Legal Eagle's posts are on a separate page here.
In other words, the financiers, the consultants, the contractors and the lawyers make all the money and the ratepayers pay all the costs, bear all the risks and fund all the losses.
MIKE SABIN STICKS OUT HIS NECK 03.02.13
The commissioners have ignored their obligations under the Minister's terms of reference and at the same time reneged on Council's commitment to ratepayers, both of which required them to consult with ratepayers on options for the illegal rates. They have stated that consultation with ratepayers does not not "add value to the governance process", and have unilaterally decided to pursue the validation option.
Mike Sabin has ignored this blatant breach of the terms of reference and the repudiation of the agreement with ratepayers - and the affront to good governance - and has surprisingly endorsed the commissioners' approach.
In an article headed MP's Corner in the Dargaville & District News of 23 January 2013 (here) he regurgitates much of the spin about validation that he has taken directly from the commissioners' propaganda releases. For instance he emphasises that the bill is to remedy "largely technical deficiencies". He also emphasises that "services have been provided" which suggests that the rates were justified.
This, of course, is absolute rubbish. The reality is that there was a total abuse of the rating process by the Council and every step of the process was littered with utter incompetence and meaningless provisions that made a mockery of legal compliance. Many of the rates were completely ultra vires, which means that Council had no right in law to levy the rates.
When the true facts are revealed, along with the incompetence and dishonesty of those involved in setting the original rates, the application to validate will be laughed out of parliament. MPs are not fools. When they are made aware of the true situation they will not only reject any validation application but they will be less than pleased with a Council and sponsoring MP that have wasted parliament's time and ratepayers monies by misleading parliament as to the background to the illegalities.
Mike Sabin is an ex policeman and it is disappointing that he did not examine the evidence before throwing his hat into the ring and endorsing the commissioners misleading propaganda.
Ratepayer Pete Grierson is less than impressed with Mike Sabin's comments and his response can be seen here in Ratepayer's Forum.
Mike Sabin can avail himself of this column if he wishes to respond.
RATE STRIKE A GREAT SUCCESS 30.01.13
There have been headlines in a few papers in the last few days about how more ratepayers are paying their rates. This is clearly the latest propaganda move by the commissioners to try and downplay the success of the rate strike.
I have yet to see any accurate figures come out of the KDC. If its figures for the rate strike are as reliable as its financial models for virtually anything it does then we can give them wide berth.
In spite of that, Council's figures state that 21,2 per cent of Mangawhai properties have not paid any rates for the current year and a further 16.4 per cent have only made part payments. That adds up to 37.6 per cent who are on a rate strike of some kind.
In my book that is a resounding success for the rate strike. Well over a third of people in Mangawhai are withholding rates. And that is in spite of all the pressure that has been exerted on them by the commissioners.
Ratepayers are sending a message loud and clear to the government that what is happening in Kaipara is totally unacceptable, that the commissioners are not doing their job, and that there has to be proper dialogue with ratepayers if Kaipara is going to survive.
In the next couple of months the draft annual plan will be out and ratepayers will see for themselves the full horror of the new Rates Bomb. Most households in Mangawhai in particular will have at least $2,000 added to their rates for the next rating year starting on 1 July. It will be beyond the pocket of many to pay.
John Robertson may be the master of spin, and able to convince many that black is actually white, but there is nothing he can do to disguise the reality of a massive and unsustainable rates rise arriving in the letter box.
Another run of Rate Strike notices is being ordered ready for the rush when the new Rates Bomb hits.
According to an article by Mike Barrington in the Northern Advocate, commissioner Colin Dale is now known as the "Community Champion" because of all his great work on community issues. Does the name reflect the regard of an appreciative community? Scarcely. According to the story, the name was bestowed on him by his fellow commissioners.
While he was working on commmunity issues he could have taken the time to consult with ratepayers about the options for dealing with the illegal rates, as was promised. He might then have earned the title of Champ.
AUDIT NZ GIVEN THE BOOT 30.01.13
It is interesting that calls to replace Audit NZ have been ignored, but now the OAG inquiry is well under way action has finally been taken.
Has the inquiry discovered something that we should know about?
AUDITOR GENERAL INQUIRY 30.01.13
Originally, it had been anticipated that the report from the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) into its Inquiry into the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme might be able to be released by the end of the 2012 calendar year. This has not been achieved and it is understood that there is still a reasonable level of work to be completed before the Inquiry process will be completed and the report is able to be released.
The inquiry was announced on 28 Februrary 2012, so it is almost a year old. The rumour mill suggests that the report is being delayed to give the commissioners a chance to beat the Kaipara ratepayers into submision. When the report does emerge it will tell a sorry story of incompetence, but no action will be taken because of the need to "move on". But no doubt the experience will provide valuable lessons for the future.
In short those responsible for the Kaipara rort will get off scot free and the poor ratepayers will have their role as the scapegoats for local government incompetence reconfirmed.
ROBERTSON REPLIES 30.01.13
Mr Robertson is proving to be the match of ex Mayor Tiller when it comes to fancy footwork and deflecting questions.
In response to the claim that the commissioners breached the requirement in the Minister's terms of reference that they work with the Kaipara community and ratepayers to identify the options, he advises:
"We have considered these options in depth, including with members of the community and representatives of ratepayer groups".
Sounds good but I have yet to find anyone that has been consulted. Perhaps John Robertson would like to enlighten us and let us have a list of those he consulted.
In respect of the commitment to set up focus groups with ratepayers to discuss the options, he advised that it had been rescinded by the commissioners because he did not believe that it would "add value to the governance process".
Those are the words of the man entrusted with getting Kaipara back on the road and mending relations with ratepayers.
We are learning about this man very quickly. Any problem is not the commissioners' problem, but the responsibility of the previous Council. And now commitments to consult with ratepayers do not "add value to the governance process".
Can you feel the hairs standing out on the back of your neck?
WHY WAS JACK PUSHED? 25.01.13
ROBERTSON RUNS FOR COVER 25.01.13
This side-stepping of the commissioners' clear responsibilities does not sit well with Legal Eagle and he calls for the Minister to replace the commissioners. He suggests that if the commisioners remain in office then they will continue to alienate ratepayers and the financial situation will get worse. Sooner or later the banks will be forced to pull the plug on the KDC.
PETER BULL AGAIN 25.01.13
MORE ON MCKERCHAR 25.01.13
SUE THE AUDITOR, THE COUNCILLORS, THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THE CONSULTANTS AND THE LAWYERS ? 25.01.13
The full article can be seen here.
A BAD SMELL COMING FROM KAIPARA 23.01.13
CHRIS TREMAIN THE NEW MINISTER 23.01.12
EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT 23.01.12
If he terminated the agreement himself then he was not entitled to any monetary settlement. It therefore appears that Council wanted him to go and negotiated a settlement figure to persuade him to quit.
The questions therefore follow:
Why did Council want Jack to go?
Why did Council not terminate his employment without a monetary settlement, if they had just cause?
Why did Council allow Jack to work out his notice when he could have required to leave immediately?
ADVOCATE'S COMMENTS 23.01.13
One also wonders what happened to Jack McKerchar's stated reasons for quitting, namely health reasons. Not a dicky bird about that in the agreement. That suggest that it played no part in the resignation and was just another smokescreen created by the parties to hide the truth.
But what is the truth? The disclosure of the details of the Deed raises more questions than it answers. Jack McKerchar ended his letter to accompany the release of the Deed with the words:
"I trust this will be the end of the matter."
Jack must be very naive or have his head in the clouds if he thinks that his letter will draw down a veil on this matter. This is a veritable can of worms and the worms are going to squirm for a long time until the truth comes out.
In a way it epitomises everything that has gone wrong in Kaipara over the years. Total incompetence, an arrogant attitude towards legal compliance, and covering up all the defects.and problems with lies and smokescreens.
MCKERCHAR DEED 23.01.13
MCKERCHAR DOCUMENTS RELEASED 22.01.13
Any comments to:firstname.lastname@example.org
A VIEW FROM THE WEST 21.01.13
The issues raised are important because they reflect the views of many ratepayers west of State Highway 1. They consider that ratepayers in Mangawhai should bear the cost of their inflated sewerage scheme and have little sympathy for the rate strike.
Legal Eagle comments on the issues here.
DEAR MINISTER 20.01.13
JACK'S BIG SECRET 17.01.13
There was a lot of drama just before Christmas. It was like the final episode of Shortland Street at the end of a season with everything up in the air. Would Steve decide to reveal the document? Would Jack's threat to injunct be carried out? Would Steve and the commissioners call his bluff? Would the injunction go before the tribunal, and, if so, what would it decide? And, finally, what would the dastardly document reveal?
So far in the new year there have been no further developments, at least that we know about.
