have reached capacity by 2006/2007 according to the Spatial Report on page 20.
[Sadly the KDC refuses to reveal information on the capacity of our wastewater facilities, misrepresents their capacity (in the supermarket application for consent) and keeps secret its proposals for the future (Mangawhai Central).]
All costs of growth of infrastructure must be paid by future development. The KDC must consult with the community before making decisions as to how the growth is to be funded.
RURAL RESIDENTIAL ZONE
Minimal development of lots to ensure that the growth in population is commensurate with the amenities, facilities and infrastructure.
As stated above, many of the important current facilities and amenities are finite. They cannot be increased. We need more recreational facilities, not for future communities but for the existing community.
Mangawhai Central, as proposed, does not include sufficient recreational facilities for a development of that size.
We need to wait and see if we survive Covid, and the local government reorganisation that it in the wings.
We are struggling to cope with the current population. Any improvements should be for the current community.
A by pass along Tara Road/Cove road would remove a lot of heavy through traffic.
I question the craze for shared pathways with pedestrians, cyclists, and electric vehicles. We do not have sufficient space to allow a pathway width that ensures adequate separation and safety.
Our population is older that the norm. Older people do not or cannot go shopping on a bicycle.
OLD WAIPU ROAD ACCESS
Sounds sensible, unless of course you live on Old Waipu Road.
DIRTY TRICKS FROM KDC 20.07.2020
The 14 July 2020 was a very sad day for the Kaipara District Council. Many of us have harboured some doubts about the competence and the integrity of the KDC, but on that day Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Louise Miller showed their true colours.
The Chief Executive put out a press release revealing the amount that the KDC had expended on legal costs in respect of Bruce and Heather Rogan and the MRRA. However, the press release went further than that. It contained quotes from Mayor Smith justifying the expenditure and placing the blame on the Rogans for instigating and continuing with the litigation.
Those of you who lived in Mangawhai during the turmoil of 2010 onwards will know that the statements and allegations made by Chief Executive Miller and Mayor Smith in that press release make a mockery of the truth. They are clearly an attempt to rewrite the history of the KDC and white-wash the actions that it has taken against its ratepayers in the last few years. Even the most ardent supporters of the KDC will, I imagine, be surprised at the lengths the Chief Executive and the Mayor have gone to in order to shift the blame and to vilify the Rogans.
This was not a case of the Mayor and Chief Executive misunderstanding past events. They have both been involved with the litigation against ratepayers since they took office. They know what the facts are. The press release was a calculated attempt to falsely shift the blame for the litigation and the massive legal costs on to Bruce and Heather Rogan.
One of the other allegations is that the Rogans refused to pay their rates. It is mantra that we hear time and time again from Mayor Smith. It is simply not true. The Rogans desperately tried to pay their rates for years but were prevented by the KDC from doing so unless they first paid disputed penalties. Hundreds of other ratepayers were treated in the same way.
Each of you will react differently to this rebuttal and correction of the spin and falsehoods of Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller and their attempts to demonise Bruce and Heather Rogan. I have been involved intimately in the litigation throughout so I know exactly what happened. I can therefore judge the seriousness of what Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller have tried to do in the press release.
We expect absolute integrity from our elected members, including the Mayor, and from the Chief Executive of our council. It is my personal view that Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller have shown in this press release that they do not have the necessary integrity to represent the ratepayers of this district. They stepped over the line.
The Press release was aimed at vilifying the Rogans. In fact it serves to illustrate that Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller do not have the personal integrity to hold their respective offices in the KDC.
Below is a detailed rebuttal of the statements and allegations made by Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller in the press release. It contains the actual facts relating to the legal actions taken by the KDC against the Rogans and many other ratepayers.
It should be compulsory reading for Mayor Smith, Chief Executive Miller, the elected representatives and all the KDC staff.
I apologise for the length of the document but there were many allegations that had to be rebutted.
Background to the issue
For several years I have been tracking the amount of money spent by the KDC in litigation against the Rogans. To start with the KDC responded to my LGOIMA (official information) requests and provided the information without any payment. I have details of costs incurred until August 2018. However attempts to obtain details of subsequent costs were met with a demand for payment. I objected and wrote to the Chief Executive Louise Miller arguing public interest and breach of the Ombudsman’s guidelines. Following a further rejection I requested Mayor Smith to intervene and presented legal arguments as to why the information should be revealed. Mayor Smith rejected my submissions, advised that the Chief Executive was entitled to charge for LGOIMA requests, and then added, somewhat quaintly:
As you can see it is the will of the council that this be done.
I understand that Bruce Rogan, and perhaps others, all made similar LGOIMA requests. They met with the same refusal.
As a result of the KDC’s refusal, several complaints were made to the Ombudsman in respect of this refusal to supply information. Although no decision has yet been made by the Ombudsman the KDC would have been made aware of the investigation. Perhaps the tipping point came when Radio New Zealand requested the information and was met with a refusal unless a fee was paid. Radio New Zealand drew the Council’s attention to a ruling of the Ombudsman that councils could not insist on payment in exchange for information unless there was a large amount of work required to provide the information. They asked, pointedly, “Is two hours (or so) of staff time a large amount of work?” According to the reporter investigating this, Kaipara Council then decided to comply with the request without charge in preference to a public airing of their arbitrary refusal to do so.
This pressure from the media probably explains why the press release states that the KDC was “now keen” to disclose the information.
The Radio New Zealand article can be seen here.
The press release is headed: Council defence costs $1.7 million.
The MRRA and Mr and Mrs Rogan brought six challenges against the Council over a period of six years.
Mayor Dr Jason Smith says complaints that the Council had pursued the Rogans were inaccurate. Instead, the Council had had to defend itself against the challenges brought against it …
MRRA action in respect of unlawful rates
The only legal action brought directly by the MRRA against the KDC was in 2013 in respect of the illegal rates set by the KDC mainly in relation to the targeted rates for the EcoCare sewerage system. The reference to this case is a red herring. It has nothing to do with the subsequent rates recovery litigation against the Rogans and other ratepayers which the KDC initiated in 2014. However, the details of this earlier litigation are set out below for those interested.
[In 2012 onwards the KDC Commissioners refused to take any action in respect of rates that were blatantly unlawful. This was despite the fact that the KDC had a legal opinion from Simpson Grierson stating that “the rates cannot be regarded as enforceable by the Council” and “if judicial review proceedings were brought it is highly likely that all of the rates would be invalidated”. The MRRA reluctantly filed for judicial review of the illegalities. The KDC Commissioners responded by persuading Parliament to enact validating legislation to retrospectively validate six years of illegal rates and other illegalities. The legislation was rushed through under urgency to change the law before hearing of the judicial review. In that review the High Court held that, but for the retrospective validating legislation, it would have declared the rates and other illegal actions to be invalid.]
Legal action initiated by the KDC against the Rogans and other ratepayers
Following the passing of the Validation Act in December 2013 the KDC Commissioners reneged on their understanding with Parliament that they would remit all the penalties on rates that had been withheld. The “whistle-blowers”, as they were called by Parliament*, refused to pay the penalties on the rates. In August 2014 Bruce Rogan, as chair of the MRRA, arranged for himself and all other whistle-blowers to pay the withheld rates and all arrears of rates in full, but without the disputed penalties. Close to a million dollars was paid to the KDC in full and final settlement of all rates arrears. The KDC returned all of the payments.
*See the comments of MPs during the passing of the legislation in the Appendix at the end of this document.
See the NZ Herald report on the rejection of the payment.
A few weeks later the KDC Commissioners mobilised against hundreds of ratepayers by issuing legal proceedings to recover the rates and penalties, and, where the ratepayer had a mortgage, the mortgagees were pressured into paying the rates and penalties under the provisions of the Rating Act. Hundreds of ratepayers were pursued in this campaign: The Stuff report is here.
Because the KDC had instituted proceedings against so many ratepayers, it was agreed that the case against the Rogans should be treated as a test case whilst all the other cases instigated by the KDC were stayed. The Rogans were sued by the KDC to recover rates and penalties of $22,158.49 claimed by the KDC and NRC. Of that amount the disputed penalties amounted to no more than a couple of thousand dollars. The irony is that the Rogans were not allowed by the KDC to pay the arrears of rates unless they paid the disputed penalties. (This is discussed below.) In effect the KDC and NRC sued the Rogans for a few thousand dollars.
Every person has the fundamental right to defend legal actions brought against them. This is a basic principle of natural justice that is confirmed in the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1998. Accordingly, Bruce and Heather Rogan exercised that right by defending the action brought by the KDC and NRC on behalf of all the other ratepayers who had been sued by the two councils.
In short, the District Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal denied the Rogans their fundamental right to defend an action for recovery of rates based on the courts’ interpretation of the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 (Rating Act). The District Court stated that the correct procedure to defend the claim was to apply for judicial review in the High Court. The Rogans accordingly applied to the High Court for judicial review of the validity of the KDC’s rates. They joined the MRRA as a party to protect the interests of the other stayed cases. Whilst they had some success in the High Court, the Court of Appeal found for the two councils.
