Council has refused to diclose the legal opinions that it has spent $36,000 on and has pleaded legal privilege. On the other hand the MRRA has released selected parts of the legal opinion of Kitt Littlejohn Barrister on the validity of the Long Term Plan and the current year's rates.
In summary the opinion states the view that:
In setting the rates for the current year the Council acted illegally, and a court is likely to reverse the decisions they made.
Excerpts from the legal opinion:
64. ……Kaipara District Council adopted a completely different (and previously un-signalled) financial strategy to deal with its significant debt levels at the 11th hour in an attempt to quell widespread criticism of the lack of information, poor financial management and scale of proposed rates increase, and in doing so, increased the total cost of the debt to the district and its ratepayers for much longer.
53. ….I am satisfied that there are significant provisions in the adopted LTP that go beyond the scope of the draft LTP and were not reasonably or fairly raised by any submission on the LTP. In my opinion, the KDC had no power to adopt these revised provisions without first proceeding through the special consultative procedure. Its decision to adopt the LTP without following that procedure is therefore in breach of the LGA. If that decision is invalid then the LTP is defective and the rates resolutions made in reliance on that document are invalid.
77. Ultimately, it is not for the ratepayers to prove that they are entitled to with-hold payment; it is for the KDC to establish that the rates are valid and were validly set.
59. To advance and “prove” the complaints against the KDC’s compliance with the LGA, the appropriate course of action is to apply for judicial review under the Judicature Amendment Act 1971 of the KDC’s decisions to notify the LTP prior to adopting an annual report, to adopt the LTP out of time and in breach of its decision making powers, and to set the 2012/2013 rates for the district on the basis of that LTP.
Full details can be seen on the MRRA website here.