Looking back on it all I get the distinct impression that this whole drama has been orchestrated by the Council to achieve an outcome that I find hard to fathom.........(continued here - scroll down)
MISLEADING RATEPAYERS 16.01.13
Legal Eagle asks these questions (here -scroll down) and wonders why the SFO failed to investigate the Kaipara District Council when it was presented with clear evidence of irregularities that could indicate fraud.
He also questions, yet again, the role of the Auditor-General in the whole Kaipara debacle The Auditor-General was the auditor for the Council yet failed to pick up any of the procedural, legal and financial irregularities that have cost the ratepayers of the District so dearly. And yet it is the same Auditor-General that is holding an inquiry into the fiasco and at the same time investigating the competence of its own audit.
But has he got it completely wrong and is he simply regurgitating the spin of the commissioners? Is it Peter Bull who has been "sucked in"?
Legal Eagle (here) counters Peter Bull's claims and introduces some facts to dispel all the spin.
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING 09.01.13
The first mention of the K word was in yesterday's Herald in the summer quiz. Let's see how good you are:
5. John Robertson, Richard Booth, Colin Dale and Peter Winder run which local body?
Ten out of ten if you guesssed Kaipara. And eleven out of ten if you queried the word "run"and asked if that word is appropriate, especially as the commissioners are now operating outside their terms of reference imposed pursuant to the LGA and refusing to consult with the natives.
The second mention is in today's Sideswipe and relates to to three poles that were erected to display flags for the Rugby World Cup by the Whangarei Council at Langs Beach at a cost of $39,000, but sadly the work was not completed until after the World Cup finished. Over a year later the poles are still there. A protest banner is now flying from the poles with the following message:
RATEPAYERS' FORUM 04.01.13
FIRST TERM REPORT CARD 03.01.13
The commissioners have been given a dismal 0/10 which reflects their failure to comply with the terms of reference, and especially their failure to engage with and consult with the community. In failing to consult with ratepayers on options to resolve the illegal rates debacle the commissioners have not only broken trust with ratepayers but have also breached their terms of reference.
A SMALL BUT SIGNIFICANT VICTORY 23.12.12
Legal Eagle reflects here on the cost to the community of putting such errors right. He also states that Council is refusing to refund the illegal rates for previous years even though Council knows that they are illegal. He reiterates his view that this is basic theft.
He also rejects the idea that ratepayers should wear the validation bill, and examines the liability of those who should be held responsible for the costs of validation or other remedial action.
All done without any consultation, of course.
Legal Eagle's views on this matter can be seen here.
I wonder how local MP Mike Sabin, an enthusaiastic supporter of the commissioners, feels about the commissioners unilaterally repudiating existing agreements with ratepayers and ignoring the Minister's clear terms of reference.
Mike, I offer you free space to comment on the matter.
COMPLAINT TO OMBUDSMAN 23.12.12
GREG GENT SUPPORTS VALIDATION WITHOUT CONSULTATION 22.12.12
His letter and the comments of Legal Eagle can be seen here.
JACK ATTACK 21.12.12
The commissioners have indicated that they consider it in the best interests of Council to release details of the package and have left it to Chief Executive Steve Ruru to make the final decision.
The threat of an injunction by the former Chief Executive perhaps illustrates that the Deed of Settlement between the parties contains information that could be damaging to the former Chief Executive.
Council will no doubt take legal advice on the matter. Let us hope that it calls McKerchar's bluff and publishes the secret details.
This is a skeleton that must be allowed to leave the cupboard.
MORE BLUFF AND BLUSTER 21.12.12
In the press release of 5 December the commissioners appeared to be targeting rate strikers when they advised:
Kaipara District Council has advised more than 400 ratepayers it will take action to recover unpaid rates unless payment is received by 18 December 2012.
The letter has gone to most ratepayers who have rates owing from prior to the 2012/2013 year. These arrears amount to nearly $450,000.
In other words anyone who had not paid rates prior to the current 2012/2013 rating year would receive a letter.
That has no happened.
Gary Calhoun of the MRRA has now received clarification of the situation from Chief Executive Steve Ruru.
There are two letters. One requesting payment (which all those who have withheld rates have received), and the other threatening legal action if payment is not received.
According to Steve Ruru the latter letter is only sent to those "with long outstanding arrears who are not affected by the irregular rates issues".
In other words those who are on rate strike because of "irregularities" over the past 6 years have not received a letter.
Two important points arise from this.
First the commissioners misrepresented the situation and made it sound as if rate strikers were being targeted.
Second, Council has effectively acknowledged that it does not have a snowball's chance in hell of taking legal action against anyone for non-payment of rates where there are acknowledged "irregularities". And that applies to all rates over the past six years.
If you are a rate striker IGNORE ANY LETTER YOU RECEIVE.
RATEPAYERS' VIEWS ON VALIDATION 21.12.12
Please let us have your views on this crucial matter. Send to email@example.com and indicate the name that your post is to be go under.
COMMISSIONERS ISSUE DECREE 19.12.12
The Minister specifically instructed the commissioners to consult with the community before making any decisions. Clearly John Robertson and his cohorts do not believe they are bound by the Minister' terms of reference. Rather than complying with his obligations to "engage" with the community he is acting more like some mediaeval despot ruling by decree - now known as a "press release".
COMMISSIONERS ADMIT THAT RATES ARE INVALID 19.12.12
It is the same with the development contributions. Greg Gent's review team found that that were irregularities there as well but the commissioners and Steve Ruru have kept that problem well and truly hidden under their famous carpet.
The commissioners have confirmed that they are going to seek a local bill to validate all the illegalities of Jack McKerchar and Neil Tiller, so that ratepayers can be dumped with all the liabilities and illegal debts, and so that those who are truly responsible can escape scot free. Such an act is like the government validating all the illegal excesses of the finance companies, exonerating the culpable directors involved, and ensuring that all the investors carried the blame and the losses.
I am not given to hyperbole but if the commissioners succeeded in their pursuit of a local bill then it would be one of the biggest injustices ever visited on the people of New Zealand by their government.
But that is not going to happen. The people of New Zealand are not going to allow these cowboys to get away with such contemptuous treatment of the rule of law and a total betrayal of the trust which ratepayers and taxpayers have placed in them. To allow them to succeed would be allow New Zealand to descend to the level of Zimbabwe under Mugabe.
If such a litany of illegalities committed by the Council can be ignored and swept away by parliament and all responsibility negated, then every citizen in this country will be left wondering why the rest of us are obliged to obey the law. That is when the rule of law starts crumbling and we start the decline into a third-world country.
It's a slippery slope and we are well on the way.
UP THE CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE 19.12.12
And given that the chances of successfully validating the rates are minimal, and the process could take several years, we are heading for more financial mayhem in the future.
The situation is now so bad that every ratepayer should consider joining the rate strike. The new ruling regime is proving itself to be as incompetent as the McKerchar/Tiller/Geange regime and looks likely to complete what the former regime started, and that is the total destruction of Kaipara as a viable entity. Any monies paid to Council will, as it has done in the past, simply go down the gurgler to places unknown.
The only possible salvation is the appointment of a new Minister in the new year who can see the reality of the situation and do something about it. There is still an amazing well of good will in the community to work with the Council for the betterment of the district. But ratepayers are absolutley united in their stance that they are not going to be dumped with the illegal debt and the rogues who are responsible for it must be made to pay.
If government accepts that, and works hand in hand with the ratepayers, then the problems of Kaipara could be resolved. If...............
RATEPAYERS FORUM 19.12.12
Chris Sellars (Worzel) also has his own delightful spin on the situation with his retaliatory letter to Council (here).
MRRA LEGAL OPINION 17.12.12
This will come as great comfort to those ratepayers who are holding out.
RESPONSE TO COUNCIL 17.12.12
Ratepayers should remain staunch, and not pay the rates. The announcement that Council will seek to validate the rates is a clear acknowledgement that the rates are illegal.
The draft letter can be seen here.
BICKERS REPORTS 17.12.12
Nothing has emerged from the Council's fortress about his matter. Does anyone have any information?
THREATS VAPOURISED? 17.12.12
We asked for those who received the letter to let us know and send a copy. So far, we have received nothing. Some of those with the biggest amounts outstanding confirm that they have received no such letter.
Certainly there has been a letter advising of the amount outstanding and a request to make arrangements for payment (which should be ignored) but no threatening letter.
Can anyone help?
DEAR JOHN 15.12.12
The proposal will struggle to get off the ground. Previous Minister Nick Smith said that he would not support such a process if incompetence or deceit were involved. There was incompetence in spades, but, more that that, there was a total and utter disregard for the requirements of the legislation.
David Carter,the current Minister, will not be so picky. He is a reluctant Minister of Local Government and sees Kaipara as an irrelevant sideshow. In any case he may well be appointed Speaker in the next few months and he can pass on the Kaipara shambles to someone else.