All of this legal action was instigated by the KDC and NRC in a test case against the Rogans to recover penalties from hundreds of other ratepayers.
Until 12 October, 2019 the Council defended its case under the direction of the Crown Manager, who remained in place to oversee ongoing legal action against the Council. The Council has since defended further action brought by the Rogans, with final ruling in favour of the Council in February this year.
The Council did not “defend its case”, as it states. As stated, it initiated legal action against hundreds of ratepayers, of which the Rogans were only one. The KDC and NRC were the plaintiffs.
It was actually the KDC Commissioners who commenced legal action against ratepayers in 2014 and continued those legal actions until they were removed in 2016. Peter Winder, one of the KDC Commissioners, was appointed as Crown Manager in 2016 to continue the legal actions against the Rogans and other ratepayers. His terms of reference stated:
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
The Crown Manager’s role was terminated in 2019. His final report to the KDC was included in the agenda for the Council meeting of 26 September 2019 at page 137.
The report makes it clear beyond any doubt that that the legal actions pursued by the Crown Manager were instigated and pursued by the KDC. The report states unequivocally:
In 2014, Kaipara District Council (KDC) initiated action in the District Court seeking recovery of outstanding rates from a number of ratepayers.
The Rogans chose to defend the rates recovery action against them.
The report also makes it clear that the Crown Manager’s approach to the legal actions against the Rogans and other ratepayers were “consistent with views that the council has consistently expressed to the Crown Manager”. In other words, Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller endorsed the actions taken against the Rogans and other ratepayers.
Under the heading Actions and Progress by the Council on page 3 of the report, the Crown Manger sums up the situation in respect of all the other actions (in addition to the action against the Rogans) that the KDC has instigated against its ratepayers. I quote it in full because it shows the extent of the legal actions instigated by the KDC which were still outstanding 4 years after they were commenced.
There are 5 ratepayers that are subject of sealed judgements requiring the payment of outstanding rates for the period for which the Crown Manager is responsible. Two of these ratepayers are on payment plans and repayments are actively monitored to ensure the debt is paid. The other three have received two letters threatening enforcement of the sealed judgement unless payment is forthcoming and offering to discuss a payment plan. These three ratepayers will receive one further lawyer’s letter and if payment is not forthcoming, the next step will be to apply to the Court to enforce the judgements by way of rating sales.
Council staff are working progressively through the outstanding rates accounts for the period for which the Crown Manager has responsibility for rates related legal action. Substantial progress has been made in collecting outstanding rates from properties that have mortgages. Sixteen properties with private mortgages still have unpaid rates. These will need to be followed up with action to initiate a charging order. Of the properties that were approaching time -barred status, the Council has secured the necessary Charging Orders to protect the Council’s interests. Staff are set up to progress these to secure payment, if necessary, through rating sales. Council staff have completed work on 60 property files which are now with Council’s lawyers to secure Charging Orders. A further 10 property files are ready to be actioned.
That makes 91 cases instigated by the KDC, over and above the Rogans’ case, that were still outstanding after 4 years.
It should also be noted that at the Council meeting when the final report was presented a councillor asked the Crown Manager how much had been expended by the KDC in pursuing the Rogans. This was an important question as under his terms of reference the Crown Manager was obliged to have regard to stated Guiding Principles. One of those Principles was that Ministerial assistance or intervention should have regard to the costs and benefits of assistance or intervention. In other words the benefits must justify the costs. At that stage the KDC had not recovered anything from the Rogans despite 4 years of litigation.
The Crown Manager said the he did not know the figure, but suggested that the Chief Executive might be able to help. The Chief Executive stayed silent even though she had all the figures to hand ready to disclose to me if I paid the fee she was demanding. Mayor Smith did not press the Chief Executive for the figure. Councillors were therefore left in the dark.
Clearly the Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, did not oversee compliance with the terms of reference.
It’s disappointing that this has gone on for so long and has cost ratepayers so much. Mr and Mrs Rogan could have stopped after a change in law legitimised the Council’s position, or after the office of the Auditor General published a detailed report on events surrounding the wastewater scheme decisions.
The validating legislation and the Auditor-General’s inquiry have nothing to do with the issue before us. But, for the record, here are some details.
The validating legislation retrospectively validated 6 years of illegal rates and other illegalities perpetrated by the KDC. For those interested, the Preamble to the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Act 2013 includes 66 clauses, each of which sets out an illegal action taken by the KDC.
The Auditor-General’s overview of the Inquiry into the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme can be seen here. The final report can be seen here. It is 423 pages of criticism of the KDC and its performance. In her personal apology delivered to the Mangawhai community in Mangawhai, the Auditor-General said the KDC had failed to meet its fundamental legal and accounting obligations. It failed in its management, governance and documentation of the nearly $60 million scheme, making decisions on its funding in closed workshops instead of open meetings.
They could have stopped at any time. Instead the Rogans chose to continue pursuing the Council as far as the Courts would allow,” says Mayor Smith.
The Rogans did all they could to pay their rates arrears that had accumulated during the rates strike of 2012. The rates strike was commenced to force the government to take action to rein in the KDC which was completely out of control.
Bruce Rogan advised all rate strikers to hold the withheld rates in a separate account so that they could be paid over once the illegalities were resolved.
Bruce Rogan also tried to arrange with the NRC a way that ratepayers could pay NRC rates (collected by the KDC) directly to the NRC to avoid the effects of the rates strike. Bruce Rogan recalls the situation in his own words:
“I approached NRC Chief Executive Mr Nicolson at the behest of the MRRA members who were holding back their rates with an offer to pay all the NRC rates directly to the NRC. He told me that KDC were their collection agent and that is where the money had to go. I then approached Craig Brown, who was Chair at the time, and asked him to put pressure on Nicolson to comply with our request. He came back to me after talking to KDC Mayor Tiller and said that they were standing firm with KDC and would not co-operate.
I then went back to Mr Nicolson and pointed out to him that a ratepayer was legally entitled to pay his or her NRC rates directly to NRC (the Act says so), so I again asked him for a bank account number that I could use myself and pass on to our members. His response was that, yes, they could do that if they really wanted to but all that would happen is that the money would be transferred to KDC and applied to the ratepayer’s account. I advised our members and we gave up on trying to pay NRC separately.”
Even when (in 2012) the KDC obtained a legal opinion that stated that 6 year of rates were unlawful, Bruce Rogan reached agreement with KDC Chief Executive Steve Ruru that the Council and ratepayers would from a focus group to resolve the illegal rates issue between themselves. The KDC passed a resolution to that effect. As soon as the Commissioners were appointed they rescinded that resolution.
As stated above, in August 2014 Bruce Rogan also arranged for ratepayers to pay all their outstanding rates to the KDC, without the disputed penalties, to settle the matter. The KDC rejected the payments and immediately sued the whistle-blowers for those rates and penalties.
Despite this setback, the Rogans, along with other whistle-blowers, tried to pay their rates instalments as they fell due. Bruce Rogan tried to pay his current rates instalment in November 2014 by internet banking. The KDC Revenue Manager emailed him on 24 November 2014 acknowledging receipt of the payment of $1,279.80. The email went on to say:
Council is not authorised to allocate you payment towards a current instalment where there are previous arrears owing. According to KDC’s rating policy payments are to be allocated to the oldest amount due.
The payment was refunded, an instalment penalty was added, and further penalties were added every 6 months for the next 5 years.
This refusal to accept a rates payment was purportedly pursuant to the “oldest debt first policy” which was introduced by the KDC Commissioners in late 2012. Under the policy no arrears of rates or rates instalments would be accepted by the KDC if there were any prior debts outstanding. The policy applied even though there were disputed debts.
The policy is in blatant breach of the Rating Act which provides that a ratepayer is obliged to pay an instalment as it falls due, and a penalty can only be added if the instalment is not paid by the due date. A local authority is not allowed to alter or override those provisions by insisting on the payment of rates arrears, or any other costs, or the performance of any other condition.
The KDC enforced the policy against the Rogans and other whistle-blowers over the following four years. In November 2018 the Rogans tried again to pay the current rates instalment by direct credit which is on of the accepted methods of payment under the Rating Act. The KDC refused to accept the payment and refunded it. It then added an instalment penalty and subsequent further penalties every six months.
From: Administration Requests <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, 19 November 2018 2:20 PM
Cc: Administration Requests <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FW: rates instalment. for Attn: revenue manager
Good Afternoon Mr Rogan
Thank you for your email relating to your rates and your payment of $1,581.87, which you have specified is to be allocated to the current instalment. Council policy provides that any payments received will be credited first towards the oldest amount due. In light of this, we will be arranging to have the payment returned.