The problem that Council faces is that many of the rates were ultra vires. The Council had no power to charge them in the first place. The Commissioners may suggest that the rates were due an payable for the services rendered but in many cases that is not true. They charged rates for two years for the EcoCare scheme when it was not even functional. They had no legal right to do that. Parliament is scarcely going to validate what was basically theft.
The Tata Beach rates validation in Nelson Bays is a lot simpler than the KDC problems but that has been dragging on for years and is still not resolved.
The hapless local MP, Mike Sabin, has been dragooned into sponsoring the bill, no doubt on instructions from Wellington. He has been put through an indoctrination course by the commissioners, the Department of Internal Affairs wallahs and no doubt the government. He now believes that the validating bill is the only solution.
Legal Eagle believes (here) that the failure of the commissioners to consult with the community on the validating bill is the last nail in John Robertson's coffin. He has a chequered career, with many failures, and his cameo performance at Kaipara is another failure to add to his CV.
The Minster needs to deliver him a "Dear John" letter before he totally destroys the relationship between Council and the community.
RATEPAYER'S FORUM 14.12.12
They make the point that ratepayers should only have to pay for the services provided by Council. They should not have to pay for the incompetence of Council in running its affairs, or incurring illegal debts.
MCKERCHAR SECRETS TO BE REVEALED? 12.12.12
Legal Eagle and many others have applied for the release of the document. Council has so far refused to do so. Legal Eagle appealed to the Ombudsman but the refusal was upheld by her Office.
The full report from the current Chief Executive on the matter can be seen here at page 188.
The report mentions that the Chief Executive declined all requests for the Deed to be released publicly. The report then goes on:
It is understood from subsequent email correspondence and publicity in the media that a complaint was subsequently made about the refusal to release the Deed. It is understood that the Ombudsman did not uphold the complaint and confirmed the Chief Executive's decision not to release the report.
Council has now received further requests for information relating to the departure of the former Chief Executive and the Deed of Settlement.
Since the original requests were received the Chief Executive has received information which would suggest that non-disclosure of information included in the Deed of Settlement with the former Chief Executive is affecting the ability of the Commissioners to effectively engage with the public in addressing the strategic issues affecting the Council
According to the report, the decision to release or not is one solely for the current Chief Executive but the evidence appears to be that it is in the public interests to release the details because the failure to do so is inhibiting the efforts of the commissioners to engage with the community.
The report recommends that the commissioners advise the Chief Executive of their feelings on the matter, and the Chief Executive will then make his decision.
Ratepayers are quite justified in being suspicious of what went on between the former Chief Executive and Council when the Deed was signed. There are all sorts of rumours circulating and little credence is given to the official line that the former Chief Executive resigned for health reasons.
The fact that the Chief Executive was paid $240,000 as a sweetener suggests that this was not a normal resignation. You don't get that sort of money when you resign for reasons of ill health.
Likewise, if the real reason for one's resignation is ill health then there is no need to sign a Deed between the parties.
The fact that it is called a Deed of Settlement suggests that it was in settlement of outstanding legal matters between the parties and no doubt this included a confidentiality clause.
Besides the obvious question as to the true reason for the termination of the Chief Executive's employment, there are other questions that need answering. Was the Deed prepared by solicitors, or was it an amateurish job drafted by the Mayor or someone else without legal advice? Did Council have the power to come to the arrangement, and to pay out that sum of money, and if not, are the Councillors going to be made to refund it?
With a bit of luck, all will be revealed by Christmas and it will be something to talk about over the Christmas turkey.
One skeleton climbs half way out of the cupboard. At least it's a start.
MORE THREATS FROM THE COMMISSIONERS 12.12.12
Could anyone who has received such a letter please email a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. Legal Eagle is an "habitual offender" with nearly $13,000 owing but has not received a letter.
Council does not have the legal grounds to take anyone to court and the letter is the usual bluff and bluster from John Robertson. Bullying ratepayers with baseless legal threats appears to be his only way of "engaging with the community".
Ratepayers only have a legal obligation to pay rates under the Rating Act if the Council assesses their liability accurately and delivers an invoice that shows the valid rates that are payable by the ratepayer.
Council has acknowledged that many of the rates are invalid, and has several legal opinions to prove it, but has failed to indicate which ones. It should have sorted out the bad from the good and then issued new assessments and invoices.
Its attempt to charge rates that are both valid and invalid would be laughed out of court. Council has to prove that the rates are valid before any court order can be made. Guesses, and promises to fix the mess up later down the track, would not be well received by the court.
Once we get a copy of the letter, Legal Eagle will be drafting a standard letter that affected non-ratepayers can use as a reply to Council.
If you have any doubt about the illegality of those rates then note that Council has just announced that it is going to introduce a local bill through parliament to validate all the illegal rates. That is another acknowledgement by Council that the rates are illegal. You can only validate something that is invalid.
Note also that in the validation process the rates remain invalid until they have been validated by parliament. Even if pigs learnt to fly and Council succeeded, the process could take years.
The road to validation is fraught with difficulties and the chances of Council succeeding are minimal. Its incompetence was so great and given its stubborn refusal to listen to legal advice, it is unlikely that MPs, who have a free vote, will agree to the validation of defects arising from sheer incompetence and an arrogant disregard fro the rights of ratepayers.
Another issue that council is glossing over is that the majority of the illegal rates were ultra vires because Council had no power to charge such rates. This applies to all the "unit of demand" charges which were totally outside the Rating Act, and the EcoCare targeted rates for the first two years. Council had no power to charge any rates for those years because the sewerage service was not up and running as at 1 July in each of those years, as required by the legislation.
Parliament is not going to validate something that is completely ultra vires so those rates will never be validated.
Non-ratepayers should remain staunch and not give into threats. Hopefully the letter of response will be available in a couple of days.
More on the validation and local bill later.
SUCCCESSFUL JUDICIAL REVIEW 12.12.12.
In a case that has some similarities to the proposed legal action against the Kaipara Council, Labour's associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the Minister is making a habit of "riding roughshod over communities' concerns",
Support for the school's action came from far and wide (here)
If one small school can fight the government and win then it should provide resolve to Kaipara ratepayers in their fight for justice against the KDC and the government.
THE LITTLEJOHN OPINION 11.12.12
In a report in the NZ Herald (here) Andrew Laxon considers some of the comments in the opinion.
This of course is in direct contrast with advice from commissioner John
Council has recently spent an unbudgeted $36,000 on legal advice, presumably related to the same issue, but has refused to make the advice public. Many will draw the conclusion that the refusal to disclose the legal advice is because it confirms that Council is acting illegally.
It is quite staggering that all those who work in the Dargaville offices of the KDC get infected with the same inability to comply with the law and to deal with ratepayers in an open and transparent manner.
He believes the the inquiry is already compromised without a word being written.
RATEPAYERS FORUM 10.12.12
WHO IS LIABLE FOR THE ILLEGAL DEBT? 09.12.12
This article is important for those who mistakenly believe that ratepayers automatically have to pay for a council's legal excesses.
Given the government's insistence on dumping the debt on ratepayers, it seems inevitable that ratepayers will have to apply to the court to ensure that those who are truly responsible for the debt are held legally liable.
EAGLE GETS GONG 08.12.12
The citation was as follows:
The important thing about the award is that it recognises the validity and legitimacy of our campaign against the KDC and central government.
In his acceptance speech Legal Eagle stated that the award was received on behalf of all the other "warriors" who were fighting the KDC, and for the people of Kaipara.
He also added that the fight would continue until fairness, accountability and the rule of law were returned to Kaipara.
Selected recipients of the Local Hero Medal go into the finals of the New Zealand Local Hero for 2013 which will be held in February next year.
Legal Eagle comments that it would have been ironic if the ceremony had been held in Dargaville and commissioner John Roberston had been obliged to award the medal.
Legal Eagle also notes that there was an outpouring of support from those present at the awards for our stand (which is widely recognised) with encouragement to stick to our guns and see it through until justice prevails.
JOHN ROBERTSON COMMISSIONER FOR PROPAGANDA 08.12.12
MORE UNBUDGETED EXPENSE 06.12.12
Remember that the previous Chief Executive spent a King's ransom (out of ratepayers' money) on legal opinions on the validity of the EcoCare rates to counter the submissions of Legal Eagle. Those opinions proved to be totally self-serving and completely misrepresented the law. They were all proved to be wrong by a very concise and cheap legal opinion from Jonathan Salter.
Legal Eagle and others applied for copies of the new opinions under the Official Information Act but access has been denied by Steve Ruru, no doubt under instructions from his bosses. In spite of the "engaging with the community" comments of John Roberston he is doing an amazingly good impersonation of Jack McKerchar. History is being repeated with uncanny accuracy.
One can only presume that the triumvirate will not release the legal opinions because they confirm the view of Legal Eagle and many others that the LTP and the rates for the current year are completely illegal. This will be confirmed very soon by the legal opinion of Kit Littlejohn, Barrister, who has been instructed by the MRRA.
It will be fascinating to see what bluff and bluster will be emitted by John Roberston as he plays the part of King Canute and tries to repel the advancing tide of legal opinions with his meaningless rhetoric.
The commissioners are looking more and more like puppets mouthing baseless slogans and all those who are not on rate strike should hold back their payments. That is unless you enjoy pouring your money into an illegal bottomless pit.
Legal Eagle says that Council now advises that he and his wife owe nearly $13,000 in rate arrears. That of course is incorrect because much of that amount is for illegal levies that are not classed as "rates" as defined by the Rating Act. For that very reason Council will not issue legal proceedings to recover the monies.
Non payment of rates is something that none of us like but when we know that our rates are being used to pay illegal debts incurred by a bunch of bumbling incompetents operating outside the law, and which in law are not our responsibility, then we have to make a stand.
RADIO NZ CHECKPOINT 04.12.12
Comments can be heard from the MRRA's Bruce Rogan and KCRA's Ron Manderson.
.BARRISTER DAMNS KAIPARA RATE DECISION 04.12.1
That will be good news for those detemined ratepayers who have had the courage to defy local and central government and refuse to pay rates that are clearly illegal.
No doubt John Key's government will be calling in the government lawyers to see how they can bolster the faultering puppet government in Dargaville and stitch up Kaipara ratepayers for the illegal debt incurred by Council. If Kaipara succumbs to the reinstatement of the rule of law.then it will create a tidal wave that will sweep through local government in New Zealand.
So far the rebels have been absolutely spot on with their assessment of the legal situation. Jonathan Salter of Simpson Grierson (the Council's own lawyer) has confirmed the illegality of all of the EcoCare rates (and others as well) and now Barrister Kit Littlejohn has advised that he considers that the court would hold that the new LTP is illegal and the current year's rates are therefore also illegal.
All the Council can come up with are tired old cliches that totally misrepresent the factual situation and the legal situation, and the usual bullying of the masses for political ends and to placate the banks. There is an awful lot of puffery and smoke but very little else. It looks as if the government's legal armoury cupboard is very bare. Kaipara is a Waterloo waiting to happen. The question is, who is going to play the part of Napoleon. The Minister and John Key are both auditioning for the role.
At the end of the same article under Council Reports Available Joel Cayford refers to the secret files of Council that were made available a year ago. These show all the secret resolutions of Council relating to EcoCare over six years that were hidden from ratepayers. They show how Council illegally agreed to extend the EcoCare scheme and double the debt totally in breach of the requirements of the LGA. It was the revelation of these secret reports and resolutions that triggered Legal Eagle's submissions to Council, the Minister and the Auditor-General to the effect that the decision to extend EcoCare and increase the debt was illegal, and resulted in the current Auditor-General's inquiry into the EcoCare scheme.
MANGAWHAI FIGHT OR CAPITAL FLIGHT 04.12.12
Sure the Government sacked the Council. But the Long Term Plan to rate the crap out of Mangawhai Ratepayers has stayed firmly in place, and appointed Commissioners are simply doing what Government told them to do: "..
No doubt when this farce finally comes to an end and normality is restored to Kaipara the commissioners will plead in their own defence that they were only following orders from the top. We have heard that all before.
LATEST FROM THE KCRA 04.12.12
The commissioners have failed "to engage with the community", as promised, and it is clear that they are simply carrying our their instructions from central government to collect the rates so that the banks can be placated. Any consideration of the welfare of ratepayers, concerns about their ability to pay the massive increases in rates, and the inevitable destruction of the financial base of the District are clearly irrelevant considerations.
THE EAGLE HAS RETURNED 03.12 2012
Legal Eagle is preparing a detailed response to the commissioners letter, but urges all ratepayers to ignore the requests from the commissioners and NOT TO PAY ANY FURTHER RATES.
THIS REQUEST IS REINFORCED BY THE LEGAL OPINION JUST OBTAINED BY THE MRRA TO THE EFFECT THAT THE LONG TERM PLAN, AND THEREFORE THE RATES FOR THE CURRENT YEAR, ARE INVALID.
More of that later.
We would also like to hear comments from ratepayers about the commissioners' letter.
So please put pen to paper and let us know what you think of the comments from the commmissioners.
Please advise the name that your response is to go under (real name or pseudonym)
JOEL CAYFORD SUMS IT UP 27.10.12
There are many company directors in jail for lesser offences. Ratepayers wondering whether to pay any further rates really need to consider the fact they they are victims of a very serious rort that John Key and his government would prefer to ignore.
The blog warns of massive increases in rates for the future including the capital charges that are being delayed until next year. The lower than anticipated rise for this year (though massive by any other standard) is just the sweetener to suck ratepayers in. As Joel Cayford says about ratepayers;
"They have been given little warning that KDC now wants more. Much, much more."
It is also mind-boggling how the Office of the Auditor-General, which audited Council's accounts and plans (through Audit NZ), failed to pick up all the discrepancies and the subterfuge for so many years.
The OAG is holding an inquiry into its own competence in carrying out the
CHAIR SAYS NO TO BRUCE 27.10.12
John Robertson's refusal is strange given his much vaunted "well-engaged community". So far we have seen little sign of engagement especially east of State Highway One.
COUNCIL HAS TO PROVE THE RATES ARE LEGAL 27.10.12
Contrary to what the commissioners are saying, the legal burden is on the Council to prove that the rates are legal and payable.
Take a look at the case of Christopher Gilbert in the Sunday Star Times (here) who has been battling a government department for 16 years and finally the "stubborn bastard" has won the day.
Those wondering whether to pay their rates should note that the behaviour of the government and local councils is not always in compliance with the law. And, with a bit of mongrel and doggedness, one single citizen can defeat the government.
If several thousand ratepayers dig their toes in and withhold rates then, unlike Christopher Gilbert, we will not have to battle for 16 years. The message will go straight and clear to Wellington that a continuation of the illegalities of the past will not be tolerated by the people of Kaipara.
INACTION, ILLEGALITIES AND FAILURES 22.10.12
Actions, Innovations and Successes
It's a bit rich really given the KDC's track record as perhaps the worst local authority in NZ. It should be replaced with something closer to the truth. Perhaps:
Inaction, Illegalities and Failures
WHO GUARDS THE GUARDS? 22.10.12
Effectively it means : "Who will ensure that the watchdogs do their jobs properly?"
That is a question that is be increasingly asked as watchdogs fail to perform the supervisory role for which they were appointed.
"Regulatory capture" is a modern phenomenon where "a state regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating" (Wikipedia).
Even now under the commissioners supposedly new regime we have a situation where the Kaipara Council has clearly breached the requirements of the Local Government Act (LGA) by adopting a long term plan outside the statutory deadline, and yet the watchdogs - the OAG, the Minister and the government - are all maintaining that the strict requirements of the law can be ignored or conveniently bent because that is what they have been doing for years, and getting away with it.
The argument that they advance is that to comply with the strict requirements of the LGA law would create massive procedural problems for individual councils and the government. Bending or ignoring the law therefore best suits the interests of local government and the ruling powers.
The rule of law, and the principles of justice, supposedly protected in the NZ Bill Of Rights, and the interests of the ratepayers that should be protected by strict adherence to the legislation, become sacrificial lambs, and of no relevance.
The OAG has been "captured" by the local government industry and, rather than performing its role as watchdog and enforcing the law for the benefit of the ratepayers, it grants incredible latitude to local authorities to flout the law at will. All for the benefit of the "system" and to the detriment of the best interests of ratepayers.
The whole situation becomes farcical:
* The OAG accepts that it may have failed in its duties as auditor, so it decides to hold an inquiry into itself.
* John Robertson, the chair of the Kaipara commissioners, states that the commissioners can ignore the law because those same provisions have been breached in the past and no action has been taken by the regulatory authorities. In his view that clearly makes an illegal action legal.
In his article in the NZ Herald (here) Damien Grant looks at the role of statutory trustees and their dismal record in supervising the finance companies as they pillaged the savings of New Zealanders over many years, and yet are still allowed to operate.
The rather lax attitude of the watchdogs towards complying with legislation is not one that is shared by the courts. The courts are not concerned with practicalities, or political agendas. They are only concerned with applying the law as it is written. It is their role to keep local authorities honest and ensure that they comply with the strict requirements of the law.
Sadly the courts are well out of reach of the average New Zealanders and that is why the regulatory authorities are so cocky about their legal non-compliance. But it is a dangerous game to play. By acting illegally the commissioners are heading down a very long no exit road. Sooner or later ratepayers are going to be obliged to file proceedings to bring a halt to the illegalities.