In December 2018 the Rogans and Boonhams agreed to try and pay all the arrears of rates but without paying the disputed penalties. Chief Executive Louise Miller responded by stating that the payments would be applied to the oldest debt first, including the disputed penalties. If this was not acceptable the payment would be refunded. However, the Rogans and the Boonhams insisted that they should be allowed to pay all the arrears of rates only.
In an email of 12 February 2019, after over four years of rejecting our rate payments, the KDC Chief Executive Miller finally agreed to finally accept the payments as “outstanding rates only, excluding penalties, interest and costs”.
Not only that, from that date onwards Chief Executive Miller also allowed the Rogans and the Boonhams to pay their instalments as they fell due. This meant that when the Rogans were forced to settle last month no rates were outstanding. Just legal costs, the disputed penalties and interest.
Chief Executive Miller gave the Rogans no explanation as to why the oldest debt first policy was enforced for over 4 years and was then suddenly waived. She would not explain why some ratepayers received favourable settlement terms with confidentiality clauses, with penalties being waived, whilst the Rogans were charged every cent of the penalties.
Most of those penalties charged to the Rogans were imposed on payments that the Rogans were prevented from paying for over four years. The penalties permitted by the Rating Act, are oppressive. An instalment penalty of 10 per cent is added if an instalment is not paid by the due date. Further penalties of 10 per cent are added at six monthly intervals on all accumulated rates arrears and penalties outstanding, on a compounding basis. By preventing the Rogans and many other whistle-blowers from paying their rates for four years the KDC scored a windfall in penalties.
From 2014 onwards Bruce Rogan made numerous attempts to settle the legal action brought by the KDC against him and his wife and the other actions brought against other whistle-blowers. The KDC Commissioners and subsequently the Crown Manager, supported by the KDC, refused to negotiate any settlement. They wanted the penalties paid in full. This intransigence on the part of the KDC continued during the term of Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller.
Illegality of the oldest debt first.
The KDC asserts that it is entitled to prevent ratepayers paying rates instalments and arrears unless all arrears are paid first. As I have said, the policy is blatantly unlawful. However the KDC maintains that it has a legal opinion from 2014 that states that the policy is lawful. It has relied on that legal opinion over the past 4 years to sue or coerce many ratepayers, such as the Rogans, into paying large amounts of penalties on their rates.
There have been endless LGOIMA requests but the KDC has consistently refused to supply a copy of the legal opinion, citing professional legal privilege. However the stance of the KDC was contradicted by the then KDC Revenue Manager during the Rogan District Court hearing. She admitted under oath that the legal opinion stated that the policy had not been formally adopted by the KDC, therefore the KDC could not lawfully prevent a ratepayer from paying instalments as they fell due. Despite that the KDC has continued to maintain that it was and is entitled to prevent ratepayers from paying rates instalments and rates arrears.
Several complaints have been lodged with the Ombudsman asking that the legal opinion be disclosed on the basis that it has been partial disclosed and relied on by the KDC, and in the public interest. If it turns out that the policy is unlawful there will be hundreds of ratepayers who will be seeking restitution of penalties unlawfully demanded and paid.
In addition, those in the KDC who made the decisions to enforce the policy against ratepayers whilst knowing that the policy was unlawful, run the risk of having committed an offence under the criminal law.
Kaipara District Council has spent $1,726,891 on legal fees to recover rates owed and defend itself against the challenges brought by Mr and Mrs Rogan and the Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association.
KDC’s figures for legal costs in pursuing the Rogans
The press release states that the figure of $1.7 million or so includes the 2013 judicial review referred to earlier.
The Radio NZ article mentioned above says that the KDC maintains that the legal costs incurred in its legal actions against the Rogans alone amounted to $345,000. In an email to me the KDC stated that that figure is an estimate. It is a very light estimate. The NRC spent $459,000 on the same proceedings (see below) and the NRC played a very minor role in the legal action. (The two councils were represented by the same lawyers and legal counsel.) The figure that I have from the KDC as at August 2018 is just over $1.8 million. The amount from August 2018 to 2020 has not been disclosed to me but that needs to be added in. That would put the figure at well over $2 million. It is a little confusing but it appears that a large part of that amount relates to the MRRA judicial review of 2013 which had nothing to do with the current issue. It appears therefore that the actual legal costs incurred by the KDC in pursuing the Rogans was close to the $1 million mark. And that does not take into account the enormous amount of time expended by the KDC staff.
Northland Regional Council
The NRC role in this saga is general overlooked, mainly because the KDC invoices and collects rates on NRC’s behalf. However the two councils sued the Rogans jointly for their separate arrears of rates. That was somewhat unfair considering that the Bruce Rogan had tried unsuccessfully to get the NRC to allow payment of its rates directly to the NRC.
The NRC sued the Rogans for a few thousand dollars which the Rogans were clearly always ready and willing to pay, but were prevented by the KDC from doing so because it applied the oldest debt first to the rates of the NRC.
The NRC has acknowledged in writing that it never adopted the oldest debt first in any format, and it did not authorise the KDC to apply the policy to its rates.
Even worse than that, the penalties that the NRC sought to recover were in the hundreds of dollars. The legal costs that it incurred in recovering rates that the Rogans were always willing to pay, and a few hundred dollars in penalties, amounted to $459,537.14.
Instead, the Council had had to defend itself against the challenges brought against it to be fair to the vast majority of ratepayers who had paid their rates in full. He says the Council has to give ratepayers confidence that everyone pays their share of rates.
“We believe we had a responsibility to recover whatever costs we could on behalf of ratepayers. The costs awarded by the court don’t cover the Council’s defence costs but it goes a small way towards it.”
The Rogans were sued by the KDC and NRC for a little over $22,000. Most of that was rates arrears that the KDC prevented the Rogans from paying. So the amount in issue was only a few thousand dollars in penalties. To recover that sum the KDC and NRC pursued the Rogans and between them expended close to $1.5 million on legal costs and internal costs. That was over a five year period.
Curious as to why the KDC spent so much time and so much money on pursuing the Rogans for so little, I made a LGOIMA request to Chief Executive Miller asking for the total amount of rates outstanding in Kaipara for the last five years. This is what I was advised:
Land Rates and Penalties
Clearly the amounts are incorrect. I then checked with KDC’s Quarterly Finance report which I found under the Audit, Risk and Finance Committee agenda.
At 31 July 2019 the KDC had 2,195 ratepayers who owed rates totalling $7,024,681. By 30 April 2020 the figures had come down to 459 ratepayers with $4,295,929 outstanding. By area the largest amount of rates outstanding were in the Central and West Coast areas.
Mayor Smith stated in the press release:
The Council has to give ratepayers confidence that everyone pays their share of rates.
Clearly there are many ratepayers throughout he district who are not paying their share of rates, and that has been the situation for many years.
The question that must be asked, once all the facts are brought to light, is why the KDC, including Mayor Smith and Chief Executive Miller, ignored the massive amount of outstanding rates across the district and spent over a million dollars and over 5 years relentlessly pursuing Bruce and Heather Rogan to recover a few thousand dollars in penalties. It sounds very much like a vendetta that was carried out with no regard for cost.
The irony is that the penalties that they did recover are likely to be declared to be unlawful.
Quotes taken from Hansard during the passage of the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Act 2013:
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) Member of the Select Committee
The second is that the Mangawhai ratepayers group must not be punished for blowing the whistle. There were wrongdoings committed here. The financial cost to the residents is significant, and they must not be punished for blowing the whistle. That is why I am pleased to see a commitment being made by the commissioners to the select committee that there would be an amnesty for the rates penalties incurred by those people withholding their rates in protest at this situation.
NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) Chairperson of the Select Committee
In recognition of the concern of some ratepayers with regard to their rates strike and their passionate challenging of the council’s long-term behaviour, we have negotiated an amnesty on penalties if ratepayers remit their arrears in the next few weeks. I think that is an extremely important part of this legislation. It was something that we agonised over. It was a very difficult thing to manage through the legislative process, and I think that coming to an agreement with the commissioners outside the legislation while including that in our commentary was a good, pragmatic, sensible way of dealing with it.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
I am also pleased that there is going to be an amnesty. There was an agreement with the Kaipara District Council. As I say, a lot of people will still not be happy, but it is progress.
EUGENIE SAGE (Green) Member of the Select Committee
What we are debating today will not be popular, but I would like to pay tribute to the work of the Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association because it blew the whistle on what was happening at Kaipara. It did that over many years, and it was not until relatively recently that Government agencies started to listen. We heard repeatedly from submitters that people who were withholding their rates were law-abiding citizens and that they normally took payment of rates very seriously, but the fact that they were so frustrated by the failure of authorities to act on the recognised problems at Kaipara led to their frustration and led to the withholding of rates. So the agreement that the select committee negotiated through Mike Sabin with the commissioners—that they would agree to waiving the penalties—is just a small consolation, I guess, and a token acknowledgment of the work of the whistleblowers, and it acknowledges that they should not have to pay penalties because of their withholding of rates to draw attention to the problem. But also the fact that people need to pay rates recognises that they are getting their services, as Darien Fenton noted, and that the council has continued to provide those services to everyone in the community.
Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) Member of the Select Committee
The Labour Party sought from the Government and its commissioners relief for ratepayers by way of an amnesty of the penalties for rates withheld. We are pleased that the commissioners have agreed to provide this rates relief on penalties and extend this rates relief to ratepayers, in relation to the Mangawhai community waste-water scheme, to 1 January 2014. A line has to be drawn under this relief to allow all Kaipara ratepayers to move forward. This relief will cost approximately $1 million, which will be borne by all Kaipara District Council ratepayers
KDC AND MANGAWHAI CENTRAL 17.07.2020
There is a small window of opportunity to stop the KDC from entering into a secret agreement with Mangawhai Central Limited in respect of its proposed development.
Of course, once it is signed it is beyond challenge in the legal sense. Any sweetheart deal that has been agreed to will be set in legal concrete.
I urge you all to read the correspondence below, to tell all your friends and neighbours, and to ask everyone to pass it on. This may be our last opportunity to stop Mangawhai Central and the KDC from destroying Magical Mangawhai as we know it.
Then, I urge you to contact the Mayor, the Councillors and the Chief Executive and let them know your feelings.
Generally within these catchments all domestic wastewater shall discharge to the public reticulation.The following requirements shall be met:(a)Where subdivision or land development is within the area served by a Council system or an extension to a Council system is proposed, the written approval of Council’s Asset Manager shall be obtained and provided with the application to confirm that the Council sewerage system can be extended to serve the subdivision or development.The Council is responsible for the assessment and approval of the Developer‟s detailed design of proposed extensions to the sewerage system.Council will advise the Developer’s designer of any limitations that may exist to the number of sections, peak flows or timing of flows that may exist.If the existing network does not have sufficient capacity at the nominated connection location to receive the number of sections or peak flows from the development, the Developer will either need to:
- Design and construct an appropriately sized attenuating storage to reduce peak flows to level compatible with the network.
- Convey sewage to a different location in the network where adequate capacity exists.
- Pay for the required upgrade to the system.
16.1.3 How to Use this Chapter of the District PlanThis Chapter specifies what land uses can or cannot be done in this Zone. Where someone wants an activity that is not provided for or does not meet the Standard for that activity, they will need to lodge a Resource Consent. Council has an opportunity to approve or decline the application and to set conditions on how this activity is done. This Chapter also seeks to make sure that subdivision has adequate servicing, including roads, to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects on the environment.
I understand there will be public interest in the matter however as further details will be publicly available once finalised I see no good reason to release the agreement beforehand.
Hi Mr Boonham
Thank you for your LGOIMA request asking for copies of all agreements reached between the KDC and Mangawhai Central Limited, or associated parties.
I can confirm there is a draft agreement No.1 that will be finalized shortly. However the agreement itself is confidential and as such is withheld under section 7(2)(h) and (i) of LGOIMA to enable Council to carry out, without prejudice or disadvantage, commercial activities; and negotiations. I can also confirm that broad details of the agreement will be publicly available on our website once it is finalised and signed.
While making the decision to withhold the draft agreement I considered whether there was a public interest in the matter. I understand there will be public interest in the matter however as further details will be publicly available once finalised I see no good reason to release the agreement beforehand.
If you have not seen it already, the Commissioners’ decision on the supermarket consent has been added to the Mangawhai Central page and includes a table of resource consents granted. It can also be found on the home page under the Alerts section.
Under section 27 of LGOIMA you have the right to complain to the Ombudsman for a review or investigation about Council’s decision to withhold the draft agreement.
Linda Osborne | Administration Manager
Kaipara District Council, Private Bag 1001, Dargaville 0340
Freephone: 0800 727 059 | 09 439 3123
email@example.com | www.kaipara.govt.nz
From: Clive <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, 19 June 2020 10:15 AM
To: Chief Exec <email@example.com>
Cc: Administration Requests <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: MCL agreement/ Commissioners' decision
At the KDC council meeting of 27 May 2020 the elected members considered, in public excluded, the Mangawhai Central Development Agreement Draft one. The matter was public excluded because of the commercial sensitivity provision in LGOIMA.
This agreement is also mentioned in various reports attached to the PPC78. It is also referred to in the Commissioners' recent decision on the Supermarket Consent:
25. Mr Chandra also advised that all of the conditions and advice notes he recommended be imposed if consent was granted, had been agreed with the Applicant. These included the issues relating to financial contributions and development contributions – and that the Applicant and Council are in discussions regarding a “Private Development Agreement” to determine the level of contributions that will be payable.
You will be aware that the KDC also signed off the EcoCare extension under public excluded, and that turned out to be a disaster for the community.
I therefore request, as a LGOIMA request, a copy of all agreements reached between the KDC and Mangawhai Central Limited, or associated parties.
In addition, could you please make the Commissioners’ decision on the Supermarket Consent clearly locatable and accessible on your website.
WOOD STREET FUNDING APPROVED 08.07.2020
The KDC has just announced that NZTA funding for the Wood Street revitalisation has been approved. Details are on the KDC website.
A further design workshop is to be held for the community on Saturday 18 July at 10am to 12 noon at the Mangawhai Club. You are invited to bring along your ideas.
SEEN BUT NOT HEARD 08.07.2020
About 50 ratepayers crammed into the space available at The Club in Mangawhai last week to watch the KDC in action at a council briefing on the Mangawhai Community Plan costings and funding.
I say “watch” because it was virtually impossible to hear what was being said by the elected members and the staff.
There were murmurs of discontent and a couple of ratepayers addressed the meeting with their concern at the situation. Mayor Doctor Smith was not happy with the interruption. In his best school master manner he pointed out that it was the best location available and that the KDC was a poor council. This presumably meant that the KDC could not afford PA equipment.
Perhaps his most cutting remark was that normally there were only two or three members of the community at council meetings. He appeared so suggest that the community was not normally interested.
Mayor Doctor Smith boasts in the latest LTP that his council is “open, transparent and engaged with communities”, and yet he does nothing to foster true democracy by having all items open to the public, and by ensuring that ratepayers can actually hear what is being said at meetings.
It reminded me of being at school when we “did” the feudal system in the Middle Ages. The Lord of the Manor seated at the head of a huge table in the Long Hall with his barons on either side, while the serfs squatted outside wondering what fate had been decreed for them.
I have been to a few KDC council meetings and a few commissioners hearings and in both cases it is very difficult to hear what is being said. Like many, I have largely given up. Why would you keep going to the movies it the sound track is inaudible?
As for cost, the elected members were swamped (after we left) with a mountain of projects dreamed up by staff and supported by an army of consultants’ reports to aimed at spending millions of our dollars on projects that have absolutely no relevance to post Covid Kaipara.
A few bob spent on a basic PA system (without the need of a consultant’s report) would be a large step towards more transparency.
THE TWO ROUNDABOUTS TANGO
What is it to be? No roundabout? One roundabout? Two roundabouts?
The roundabout tango goes back decades. How do you fix the issues where Insley Street and Moir Street intersect by the Mangawhai Village Library Hall?
The KDC staff have floated various suggestions as part of the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP). This culminated in Jim Sephton (the KDC General Manager of Infrastructure Services) telling the elected members at last week’s briefing that the majority of the community wanted two roundabouts. The other was to be at the junction of Moir Street and Molesworth Drive, in front of Carters.
No doubt the elected members presumed that the staff had gone through the appropriate consultation process to arrive at this conclusion. Unfortunately, that had not happened. The roundabout was only mentioned in passing in the MCP, and was not included in the 2018/2028 LTP. No formal consultation, as required by the Local Government Act 2002 has taken place. (See post below.)
Certainly there had been some information provided but not to the extent required by the legislation.
It is also difficult to believe that the community has genuinely opted for two roundabouts. The adjacent owners are seriously affected by the proposals and are opposed to any change. There are also many in the community who believe that the cost and interference with neighbours legal rights is simply not justified. The junctions may have some issues at busy times, but roundabouts are going to do little to ease the pressure, and will create more problems of their own.
In respect of the additional roundabout at the junction of Molesworth Drive there is already a triangular roundabout that serves its purpose and it is hard to imagine how a round roundabout will improve matters.
Perhaps, at the end of the day, the issue is not really about the traffic flow but more to do with the work flow and money flow. Projects such as this justify the employment of KDC staff engaged in such proposals, which in turn justifies the contracting of consultants to plan and supervise, followed by the contractors who do the physical work. It is part of the local government trough that we fund through our rates that supports multiple levels of troughers.
With the dire effects of Covid 19 on the community still to be realised, a genuinely concerned council should be looking at canning or putting on hold all proposals that are not absolutely necessary. The roundabouts proposal is one of them.
In addition, we also have to consider the effect that Mangawhai Central may have on the dynamics of Mangawhai, and the effects of the Mangawhai Spatial Plan. Why rush into major works such as this, and at this time, when the situation may change substantially in the next few years?
WOOD STREET IMPROVEMENTS 08.07.2020
The Wood Street proposal is one of the few proposals that was raised in the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) and actually funded in the 2018/2028 LTP. (See the post below.) The other positive is that the KDC staff have applied for 90 per cent funding from NZTA from the Innovative Street Fund. It appears from the briefing document presented to the elected members that the balance of about $500,000 will come from the $800,000 budgeted for this project in the LTP.
IS THE MANGAWHAI COMMUNITY PLAN LAWFUL? 07.07.2020
Fifty or so of the Mangawhai community crowded into the Club in Mangawhai last week to watch the KDC in action. It involved a briefing for the elected members on the Mangawahi Community Plan (MCP).
The KDC staff made presentations to the elected members to confirm some of the proposals under the MCP and to brief them on the proposed funding.
The original Plan was adopted in 2017. It is a rather vague document with airy-fairy projects and very light on specifics, priorities and funding.
The unfortunate and ill-planned foray by KDC staff last year into the Alamar Reserve showed that the KDC staff simply did not understand the mechanics behind the Plan.
Clearly the intention, and the correct procedure, was for the bare bones of the proposals in the MCP to be fleshed out in detail in the 2018/2028 Long Term Plan (LTP) so that the appropriate consultation with the community could be undertaken. Only then could any action be undertaken
The MCP itself stated on page 2:
Budgets included in this plan are estimates at this point, and will be confirmed as part of the development of Council’s next Long Term Plan 2018/2028.
A KDC fact sheet sets out the process for the MCP that was to be followed.
Mangawhai Community Plan
In mid-2016, Council set up a panel of community representatives to make recommendations for Mangawhai. Their recommendations were received and approved by Council in July 2017. The MCP was received by Council at its 20 January 2018 meeting. The MCP was adopted by Council at its 28 February 2018 meeting. Moved by Geange/Wethey, carried. Mangawhai Coastal Connections was identified as a priority one project to begin construction 2018/19. The Priority One projects identified have been provisioned for in the Kaipara District Council’s Long Term Plan.
Long term Plan
The Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) requires every council to produce a Long Term Plan (LTP) every three years.
The LTP outlines our activities and priorities for the next 10 years, providing a long term focus for decision-making. It also explains how work will be scheduled and funded. Under the LGA, LTPs must be reviewed every three years with full consultation with the public each time. An Annual Plan is developed in the years in between.
The Council held briefings across the district to discuss options and directions for setting the Long Term Plan 2018/2028. These meetings were open to the public. Council adopted the Long Term Plan 2018/2028 at their Council meeting held Tuesday 26 June 2018. Moved by Smith/Wethey, carried.
So far, so good. The recital above suggests very strongly that the higher level MCP projects were confirmed in more detail in the LTP 2018/2028. It also suggests that the LTP included details of how the MCP projects were to be scheduled and funded, (See emphasised text above.)
A KDC letter of 9 September 2019 advised:
The Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) was adopted by Council on 28 February 2018. Projects were prioritised and budgeted in the current Long Term Plan which was adopted by Council on 26 June 2018.
The report presented to the KDC last week at the briefing meeting last week also states:
The projects identified by the MCP were included in the 2018 Long Term Plan.
The problem is that most of the above is untrue.
The consultation document for the LTP 2018/2028 contains few references to the MCP. On page 14 it lists four options for funding the MCP. The adopted option was set out on page 11 of Part One of the LTP:
Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP)
Agreed to commence implementation of the MCP from 2018/2019 funded through a 20% district-wide general rate and an 80% differential rate levied on properties located within the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration area.
Under Community Activities on page 45 of the consultation document under What’s Planned, it states in broad terms that over the 10 years of the plan $62.7 million in operating expenses and $7.9 million in capital expenditure is to be spent delivering agreed programmes. Five different programmes are included, including the MCP, but with no amount is specified for the 5 different programmes.
The actual 2018/2028 LTP has remarkably little to say about the MCP in respect of the details of projects and financial aspects. The MCP is only mentioned 5 times in the whole Plan, and then only in passing references.
There is the funding detail referred to in blue above. Interestingly there is no mention of funding through the NZTA either in the consultation document or in the LTP itself.
In Part One there are also vague references on page 44 and 46 referring to implementing the MCP “as budgets allow”, and similar vague references on page 179 to implementing or developing various “infrastructure projects” in the MCP.
On page 187 of Part One of the LTP there is reference to the capital expenditure for the Wood Street development for the first three years of the Plan. There is also reference to capital expenditure for Pearl Street to Sellars Reserve (Heads Loop) walkway for the first two years of the Plan, but without a specific figure being stated and without mention of the MCP.
And that is it.
In short, the KDC failed to make the MCP part of the 2018/2028 LTP. It failed to include detailed information relating to each project, the options, the time-frame adopted, detailed costings and funding etc, as required by the LGA 2002.
The plan therefore sits in a legal limbo or no man’s land.
It seems to me that the KDC staff have realised this fundamental omission and are now glossing over the failure to comply with due process. They are misrepresenting to elected members that the MCP has followed the statutory procedure and that it has the appropriate legal status.
The briefing document presented to the KDC elected members last week sets out details of funding that the document states is included in the current LTP. Examples are $2m for shared paths, and detailed funding for parts of the Heads to Village shared pathway, I can find no reference to any of these (except Wood Street) in the LTP.
The nub of the legal issue is that the KDC has not legally consulted with the community on the MCP via an LTP. An LTP, and all the proposals that it mandates, has to go through the special consultative procedure under section 93A of the LGA 2002. This requires the KDC to provide all the details of the MCP required by the LGA. These are broad and demanding requirements that cover the various details of the proposals, the various options considered, costings, funding and budgeting. The community can only be “consulted” when it has access to all that information.
The KDC failed to do that. It has subsequently stated that it has “consulted” with the community, but that is not correct in the legal sense of the word under the LGA. It has sought “feed-back” from the community, but without providing all the information required by the LGA to enable an informed consultation to take place.
As an example, at last week’s meeting a KDC staff member stated that feed-back from the community was that two roundabouts were preferred in the Village rather than one. That was accepted as fact by the elected members, no doubt on the understanding that KDC staff had followed the correct legal procedure. They had not.
The elected members need to get some very clear answers from the chief executive and the KDC lawyers to see how they can extricate themselves from this mess. None of the projects under the MCP can proceed until a proper legal basis is established.
Fortunately the meeting last week was only a briefing session. No decisions were made by the elected members. There is still the opportunity for correct procedure to be followed by the KDC via an amendment to the LTP. That will trigger the special consultative procedure and proper consultation with the community.
The KDC elected members might take the opportunity to reconsider whether the expenditure under the MCP and whether the extra financial burden placed on the community is appropriate in the post Covid era.
The Mangawahi Focus' report on the KDC briefing can be seen here.
SHARED PATHWAY FROM THE HEADS TO THE VILLAGE 07.07.2020
The KDC is under considerable amount of pressure from the community to make this shared pathway a priority. As a result the KDC has come up with an estimate of $16.8 million which will be allocated over the next four LTPs. That is from 2018 to 2030.
It is unclear how long construction will take.
It was revealed at the briefing meeting (see post above) that a Business Case has been submitted to NZTA for partial funding (61%). It is uncertain at this stage how the balance is to be made up. There was talk about using Reserve Contributions for the parts of the pathway that cross reserves.
I am concerned that in their eagerness to get this project on the road, the KDC staff have not given adequate consideration to what is actually required to construct a shared path over this route that meets all safety requirements. There seems to be a lack of knowledge as to how such shared paths should be constructed. The pathways are to be used by all users, pedestrians, cyclists, mobility devices, electric scooters, etc. The only consideration appears to be that the shared path is 2.4 metres wide so that 61% funding can be obtained from the NZTA. There is apparently no concern how all of those users will cope – safely - with the shared usage.
In countires like the Netherlands and Norway, where shared use paths are common, there are strict regulations relating to separate lanes, minimum widths, speed limits etc.
I am surprised that there was no mention at the briefing meeting of the recent Resilio Report on the Coastal Walkway dated May 2020.
After the Alamar Reserve fiasco, Resilio has gone back to the drawing board and come up with a more detailed consideration of the proposed Coastal walkway. The report considers each stage of the walkway in considerable detail. Relevant here is the shared use path from MAZ across the causeway to the Village.
Unlike the other stages, there is little detail about this stage (page 76). Under Community Considerations and Ecological Constraints it states that the path should be concreted for the whole way, and that “there are limited opportunities for continuing along the water’s edge”. Under Cost Considerations it warns:
- Involvement with roadway so will require more intensive design.