And when it happens It will be an awfully long way back along that no exit road for the commissioners, for the Minister and for the government.
A SWINDLE IS A SWINDLE 19.10.12
Fraudster Jacqui Bradley - who swindled 28 investors out of around $15.5 million dollars - has been sentenced to seven years and five months in jail.
The 61-year-old was found guilty of 75 fraud-related charges in the Auckland District Court last month for fleecing money from clients at her business, B'On Financial Services.
Can anyone tell me what is the difference between the Councillors and staff of the KDC, in respect of EcoCare, and Jaqui Bradley?
Sure, Jaqui Bradley only swindled her clients out of $15.5 million, whereas the KDC was much more. But otherwise the two cases were similar. The KDC misrepresented the true cost of the investment in a sewerage system, failed to comply with legal requirements, lied to ratepayers, and kept the details secret for several years.
Ratepayers have been swindled out of many tens of thousands of dollars and all they have to show for it is a second-rate sewerage system that is not worth a fraction of what it cost.
However, there is a major difference. In the Bradley case a government agency has prosecuted Bradley and held her liable for her actions.
In the KDC case the government and its agencies are doing all they can to dump responsibility on the innocent victims of the swindle (the ratepayers) and are allowing those actually responsible for the swindle to escape without any liability.
What a strange world we live in.
Ratepayers of Kaipara will no doubt be wondering why the normal rules of legal liability do not apply to local government.
LEGAL OPINION? PUT UP OR SHUT UP 19.10.12
If that is the case then it is surprising that he has not made the opinion available to ratepayers as part of his vaunted "engagement with the community".
Or is he doing a Jack McKerchar, saying he has a legal opinion to support his stance when he has nothing of the sort, or is misrepresenting what it actually says..
Legal Eagle has bounced the question of the validity of the LTP around legal circles and the unanimous opinion is that the LTP and the rates are invalid. Clear cut. No dispute. So it would be very interesting to see what new legal light the commisioners' own lawyers could shed on this very simple legal question.
It might be a good idea to front up with the opinion now before the commissioners head too far down the track of illegality. To encourage them to be open Legal Eagle has applied for the copy of the legal opinion under the Official Information Act.
Don't hold your breath.
WE WANT HONESTY AND INTEGRITY - NOT SPIN 19.10.12
Legal Eagle suggests that the commissioners do not have the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience to resolve Council's legal and financial problems and suggests what needs to be done. (here)
COMMISSIONERS' INTEGRITY 17.10.12
What did Kaipara ratepayers do to deserve such bad luck: two fundamentally flawed regimes? The first riddled with incompetence but backed by the government and the watchdogs, and the new one operating completely illegally with the blessing of John Key's government.
I can understand the three dyed-in-the-wool local government commissioners ignoring the fact that the long term plan and the rates are completely invalid - illegality is what local government in NZ is based on - but I wonder how farmer Richard Booth feels about the situation. He doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that, in spite of all the propaganda put out by his fellow commissioners, the Department of Internal Affairs and the MInister, the simple fact is that the commissioners are acting outside the law because the LTP is invalid.
Council failed to adopt it within the statutory time frame and the plan is therefore invalid. The law is as clear as a bell and there is absolutely no doubt. Everyone knows that but, like the Emperor's new clothes, those who are manipulating the ratepayers believe that they can get away with their illegal actions if they steadfastly ignore the issue.
How does Richard Booth feel about that? Why not get a legal opinion? It would take about 2 minutes for the Crown Law Office to agree that the long term plan is illegal. But that would immediately destroy the credibility of the commissioners, the Minister and the Department of Internal Affairs. Better to keep up the bullshit and hope the ratepayers are gullible.
It is interesting that we are watching the Dotcom saga unfolding with the Prime Minister going into contortions to avoid the egg sticking to his own face for the government's illegal actions. The KDC saga is exactly the same but without the media attention to keep the government honest. But that will happen. It may take some time, and it may be triggered by a simple application to the court, but sooner or later, the commissioners, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Prime Minister are going to be very red-faced about the blatant illegal actions in Kaipara. It will be fascinating to watch them protesting their innocence and denying knowledge of the illegalities.
In this instance John Key will struggle to maintain his "Know nothing" veneer. Many of us have written to him personally advising of the illegality going on under his nose. He is going to struggle to argue 'brain-fade" again.
In the meantime it will be interesting to see how long Richard Booth is going to put his head in the sand and ignore the patent illegalities perpetrated by the commissioners. The Emperor's new clothes will be exposed for what they really are, sooner or later, and it will be interesting to see whose reputations become the latest victims of Jack's Mangawhai dunny. I suspect that it is going to be a graveyard for reputations until someone introduces some fundamental honesty into resolving the issues.
Thanks to Dave Wolland
GULLIBLE RATEPAYERS 11.10.12
What is surprising is that the ratepayers associations have been very reticent in promoting the rate strike given the clear illegality of the rates and the LTP. This is an excellent opportunity to shaft home to the powers that be that we are sick of illegalities and that we are not going to pay their illegal imposts. Starving them of money would be the quickest and most effective way of making them reconsider their strategy for Kaipara.
The forces of persecution, if I can put it that strongly, will not get a legal opinion on the validity of the rates, They are not that silly. But that does not stop the ratepayers associations getting one. Ratepayers would feel rather more comfortable if their strike action was backed by a legal opinion stating that the rates and the LTP were invalid.
The cost would be minimal, it would help the rate strike enormously, and it would really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
How about it?
FANTASY FINANCIAL FIGURES 11.10.12
Legal Eagle (here) looks at the liability of auditors where their negligence has been responsible for the losses that have been suffered.
THE BALANCE OF POWER IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
COMMISSIONERS START THE SPIN 09.10.12
In an interview on Morning Report with Lois Williams (here - scroll down to Kaipara commissioners hold first meeting) the Chair of the commissioners John Roberston states:
It's important that the rates notices are respected and that people do pay their rates so that we can provide the services that the Council needs to provide over the next year.
It is a pity that the rates assessments and notices do not comply with requirements of the law, which renders the rates invalid. That would have been a good start.
The appeal to pay rates so that basic services can be provided ignores the fact that the rates themselves are illegal because there is no valid LTP in place.
Emotive appeals are fine, but the commissioners need to make sure that they have acted within the law.
It also ignores the fact that a large part of the rates is being used to pay for illegal debts and illegal payments, such as the $240,000 paid to the previous Chief Executive as severance pay. And these are matters that the commissioners are steadfastly refusing to investigate.
Mr Roberston also shows absolutely no concern for those ratepayers who are on the poverty line who are going to be tipped over the edge by these unconscionable rates. His only considerations are to enforce the payment of rates at all costs so that the Council's bankers are kept happy, and so that the charade of legal, effective and democratic local government is maintained.
SEVEN REASONS NOT TO PAY YOUR RATES 08.10.12
Legal Eagle has some strong views on the matter and has seven solid reasons why he will not be paying any further rates until the commissioners stop acting illegally and agree to investigate the past. His post can be viewed here.
KAIPARA THE NEW VALENCIA 08.10.12
In manyways it parallels Kaipara which in a less dramatic way has its own white elephants and perhaps represents the spending woes of local government in New Zealand.
Note the common thread of corruption, incompetence and overspending.
COPS INVESTIGATING COPS, OAG INVESTIGATING OAG 07.10.12
WORZEL WISDOM 03.10.12
FIXING RATING BLUNDERS 03.10.12
Of course, before you can validate an illegal rate, you have to first acknowledge that the rate is illegal. Council's own lawyer - Jonathan Salter - acknowledged the illegality of the rates in question, and the Mayor wrote to all ratepayers apologising for the blunder. However, in an amazing turnaround the Council now maintains that the rates are perfectly valid until a court decides otherwise.
That is nothing more than a bluff and an application for judicial review would bring Council's house of cards crashing down.
If Council wants certainty then it has to resolve the issue one way or the other.
Validation through parliament is not as easy as Council's legal advisers make out. It is a lengthy process and to be successful it must have the support of the Minister of Local Government. When Nick Smith was Minister he indicated that he would not support the validation of rates where the illegality had come about because of incompetence.
Another problem that Council faces is that although some of the rates failed to meet the procedural requirements of the Rating Act there are others that were simply ultra vires, which means that Council did not have the power to levy those rates. Examples are the first two years of EcoCare rates when no service was available at the commencement of the rating year. Also, there were the unit of demand rates charged on separate units. They were an invention of Jack McKerchar that were so illegal that they were off the planet.
It is highly unlikely that parliament would validate rates that a council has no power to charge.
Validation is a long process and requires hearings before select committees, and in the end it is a free vote in parliament as to whether the validation proceeds. It is unlikely that MPs are going to be brimming with enthusiasm to validate the acts of a council that has created one of the largest legal debacles in local government history in NZ because of its sheer incompetence and a total disregard for the relevant legislation
The Tasman District Council has struggled for years to validate the illegal rates that were charged at Tata Beach, and identified by a resident Bob Schmuke who has been a thorn in the side of the council ever since. In that case the error was simply a procedural matter.
The issue was first reported in February 2010 (here) in the Nelson Mail.
There was a subsequent report in 2011 (here)
The latest news (here) is that the matter will go before a select committee next year and validation might then happen a further six months down the track
That validation process is taking years, and that is for a simple procedural error.
An Editorial in the Nelson Mail (here) sums it all up when it says:
Mr Schmuke and his group are owed the thanks of residents across the Tasman district, since they have emphatically reminded the council that it must play by the rules.
That is something that the previous Councillors never learned - to play by the rules. And, sadly, it looks as if the new commissioners are heading down the same track.
CAVEAT COMMISSIONERS 30.09.12
DOTCOM AND ILLEGALITY 30.09.12
For years now Legal Eagle has argued that the EcoCare rates were all invalid. To resolve the matter Council instigated a review by senior lawyer Jonathan Salter who agreed, and went on to state that it was highly likely that a court would declare the rates to be invalid.
However, having received this unexpected negative report, Council changed its stance and adopted the view that an opinion from a legal expert was of no significance. and that anything that Council does is automatically deemed to be lawful until it is actually declared invalid by the courts. This stance is supported by Audit NZ, the OAG, and the Minister of Local Government.
Such a stance is, of course, rubbish. It is a trick used by those in power to abuse that power and to make it virtually impossible for citizens to make a legal challenge.
John Key did the good thing this week when a gave a lie to that stance. He apologised to Dotcom because certain government agencies had broken the law by intercepting his communications. You are not allowed to do that for NZ residents, and Dotcom is a NZ resident.
But note that there was no decision by the court to the effect that the law had been broken. John Key simply looked at the law, looked at the facts and made his own decision. It was obvious that the law had been broken. No need for any further investigation, no need for an application to the court.
What is the difference between that situation and the illegal Long Term Plan of the KDC? In respect of the LTP the law says quite clearly that such a plan has to be formally adopted before the first day of its term. Council failed to do that. So that means that the plan is invalid.
The facts speak for themselves and there is absolutely no doubt that the plan is invalid and that the Council "broke the law".
However, the commissioners are in denial, the Minister is in denial, the Department of Internal Affairs is in denial, and the Prime Minister is in denial.
Why? What is the difference between this and the Dotcom case?
Because at this stage the LTP issue is not in the public eye and they believe that if they continue to side-step the issue, and if the media doesn't run with it, then they can bury it and get away with the illegality.
That is how the system works; you only 'fess up if you get caught out and the media makes a big thing of it. Otherwise you ride it out.
If ratepayers want to bring pressure to bear then they should all write to the Minister and the Prime Minister formally putting them on notice of the invalidity of the KDC's LTP. And those who have contacts in the media should stir them up and ask them to raise this issue.
The fact that the LTP is invalid means that Council is now operating outside the law and has no power to set, assess and collect rates. That means that all rates that have been assessed are invalid. So when you get the rates notice in the next week or so simply advise Council that you will not be paying any further rates until it has adopted a new LTP in accordance with the LGA.
DON'T LET THE COMMISSIONERS GET AWAY WITH ILLEGAL ACTIONS
ITS ALL IN THE INITIALS - KDC 25.09.12
Legal Eagle explains the "KDC" problems facing the government here.
The Kaipara Council's new LTP is clearly in breach of the Local Government Act and invalid. But the Council, the commissioners and the Minister are going full steam ahead to enforce the payment of rates even though they they are breaking the law.
The Minister, David Carter, has been put on notice on the invalidity of the LTP and the illegal collection of rates but so far has chosen to side-step the issue.
Minister of Local Government, David Carter, refuses to acknowledge the invalidity of the Long Term Plan
COMMISSIONERS AND DIVIDED LOYALTIES 23.09.12
HOW TO COMBAT THE KAIPARA DISEASE
MEET THE COMMISSIONERS 23.09.12
JEFFERSON COUNTY 23.09.12
It decided to embark on a giant public works project, "a Taj Mahal of sewage systems", to foster jobs and development.
Jefferson County began to borrow vast sums of money, but that money, it turned out, was a perfect medium for graft and contract-padding. Rather than replacing more than 2,000 miles of decrepit sewer pipes, the county dispensed contracts to build water treatment plants, pumping stations and administrative buildings, some on slag heaps left behind by closed steel mills.
All this debt was supposed to be paid off with revenue from the new sewer system — in other words, by fees the county would charge residents whose homes were hooked up to the system.
JOHN KEY ON AUCKLAND RATES 23.09.12
Kaipara gets a mention as an example of a council that takes on too much debt.
It is interesting that in Auckland the transitional increase in rates are limited to ten percent per annum. Why not do that in Kaipara?
Because Kaipara can no longer meet its interest payments on its debts by charging reasonable rates that its ratepayers can afford. To satisfy the bankers, and to stop them pulling the plug on Kaipara, the commissioners are obliged to charge rates that the community cannot afford.
Local government in NZ is based on the four well-beings of the community. That means that rates should always be affordable and fair. That is all that ratepayers should be obliged to pay.
If the council has breached its legal obligations and acted imprudently and illegally and raised a debt that is beyond the capacity of raepayers to service, then surely it is the responsiblity of council, the councillors, the chief executive, the advisers and consultants, and auditors to bear the responibiity for and burden of that debt.
Why pander to the bankers who were only too happy to pour their money into a shonky council that clearly did not comply with its legal obligations in respect of debt?
The best interests of ratepayers must come first. That is what the law says.
MRRA MEETS THE COMMISSIONERS 18.09.12
DISHONESTY IN GOVERNMENT 17.09.12
Appearances are sometimes not what they seem, and New Zealanders are beginning to realise that corruption is widespread in this country and its tentacles have spread into government.
Take the case of John Dickson who has been fighting the government and bureaucracy for nearly a quarter of a century. He has a cast-iron case in law - the Commerce Commission made an error of law which effectively destroyed his busines - but that has not prevented successive governments from ignoring his claim for compensation.
The full story is in Rob O'Neills article here.
The article quotes Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith as follows:
Veteran MP and speaker of the House Lockwood Smith, who has been involved in the case since 1996, said the case troubled him deeply, not because of the error, but because public servants covered their tracks when they should have acknowleged the conditions of the merger could not be enforced.
The covering up of illegalities by local authorities, the government and the watchdogs is not alien to Kaipara ratepayers. But there appears to be no end to the cover ups.
In ignoring the clear illegality of the LTP and the invalid rates the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) recently showed that it is not averse to deceptive conduct. It apparently has no qualms about ignoring the law and living up to its acronym, DIA - Do It Anyway.
We have enough criminals, dishonest company directors, fraudulent financial advisers, and others who get away with rorts on the community. Do we also want to have a government that puts political expediency and its own back pocket ahead of the rule of law and fairness?
DECLARATION OF WAR BY COMMISSIONERS? 15.09.12
Given that many of the past rates are illegal, the interim rates are illegal and the LTP is invalid, the Minister sent out a clear message that financial pragmatism, and the best interests of the banking community are far more important than compliance with the law and the best interests of the Kaipara community.
Legal Eagle looks at the legal situation (here) and examines the legal obligations of the commissioners. He discovers that their principal obligation in law is to look after the best interests of ratepayers - and not the banks or the government.
THE FOUR COMMISSIONERS ARRIVE
KAIPARA: THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE
KAIPARA AND WHANGAREI - EUROPEAN STYLE 13.09.12
These problems compound when governments (and councils) take on a persona that assumes it knows better than those they are supposed to represent. Shunning ideas like referenda to engage the public in decisions or even refusing to survey the pulse of opinion, yet at the same time making vacuous statements like “we are learning to listen better” just shows how arrogant the ruling elite has become.
Nice phrase that, the ruling elite. Local government in New Zealand has become a new feudal system with the ruling elite having unbridled power and no liability, and the serfs (that's us) having no powers or rights, and having to foot the bill for all the excesses of our masters - the ruling elite.
In another earlier article Frank Newman pinpoints the fundamental problem with local government:
The simple truth is local councils are not competent when it comes to running large enterprises. Local councillors are very good at guest attendances at the local gardening club or drawing the raffle at the school gala. Asking them to make hard-nosed million-dollar business decisions does take them out of their comfort zone and they are far too keen to please whoever is next in line pleading for funding to be responsible with ratepayer money. Their lack of general competency has been blindingly obvious for many years now, yet politicians have not reversed their ill-conceived policy.