- Structure across main arm of the estuary will be expensive
Under Technical complexity
The Resilio Report also sets out the specifications for safe shared pathways. The diagrams on page 13 show that the minimum width of a shared pathway for multi-use – including cyclists in both directions - is 4 metres. That makes the development of this stage even more complex.
KDC staff need to take a close look at what Resilio is saying about safety, and take steps to ensure that the shared walkway that is proposed is safe and fit for purpose.
This is an important issue for the community. The KDC has fumbled the ball by failing to include details of the Mangawhai Community Plan in the 2018/2028 LTP (see post above). That will have to be remedied.
In addition, this shared path project needs very careful planning. The space for a shared path is tight along most of the route and close to the water’s edge. It may need to built in part over the water. It will need to be of adequate width for a safety barrier (being on a main arterial road), and for all users to use the path safely.
COUNCIL BRIEFING ON THE MANGAWHAI COMMUNITY PLAN 29.06.2020
The Mangawhai Community Plan was largely the work of consultants with minimum input from the community. It is what is called a “high level” plan. That means that it had very general proposals with no details how they were to be implemented, a vague time-frame, and very little about costs and the source of funding.
It had to be filled out at a later stage after consultation with the community.
Details were supposed to be included in the 2018/2028 LTP but there are only very vague references to it.
We had the unsavoury episode last year when KDC staff tried to put a cycle/walking track through the centre of Alamar Reserve, while stating, quite incorrectly, that it was what the community wanted.
After protests, the KDC went back to the drawing board and has now come up with proposals for priority works and details of how the plan is proposed to be financed. These proposals are to be put to the elected members at a briefing meeting In Mangawhai this week. The community is invited to attend.
A copy of the briefing document can be seen here. Note that the meeting starts at 10:00 am on Wednesday 1 July 2020 at the Club in Mangwhai Heads. While it is open to the public, it is strictly a briefing for the elected members by the KDC staff. So those in attendance can observe but not partake.
Some thoughts about Mangawhai Community Plan ............
KDC HAS LEARNED NOTHING 29.06.2020
Despite the rebuff from the community last year and the huge financial crisis brought about by the Covid epidemic, the KDC has come out of lock-down with its plans and proposal for the future all intact. It very reluctantly reduced the rates, slightly, but it motors on with its grandiose schemes, totally oblivious to the new world that Covid 19 has created. And, bear in mind that we still do not know the full extent of the financial carnage facing the country and our communities.
Now is the time for wise heads, for pulling back from excessive spending, for cutting back on unnecessary projects. It is a time when our elected representative should be demanding that the financial burden on ratepayers is reduced, not added to.
The Mangawhai Community Plan has not been touched by Covid. Originally it was a questionable project full of some whacky proposals, but in the new world facing us it seems to be totally out of place. The KDC consultants have not skipped a beat and with the KDC staff are corralling us into adopting proposals that we may not want, that may not be what they seem to be, and are going to cost us much more that we have been told.
This is not a free feed. So far the KDC and its consultants have been very shy of revealing the cost of the promised goodies. They are now trying to remedy that with the Briefing meeting referred to above. They will try and convince you that others like the NZTA will fund a large part of some of the proposals, but whatever they promise, you can be certain that it will, in the end, cost you personally considerably more.
You need to ask yourself if we really need the proposed Insley Street roundabouts at this particular point of time. Is there really a problem that needs fixing? Is the proposed solution going to fix that problem, or will it create more problems of its own?
The coastal walkway is a luxury and fantasy. How many of us feel it essential that every person should be able to walk or go by mobility vehicle along every inch of our coastline?
Shared pathways for pedestrian and cyclists are all the rage. Loved by consultants and keen cyclists, but only in the abstract. The reality is that the shared pathways in Mangawhai, being built at huge cost, are inviting major safety issues for the future.
I hear the elderly saying that they want safe footpaths, or mums and dads appealing for the same to ensure that their children are safe from cars. But the shared pathways being built are the minimum 2.4 metres that is funded by the NZTA. They do not have a line down the middle separating pedestrians and cyclists. They are disasters waiting to happen.
The desired minimum width for safe shared pathways is 3.5 metres with an absolute minimum of 2.5 metres. That is with a line down the middle indicating separate use for pedestrians and cyclists. Even that minimum width is questionable. Measure what width a couple walking side by side take up. (1.25 metres is a tight fit.)
In most parts of Mangawhai it is not even feasible to have 2.4 metres wide shared pathways because of the narrowness of the existing roads. But that does not concern the consultants.
World-wide experience shows that narrow shared pathways are dangerous unless they are wide, separate use is delineated, and there is a speed limit for cyclists, scooters and motorised vehicles.
Be careful what you wish for.
MANGAWHAI CENTRAL LINK 25.06.2020
Details of the Mangawahi Central consent and plan change applications can be seen here .
The Commissioners' consent for the supermarket etc can be seen here.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN FANCY WORDS 22.06.2020
In the latest Mangawhai Focus, Mayor Smith's penchant for self-promotion comes bursting through. He is highly critical of the Electricity Authority’s Transmission Pricing Methodology (TPM) and is “taking the fight against this injustice to the next level”.
Effectively, those in the North Island will be charged more for power because they are further way from the source of the power. He is quoted as saying:
Large pockets of Northland are deprived and poor and energy poverty is very real in the North. It is a major problem and people are already struggling to survive financially, particularly on the back of Covid and the severe drought we have experienced. Heaping more economic stress on people could have dire impacts on wellbeing,
Absolutely right. But, sadly, when in comes to the "deprived and the poor" in Northland and the issue of rates, Dr Smith takes a completely different tack. He ignores the incredibly high level of rates in the eastern part of the Kaipara district, the high annual increases, and the significant post Covid increases. He scrapes the barrel of poor arguments to justify increases that are simply not acceptable in the new world that we are facing.
The Mayor’s Memo in the same edition of the Mangawhai Focus contains his justification for rates increases that are even more unwarranted that the TPM increases. He suggests that the in a “rapid response” to Covid the rates were “substantially revised downwards”. In fact they were very reluctantly reduced by a mere 1.5%. And that is just an average. Those in the east will pay significantly more than the average increase.
He trots out again the overworked threat of impending roading disaster if rates are reduced:
“Any rates increase less than 3.97% would certainly mean worse roads for Kaipara people and that would be very impactful and negative. At a time when so much progress has been made that would set Kaipara back years. Council has left no stone unturned in seeking improvements of our roads, including getting extra government money from the Provincial Growth Fund as part of the Kaipara Kickstart Programme announced in Feb 2019. Now is not the time to turn away from progress that’s being made here. Instead we are taking a balanced view for our way ahead.
Absolute rubbish. A balanced view? Think of the wastage. Several million dollars spent on pursuing Bruce and Heather Rogan to recover just over $5,000 in penalties that were not legally justifiable. The failure to disclose why departing chief executive Graham Sibery was paid $240,000 as a bonus salary entitlement after just over a year’s employment in circumstances that suggest a serious mismanagement of money. The empire-building and secret decision to be part of the NRC’s Kaipara folly in building new offices. How about the plethora of staff and consultants who are soaking up millions of ratepayers’ money pursuing fantasy projects unwarranted in the post Covid era. Then there is the spectre of the secret deal done with Mangawhai Central which has all the hallmarks of another EcoCare disaster for the community.
The highlight of absurdity was reported in the Lifestyler of 9 June 2020. The KDC made a very bold move to reduce rates to respond to the chilling financial effect of Covid on the community:
To reduce rates for the 2020/2021 year, the council looked for areas where it could reduce costs,”
So what did it do? It decided to abandon the mowing of residential berms as a cost-cutting measure to "drive down rates". So residents now have to mow their own berms. If they are unable to do so, they have to pay someone to do it.
The last word belongs to those who signed the Open Letter to Kaipara District Council in the Letters to the Editor section of the Mangawhai Focus.
The letter opens with:
We, the undersigned, have major concerns about what is happening in Mangawhai as the economic effects of the pandemic roll through our community, noting that Kaipara Council rates are already a heavy burden for many local ratepayers.
Despite being advised that local economic activity is expected to reduce, Council has still voted to increase everyone’s rates by 4 per cent.
We heard about various business sectors of the local economy and what KDC is doing to support them financially, while increasing ratepayer rates. The $1.25 million council is forgiving rates – or subsidising businesses and other groups in the form of hardship packages – would go a long way toward a zero rate increase.
In summary, the letter states:
We are a concerned group of ratepayers who have had enough.
We call on Kaipara District Council to:
1. Implement no more than a zero-percentage rate increase for the 2020/2021 rating period.
2. In this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, reduce services to the essentials.
The letter is signed by: Debbie Aislabie, Joel Cayford, John Duffin, Ken Fountain, Sue Fountain, Matt Guzik, Simon Hardley, Ross Hinton, Colin Leach, Doug Lloyd, Ian Margan, Adam Minoprio, Peter Nicholas, Darryl Reardon, Kevin Stirrat, Neil Tolich.