The Minister of Local Government, Nick Smith, should heed the warning and stop the imminent disaster by imposing regulatory debt restrictions on councils – just as they have now done, belatedly, on finance companies. Local councils are as reckless if not more reckless than finance companies were. I think even the Minister knows that he is well off the mark if he thinks making council bigger will solve the problem – it will simply delay the problem and make it bigger when it arrives. He needs to acknowledge that it’s the lack of competence within councils that is the problem, not their size. He needs to impose regulation to require councils to be responsible with others people's money.
CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST FOR A-G? 11.09.12
WHO FOOTS THE BILL WHEN A COUNCIL GOES BERSERK? 09.09.12
He points out that Kaipara is joining the Local Government Funding Agency to get access to cheap loans, but it could end up, if Kaipara continues its downward lurch in imitation of Greece, with all the other councils in NZ, and their ratepayers, bailing out Kaipara.
But who does foot the bill legally when a council "goes beserk" and cranks up massive illegal debts?
The government is adamant that ratepayers have to foot the bill. But that stance is simply to give comfort to the banks and to dump the responsibility on the easiest party to pick on and bully.
When is dumping ratepayers with the liability for an illegal debt in the ratepayers' best interests, especially when the fiduciaries (the Councillors) in so doing are trying to relieve themselves of responsibility?
Thus the $240,000 paid to the Chief Executive, even though he resigned for reasons of ill health, was clearly illegal and should not be the responsibility of ratepayers.
Likewise with the EcoCare sewerage system. The cowboy Councillors broke just about every rule in the book when they contracted for the new plant and raised the necessary debt to buy it. All done in secret and completely illegally, and for six years they misled the ratepayers as to the true cost.
Now we are told that ratepayers have to foot the bill.
And pigs may fly. We may be the easy target but we have good legal advice. We are actually the innocent party in all of this. We have no legal liability and no equitable responsibility to meet the KDC debt.
But there are plenty queueing up who meet both criteria.
Try for instance the individual Councillors who broke every rule in the book, statutory, common law and basic principles of justice.
How about the former Chief Executive who led the Council into chaos and ruin with his financial incompetence and ignorance of the law?
How about Audit NZ that failed to pick up any of the multitude of glaring errors that would have shown a local authority totally out of control?
How about the consultants and advisers to Council who were paid exorbitant fees and yet failed to advise or warn Council of the descent into illegality?
How about the Auditor-General and the Minister of Local Governement who ignored warnings of persistent non-compliance with the law but chose to turn away?
And how about the government that set up a system of local government with strict legal restrictions to prevent the abuse of power, and watchdogs to enforce those restrictions, but then ignored the restrictions and allowed the watchdogs to do the same, and created a culture where local authorities could operate outside the law with impunity?
And what of the contractors and financiers who know all the ins and outs of dealing with councils on such projects? Were they aware that the KDC had failed to comply with all the statutory pre-requisites before committing itself to the venture and the debt?
All of those targets may not be as easy to nail as ratepayers, but somewhere in that group lies the legal responsibility for the debacle in Kaipara.
TERMS OF REFERENCE GAZETTED 07.09.12
THE CIRCUS LEAVES TOWN 06.09.12
THE CLOWN'S LAMENT
And now, the end is here
Regrets, I've had a few
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
I've made, some big mistakes
Yet what did I do, that was so wrong?
And amen to that
COMMISSIONERS TAKE OVER 06.09.12
THE ROMANS SHOW THE A-G THE WAY 06.09.12
BNZ AND ANZ HOLD THE DESTINY OF KAIPARA 06.09.12
JOHN DICKIE'S LETTER 04.09.12
He believes that the community should show willingness to work with the commissioners, but:
Only on the basis of mutual respect, respect for the law and not sweeping the past under the carpet.
John Dickie in his Mayoral "chain" at last Wednesday's Council meeting (with thanks to the Northern Advocate (here)
MEET THE COMMISSIONERS 04.09.12
Their terms of reference are to be Gazetted this Thursday and there will be a hand-over by Council to the commissioners on the same day.
RATES STILL IN LIMBO 04.09.12
CR LARSEN'S SPEECH 04.09.12
AND if you want a good laugh, watch the spinmeisters here waxing eloquent about the EcoCare scheme.
THE GREECE OF NZ'S COUNCILS 04.09.12
BOUQUETS FOR THE REVIEW TEAM 03.09.12
KAIPARA KONNECTION 02.09.12
Note that the Council rating calculator on its website is out of action so that no one can see what rates they will be paying.
Now that's transparency for you.
WHAT RULE OF LAW? 02.09.12
RATE STRIKE LATEST 31.08.12
The LTP adopted by the Council is completely illegal (see post below).
As a protest at this quite unbelievable non-compliance with the law ALL ratepayers in the district should refuse to pay the current instalment. This would send a loud and clear message to the Commissioners that we need to be listened to if they are to gain our cooperation. We are not going to take the same rubbish that we have put up with in the past.
It will then give the Commissioners a real incentive to get an equitable rating system in place as soon as possible.
AN INVALID LTP 31.08.12
What Greg Gent did not add is that adopting an invalid LTP does not help at all. An invalid LTP is no LTP.
The government, the Minister, the review team, the Department of Internal Affairs all know that my legal submissions to the effect that the LTP is invalid are absolutely spot on. They have ignored the requirements of the LGA for so many years that they presumed that they had the power to do so. Now that they have been caught out they are trying the bluff and bluster appoach that worked so well on Council in Wednesday's meeting.
Kaipara ratepayers do not accept the LTP as valid. That means that Council is operating outside the law and has no legal right to charge rates.
I imagine that there will be an awful lot of lawyers in Wellington thumbing through their law books trying to find a fix for the problem.
CYNICAL MANIPULATION 30.08.12
The grey suits were lead by Greg Gent the head of the Minister's review team who had been given clear instructions to ensure that the LTP was adopted and in place prior to the commissioners' arrival.
Greg Gent was backed up by more suits from the Department of Internal Affairs whose only role seemed to be to increase the pressure on Councillors.
As predicted the Minister held off releasing the report from the review team until the Councillors were well and truly in the fold and the LTP was set in concrete. The timing of the release was handled with meticulous precision.
The report was so damning and so questioning of Council's viability that there is little doubt that the result of yesterday's meeting would have been very different if the report had been released a day earlier.
Councillors were never given a copy of the report when they were fired, just a brief synopsis of the findings and the recommendation. If they had been privy to the full report then it is highly likely that they would have found it very difficult to maintain that Council was financially viable.
The criticism of their own abilities and competence in the report was also so damning that I suspect most of them would have simply walked, as Andrew Wade had done earlier, and left the Minister and his commissioners to do their own dirty work.
It is also hard to see how the OAG (and Audit NZ) could have signed off the Council as being viable with prudent financial policies if they had had access to the report at an earlier stage.
It was ironic that for years this bunch of Councillors, and their predecessors, have been conned and misled by incompetent advisers and consultants. It is only fitting that in the final act of the Circus yesterday the Councillors, yet again, succumbed to pressure and poor advice, and made another, and hopefully their final, illegal decision.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM 30.08.12
Councillors were struggling to come to grips with the legality of their illegal decisions and were begging for legal advice.
Audit NZ performed a pathetic little cameo in which it showed a complete lack of any understanding of legal compliance and angered ratepayers with its dithering and indecision.
The Department of Internal Affairs suit ran for cover and hid behind the "we do not give legal advice' cover. But then added that even if the decision was illegal and the LTP is invalid then there was some vague provision in the LGA that gave the Governor General power to make it legal.
Steve Ruru hummed and hahed, visibly torn between loyalty to his old masters - the Councillors - and his new master - the Minister. He muttered something about some vague legal advice which sounded totally unconvincing.
But the elephant was ignored.
The law is actually very simple and any specialist in public law will confirm that Council has no power to adopt an LTP outside the time-frame set by the LGA. There is no discretion to bend the rules, and the OAG or the Minister have no right of waiver.
If Council fails to meet the statutory deadline then its only option is to have parliament grant it the power to act outside the LGA and adopt the LTP out of time. (Or perhaps the GG might help - to be investigated)
For years the OAG and the Minister have ignored this requirement and have allowed local authorities to get away with blue murder. However, the crunch has come. Kaipara ratepayers have put there finger on section 93 LGA and made it clear that the law must be obeyed.
The Minister and the bureaucrats are caught between a rock and a hard place. They know that the ratepayers are right, that Council did not have the power to adopt the LTP out of time, and that the LTP is invalid. But they are trying to bluff and pressure ratepayers, just as they did to the Councillors at the meeting yesterday.
Ratepayers have now been placed in a situation where an application to the court to declare the LTP invalid is inevitable.
GREG GENT ON CHECKPOINT 29.08.12
COUNCIL ADOPTS 2010/11 ANNUAL REPORT AND 2012/22 LTP
The pressure from the government to get the annual report and LTP in place before the commissioners take over was unbelievable.