The new rates are due to be set at the Council meeting in Dargaville on 24 June 202 at 9:30 am. Under the Local Government Act 2002 the annual plan must be adopted prior to 1 July 2020.
MANGAWHAI CENTRAL SUPERMARKET CONSENT 18.06.2020
Normal procedure took a bit of a beating in the application by Mangawhai Central Limited (MCL) for consents for a supermarket, Main Street, roads, subdivision etc. The consents all breach the rules of Chapter 16 (Estuary Estates) of the current operative District Plan. But they do accord with the proposed changes to the Plan under PPC78. But that is only a proposal. It had no status in law.
The appropriate procedure was for the MCL to apply for a plan change, and if that was successful, to apply for the resource consents based on the amended District Plan.
However, the parties – MCL and KDC – agreed to hijack the appropriate procedure by applying for the consents before the plan amendment was approved. The consents were all granted.
How did they get away with it?
The decision is located as shown below. I found it buried deep in the KDC website but access appears to be limited by the KDC.
The Commissioners stated in their decision:
10. According to the Applicant, the site has not been developed due to the very prescriptive and rigid planning provisions which required a very specific form and scale of development.
The Commissioners relied on the submissions of Mr Gordon, legal counsel for Mangawhai Central limited (MCL) that Chapter 16 of the District Plan, relating to Estuary Estates, is seriously flawed. This view was also shared by others:
11. Mr Colegrave, the Applicant’s economist, Mr Munro, the Applicant’s Urban Designer and Mr Tollemache, the Applicant’s planner, all addressed the flawed nature of the District Plan as submitted by Mr Gordon. We have relied on the evidence of those experts, as well as the Council’s experts.
Note how the representatives of the parties have been treated as independent expert witnesses whose opinions can be relied on.
The Commissioners acknowledged PPC78:
15. We note that Private Plan Change 78 – Estuary Estates, which seeks to rezone 130 ha of land contained within the Estuary Estates Structure Plan of the operative District Plan, was publicly notified on the 30 April 2020, with submissions closing on the 28 May 2020. ……. This Plan Change has no legal effect until it is approved and we have not considered it in relation to these resource consents.
Not considered, but coincidentally the consents were granted in line with the PPC78 proposals.
If you have a look at Activity Status on page 5 to 12 you will see that most of the proposals in the consent application were non-complying with the operative District Plan. The subdivision consents on page 12 were also inconsistent with Chapter 16. The consents were treated as a non-complying activity (para 18).
The Commissioners ruled that the proposal would have no more than minor effects on the environment (para 20). They also held that although the proposal was not consistent with a number of the rules in Chapter 16, the implementation of those rules would result in an unsustainable development. Also, the proposal was consistent with the District-wide policies in the District Plan associated with the natural and urban environment, or growth management.
Mr Chandra for the KDC recommended that the application be granted consent subject to a suite of conditions. Unsurprisingly, in this mutual back-scratching exercise, those conditions were accepted by MCL.
What this decision means in practice is that the hearing of PPC78 will, to a large extent, be a rubber-stamp exercise. With the KDC having endorsed every aspect of the consents, with the same Commissioners hearing the PPC78 application, and with consents having already been granted for some aspects of the development under PPC78, there is little room for the community to challenge the outcome.
Jo Gough was one of the three objectors. The Commissioners dismissed her concerns as follows:
54. With respect to Ms Gough’s submission, while we acknowledge her concerns (which are essentially that the scale and pace of development is inappropriate) we find that ‘the horse has already bolted’. Significant development is provided for in the District Plan in this locality (Chapter 16 – Estuary Estates). This has been addressed above, and as set out in the legal submissions and evidence, the Applicant is proposing a much smaller development than prescribed in the District Plan. We note that the District Plan provides 17,000m2 of retail/commercial GFA while this proposal is for 6,225m2 , consisting of 3,260m2 of retail/commercial and 2,965m2 for the supermarket.
The horse may have bolted in respect of the retail/commercial areas for which consent has now been granted, because they are smaller than the development prescribed in Chapter 16 of the District Plan. But the number of residential lots, and the capacity of the infrastructure to support them was not part of the supermarket consent process. That horse is still in the stable and open to challenge.
The maximum number of residential sites under Chapter 16 is 500. There is no limit under PPC78 although the figure of 1,000 is mentioned in one of the reports. The reality is that there will be many more. Some suggest as high as 1700. So the residential development will be much greater under PPC78. That means that the community still has the opportunity to establish that such a huge development will spoil the amenity values of Mangawhai, and that there is insufficient infrastructure to support such a development.
We have two further opportunities to make our case. First, when the KDC publishes a summary of the submissions on PPC78, the public will be invited to make further submissions on the points raised. Second, we will have the opportunity to have our submissions heard at the hearing before Commissioners. This is anticipated to be later in the year.
KDC/MCL SECRET DEAL 18.06.2020
At the KDC council meeting of 27 May 2020 the elected members considered, in public excluded, the Mangawhai Central Development Agreement Draft one. This agreement is also mentioned in various reports attached to the PPC78 and the supermarket consent. It is the sweetheart deal which sets out the favourable treatment being afforded to MCL by the KDC.
If you do the maths on the proposal, MCL is going to make a very tidy profit on the sale of so many lots and the KDC is going to score nicely from the fees and financial contributions from all of those consents. The development's effect on the community seems to be a distant consideration.
Elected members cannot reveal the details of the secret agreement because the item was public excluded. The mayor and deputy, along with the chief executive are using the ploy of claiming commercial prejudice to justify the secrecy. But we do know that a deal is being done in respect of financial contributions. This is what the Commissioners' decision on the supermarket consent had to say:
25. Mr Chandra also advised that all of the conditions and advice notes he recommended be imposed if consent was granted, had been agreed with the Applicant. These included the issues relating to financial contributions and development contributions – and that the Applicant and Council are in discussions regarding a “Private Development Agreement” to determine the level of contributions that will be payable.
The expectation is that lots in the new development will have a bulk discount when it comes to development and reserve contributions, while other private developments will still be subjected to the full treatment by the KDC gouging machine.
"PUBLIC SLAM MANGAWHAI PLAN" 18.06.2020
That is the headline in an article in the Mahurangi Matters relating to the submissions on PPC78. It appears that there were 208 submissions and 198 opposed the proposal. Andrew Guest may have sweet-talked his way through the various public meetings when Mangawhai Central was launched, but his subsequent silence and his faiure to consult or advise have made the community realise the pitfalls of the proposal. Now that he has the KDC firmly under his control, tied up with binding legal agreements (as was predicted), the good will of the community is no longer necessary.
COASTAL WALKWAY AND ALAMAR CRESCENT 17.06.2020
While the rest of us are licking our wounds following the emotional and financial outfall from covid 19, the KDC planners are back on deck launching into the coastal walkway aspect of the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) as if nothing has happened.
What seemed an unnecessary and pointless exercise then, has become even more questionable in a post-covid world.
The KDC has spent lock-down dreaming up the latest version of the MCP, but so far, only in relation to the continuous coastal walkway. During that time the KDC and its consultant Resilio have final seen sense to a certain degree. The “continuous” coastal walkway is no longer continuous. Following a feasibility study and a consideration of costs they have finally realised that having a continuous walkway along every metre of the coastline was nothing more than a pipe-dream.
The KDC has abandoned the idea of community consultation. It maintained that the original MCP of 2017 was community-led and that the final plan was based on the wishes of the community. That was never correct, but even that pretence has now disappeared. The latest document dated May 2020 is the Mangawhai Coastal Walkway - Summary Document - HIGH PRIORITY ROUTE SUMMARY. The document suggests that the new proposal for each stage of the walkway and the new priority given to each stage arise from consultation. Rather, they are the superimposed views of the consultant and the KDC.
However, the community gets its say in appointing two community representatives who live alongside each stage of the walkway to be part of the old Commissioners’ panel that was responsible for the original plan. That super-panel will make the final decisions for each stage, and that will then be opened up to the community for comment.
The new proposals and the new priorities can be seen here.
It appears that the boardwalk from Picnic Bay to the Wintle Street Reserve, across the rocks, has been abandoned.
It is unclear what is intended in Alamar Crescent including the grassed Reserve and the boat ramp by the campsite. The new proposal is short on information but the fact that it states that a resource consent will be needed suggests that the most ridiculous proposals such as building a concrete walkway ramp across the boat ramp in Alamar Crescent and bisecting the Alamar grassed reserve with a 2.4 metre wide cycle path walkway may still be planned.
The document states ominously:
Community support - The local community (primarily focused around Alamar Crescent) have demonstrated resistance to change within this section of the walkway.
The truth is that the whole of Mangawhai and the visitors to Mangawhai are opposed to the KDC’s crazy ideas. There is absolutely no need for any work to be done in Alamar Crescent. All it needs, at the very most, is a few new “wayfinding markers” to identify the route of the walkway and that is it. No need for Resilio and no need for the KDC staff who try and impose unwanted and completely unnecessary proposals on the community.
Bruce Rogan is one of the community representatives for Alamar Crescent. He is seeking input on what the community wants for the Alamar Crescent stage of the coastal walkway. It is difficult task because we do not know what the KDC is proposing. And, as usual, there is no indication of cost, and how much ratepayers will have to pay.
But is you want to have your say at this early stage, Bruce can be contacted at either 431 5413 or 02108180162 or email@example.com
WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS ON MANGAWHAI CENTRAL? 16.06.2020
In a previous post I suggested that Mangawhai Central is a done deal, a fait accompli. There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge with proposed plan change 78 still to be heard and decided, but the direction of the flow is - if I can mix metaphors - already set in concrete.
The decision whether to go ahead with Mangawhai Central, as proposed, is one of the biggest decisions facing Mangawhai since the EcoCare debacle. It is even more important because it will affect the whole character of Mangawhai as a delightful coastal township and, if allowed to proceed as proposed, is likely to turn it into and overcrowded metropolitan suburb with a lack of infrastructure. The costs to current residents to fund the infrastructure needed for the proposal have never been revealed.
If not handled properly, the development has the potential to be an even greater disaster than EcoCare.
EcoCare was all done in secret with a shonky chief executive, incompetent consultants, a devious developer, and elected members who fell asleep on the job.
Is that going to happen again?
Who is responsible for the KDC’s almost total endorsement of the proposal? Who is looking at the big picture and representing the best interests of the community?
I asked one expert: Who is making the decisions for the KDC in respect of the Mangawhai Central development? The response was quick: “Andrew Guest”.
Funny, yes, but sadly it may be not too far from the truth.
Let’s work backwards. We know it is not the elected members, at least not the councillors. Some of them did not even know that the application for a consent for the supermarket etc was advertised just before Christmas last year (in the LIfestyler but not in the Mangawhai Focus).
That only leaves the chief executive and her staff. That would mean the planning and consent staff. The chief executive herself can have little input because, I presume from her HR background, that she has no experience or expertise in assessing such a critical development.
The planning and consent staff do not look at the big picture, whether the proposal is desirable and appropriate for Mangawhai, or in the best interests of the community. They look at it strictly from a narrow RMA (Resource Management Act) point of view: Does the proposal meet the requirements of the district plan and the RMA?
Even that examination is not objective. Planning and consenting in New Zealand has become a game. The RMA has been used and abused to achieve ends that were never intended. It has become a tool for avaricious local authorities to gouge money out of their communities. There is also a power struggle that has been won by expert consultants.
In a proposal such as this, the applicant assembles an army of the top consultants in the county who bombard the local authority, and commissioners who are appointed, with a mass of reports supporting the proposal. The local authority’s staff have no chance. They know they are outgunned. They know that the reports from the applicant’s consultants will be treated as independent expert reports and will invariably be adopted. They surrender abjectly. There are a few minor rebuffs, accepted by all parties, just to pretend that the process is kosher.
So, how do we stop this happening? How do we ensure that in the hearing for plan change 78 the commissioners are obliged to consider the views of the community?
The first step is to encourage the elected members to assume the powers that are vested in them under the Local Government Act 2002 and in the KDC’s own Local Governance Statement 2020.
That document sets out the role of the elected members. In short they are the decision-makers of the council. With relevance to this issue, they are responsible for the following:
In the post below, Greg Gent suggested that the elected members have a duty of care towards the community, and that it is the responsibility of the mayor and deputy mayor to ensure that all councillors understand the nature of their role and that the opportunity for training is provided. That is clearly not happening with the present council.
In contrast, the chief executive is responsible for implementing the decisions of the elected members and providing advice to them.
The problem with the KDC is that the chief executive and her staff have usurped the role of the elected members, no doubt assisted by a dominant mayor who appears to have scant regard for the rules of good governance. In most instances the elected members are expected to simply rubber-stamp the advice from the KDC staff.
There are blatant matters of concern in the Mangawhai Central proposal that scream out for further consideration. These include the lack of a maximum number for the proposed residential sites, the lack of provision for schools, for sports fields, recreation, green areas etc. Then there are the fundamental infrastructure issues. KDC staff have stated that there is adequate capacity for wastewater treatment at present to cope with Mangawhai Central. We all know that that is not true. Likewise the capacity of the aquifer and harvested water to provide a water supply has not been established.
It would be appropriate for elected members, without the mayor, to form a sub-committee to consider not only the obvious shortcomings of the KDC staff’s conclusions, but also the broader picture of the Mangawhai Central proposal to see how it should be modified to ensure that the best interests of the community are protected. The chief executive can then be instructed accordingly.
We elected our representatives to act on our behalf. The least we can expect is that they be allowed to perform their statutory duty and support the community in ensuring that Mangawhai Central is an asset in the future development of Mangawhai, and not something like EcoCare that we will regret for generations.
RATING AND GOVERNANCE ISSUES IN THE KDC 09.06.2020
How refreshing to read a post from a KDC Councillor who understands his role as an elected representative and makes his mark in the sand over rates rises.
In Facebook posts and in the Mangawhai Focus, KDC Councillor Jonathan Larsen (the “Workboot Councillor”) has offered his views on the relationship between the elected representatives and ratepayers and his views on the incessant and unjustified KDC rates rises.
He believes that the interest of ratepayers should be paramount: “Fundamentally I believe that the Council should be run for the benefit of the ratepayers (its “shareholders”).”
There is little doubt that that our elected representatives have been sidelined by the current regime under Mayor Dr Smith, just as they were sidelined, for those who remember, by the dreadful McKerchar/Tiller regime that was responsible for the financial problems that the KDC still faces today.
Councillor Larsen’s comments bring to mind similar comments made by the Review Team in 2012 in its final report when it recommended to the Minister of Local Government that the KDC elected council be replaced with commissioners.
The Review Team consisted of Leigh Auton, Peter Tennent, with Greg Gent as chair. Greg Gent was subsequently elected Mayor and served in that role for short period. He was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to the dairy industry and corporate governance.
For those who know little about the awful period in the KDC’s history the whole document is worth a read. Many will say that it should be confined to history, but others will see that the KDC of today has many of the same issues as the KDC of 2012.
In respect of governance and how a local authority should operate, the report had this to say:
24. A fundamental element of the governance responsibilities of a Council is to set policy. In this regard a council’s role is to decide what it should be doing. At the heart of this is the dichotomy between governance and management. The elected members set the policy and this is implemented by the Council’s employees, led by its chief executive. While management provides advice and makes recommendations to elected representatives, it is the councillors’ responsibility to make decisions and to test the veracity of advice it is receiving. If decisions are made based on flawed advice, the elected members are still responsible for that decision.
The report considered that there here was failure of governance within the KDC:
26. At the heart of this failure there appears to be a poor understanding amongst councillors of what the governance role of elected representatives is. Councillors spoke to the Review Team about not having received governance training (although there is evidence that some has been provided). Others spoke about not fully understanding their governance role. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the elected representatives – the Mayor and Deputy Mayor – to ensure all councillors understand the nature of their role and that the opportunity for training is provided.
27. It is apparent that the Council’s elected representatives have relied heavily on the advice and direction of the Council’s Chief Executive. The Review Team has been told that the previous Chief Executive was very judicious in what information he presented to the elected representatives and that in many instances they were making decisions based on inadequate information. However, an elected representative is obliged to ensure they have sufficient information to make informed decisions, and as the employer of the Chief Executive can direct him/her in this regard.
28. An example of this is the financial information that has been provided to the elected representatives in the past. It is the view of the Review Team that it would not be possible for the elected representatives to discharge their fiduciary duty in relation to the Council’s financial management with the information that they received. Or put another way, it would be impossible for the elected representatives to adequately exercise their duty of care to the ratepayers of Kaipara.
In respect of the community’s relationship with the KDC:
35. Effective local government requires communities being afforded opportunities to participate in Council processes and the decisions that most affect them. This relies on there being a level of trust and connectedness between the community and its Council – both its elected representatives and officers.
36. From the Review Team’s meetings with interest groups and community representatives it concluded that in the Kaipara district there has been a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the Council and the community it serves. A community member spoke of a ‘festering climate of mistrust in both the governance arm and the management arm of the Kaipara District Council’. People spoke of a lack of transparency in the Council and said that they were not provided with timely or accurate information. The perceived failure of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors to front meetings with the community was seen as a serious problem.
As a final comment, which resounds as much today as it did in 2012:
38. Restoring this relationship between the Council and the community is fundamental to addressing the problems the Council is facing. It is arguable that no solutions to any of the Council’s problems, regardless of how technically sound they are, will be tenable unless there is buy in from the community.
See earlier posts