The people from Audit NZ gave an appalling performance, pandered to the government's requirements, and illustrated why the OAG should be stripped of any powers as a watchdog for the people. Surprisingly the Review Team has suggested that the liability of Audit NZ for Council's problems should be investigated (see report below).
The people of Kaipara were well and truly stitched up by a conspiracy at the highest level.
This was a victory of political pragamatism over the rule of law. But only a temporary victory. Ratepayers are incensed. The commissioners are going to have a rocky ride. Whilst we appreciate that the Review Team did get rid of Council, its subsequent behaviour in forcing through the annual report and LTP when they were clearly in breach of the law was a lesson in political expediency that will stick in the craw of Kaipara ratepayers.
Comments on the meeting please to email@example.com
Please state if it is to be in your own name or pseudonym.
REPORT OF THE MINISTER'S REVIEW TEAM (here)
NEW COMMISSIONERS (here)
BIG DAY AT THE BIG TOP 29.08.12
The Kaipara Council decides today whether it will adopt the annual report for 2010/11 and the LTP for 2012/22.
To do so the Councillors will have to confirm that that Council is financially viable and meets the going concern test. This means that, taking into account the demand for repayment of nearly $20 million illegal rates, taking into account a massive debt of over $100 million, and taking into account the fact that a large proportion of ratepayers are on a rate strike, and taking into account the fact that Council has breached its banking covenants, the Councillors need to be satisfied that Council can meet its financial obligations under the LTP for the next year and the foreseeable future.
The whole thing is a total sham because the reality is that Councillors haven't got a clue as to what is going on. That is why they have been sacked by the Minister.
Everyone knows that Council is insolvent and it is simply a matter of time before the banks make their move.
Councillors also have to confirm that the financial strategy for the next ten years in the LTP is prudent.
This is also a sham because the LTP is only a temporary measure , according to the Minister, and will be replaced very quickly by more "sustainable" and "equitable" measures.
This is also crunch time for local government in NZ.
The law is quite clear that Council has failed to comply with the deadlines in the LGA to adopt the annual report and the LTP. It therefore does not have the legal power to adopt these documents.
However, for years the Minister and the Auditor-General have ignored the law and allowed a certain latitude to Councils in complying with the deadlines in the LGA.
The problems is that the law does not allow this.
We now have the situation where the Minister is trying to cobble together the support of the bankers and trying to pressure Council into acting illegally by adopting the report and the plan. That would give it a veneer of legality.
But only a veneer. Council has no LTP at the moment, which is in breach of the law. Even if it purports to adopt the annual report and the LTP today it is doing so in breach of the law. This means that it will have no LTP.
The ramifications for this are huge. It means the Council has no power to levy rates or do any of the things that are contained in an LTP
Only special legislation will fix the problem.
Today is a very big day for the Circus.
MAYOR BREAKS A LEG 27.08.12
Cr Sutherland, who had concerns early last week about signing off the annual report and the LTP, has since received information that has convinced her that Council is now a going concern.
See the Northern Advocate report on the issue here.
Some wag has pointed out that the Mayor would have had no problem stating that the Council is a "going concern". After all, it is going, and it certainly is a concern.
SUBMISSIONS TO THE AUDITOR-GENERAL 27.08.12
REVIEW TEAMS REPORT 26.08.12
The Minister has had the report for a week. I suspect that he will not release it until the Council has adopted the LTP and it is set in concrete.
Release of the report now, and disclosing the full extent of Council's incompetence, might expose the Council's decision to confirm the going concern assumption to the ridicule that it deserves.
It could even tip the A-G the other way.
Is this another example of how the government is going to treat Kaipara ratepayers?
GREG GENT AND COUNCIL 26.08.12
KDC ENDORSES REPORT AND LTP 23.08.12
Both documents now go to Audit NZ for signing off the audit.
The report and the plan will be adopted at the final Council meeting on 29 August 2012.
AUDITOR-GENERAL GETS THE PIP WITH KDC 23.08.12
The letters can be seen here.
CHECKPOINT COMMENTS 23.08.12
PRESSURE ON COUNCIL MOUNTS 23.08.12
The Auditor General and Audit NZ have put the Councillors under the blow- torch and seem intent on getting the plan adopted before Councillors quit.
In desperation Councillors are seeking the advice of the Minister's review team and meet with Greg Gent today before deciding whether to endorse the 2010/11 annual report and the 2012/22 LTP.
Bruce Rogan, chair of the MRRA, has written to Councillors expressing the concerns of his Association.
Legal Eagle has also written another letter to Councillors pointing out the precarious position that the Councillors are in and questioning the role of the Minister's review team in offering advice on the matter.
Copies of both documents can be seen here.
COMMENTS ON JACK 22.08.12
Regarding McKerchar .. as per his stupendous enlightening paragraph below extracted from the Northern Advocate:
I'm so overjoyed that he can have his life back .... I'm sure he can - on a 1/4 million $ payout and a $200K + salary.
We cant, and neither can our family friends who borrowed another lump sum of $7000 on top of their mortgage - as was the council's demand on the "first" 2006 loan. (terms unadvised and unknown). That $7000 was poured directly down the Council's throat never to be seen again .... along with everyone else's ....
MCKERCHAR OFF THE HOOK? 22.08.12
One of the rumours circulating is that it was a condition of Jack's quitting that all Councillors signed an indemnity document exonerating him for any blame in the future for anything relating to the EcoCare scheme.
True or not?
Is any one willing to shed some light on it?
LAST DECISIONS ON THE TABLE 22.08.12
Some Councillors were miffed and felt that they had been misled by the Minister's review team and pressured into resigning. There was even talk of reversing their decision.
There was concern that Council had breached its banking covenants and Deputy Mayor Julie Geange was reluctant to make any decisions until the banks confirmed in writing that they would continue to support Council.
As an aside, one only wishes that the Deputy Mayor had been as circumspect at the time when she was finance portfolio-holder and under her watch Council descended into financial chaos.
The upshot was that the majority of Councillors voted to let the decisions lie on the table until advice was received from the Minister's review team. Mayor Tiller and Cr Blackwell voted against the decision.
It is understood that Council will meet with the review team, or at least some of the members, later this week.
It is interesting that both Crs Sutherland and LInton both made strong statements to the effect that they believed that Council could not meet the going concern test.
Those I have spoken to who were at the meeting are amazed that Councillors still do not understand what the essence of the problems are, and why ratepayers are in revolt. According to the Deputy Mayor, the debt has been incurred and ratepayers have to pay it. Full stop. What's the problem?
The problem is that Councillors incurred the debt in breach of all sort of legal obligations. They breached the fundamental requirements of the LGA to such an extent that the debt may be ultra vires. They breached their duty of care to ratepayers. They breached their fiduciary obligations to ratepayers.
There is little doubt that the Councillors have been cocooned in a fantasy world and were led to believe that their jobs entailed "no care and no responsibility".
Councillors may have been seduced by the advice received from the then Chief Executive, which has now been found to be seriously wanting.
They may have been comforted by Audit NZ's confirmation that everything was in order, when in fact there were substantial errrors that had been overlooked.
The incredibly lax attitude of the Minister and the OAG towards blatant non-compliance with the legislation would also have sent out very strong signals
However, the harsh reality is, and some of the Councillors are beginning to realise this, that the job of a Councillor requires "all care and all responsibility". At the end of the day the decisions were made by the Councillors themselves and they have to face up to the legal responsibility for those decisions.
MCKERCHAR'S PLATINUM MEDAL 21.08.12
LAST DECISIONS 20.08.12
Legal Eagle has written to the Councillors advising them that they should not endorse the annual report or adopt the LTP, and has provided the legal arguments to support his case. The document can be seen under Last Decisions (here).
MCKERCHAR'S GOLDEN PLATINUM FAREWELL 20.08.12
No wonder Jack had a grin from ear to ear when he left given the number of skeletons that have been unearthed (and still digging) since his departure.
It is also worth noting that his salary and entitlements for the full year 2010/11 were $199,190. For the part year from July to October 2011 (4 months) he received salary and entitlements of $101,138. In addition he received the use of a motor vehicle - $8,333.
I can feel the rush of wind as eye-brows are raised right across Kaipara.
Comments please: firstname.lastname@example.org
GONE BY LUNCHTIME? 15.08.12
WORKBOOT'S FAREWELL AS A COUNCILLOR 15.08.12
Ratepayers are very fortunate that they voted in a Councillor with intelligence and integrity and an incredible fortitude. Many of us have fought the battle from afar with words on paper but Jonathan was almost daily engaged in hand to hand combat.
Kaipara owes him a huge debt of gratitude.
DAVID THORNTON ON THE COMMISSIONER 14.08.12
Legally even an illegal debt such as the EcoCare debt is secured against the rates and a receiver has limited powers under the LGA to enforce the debt by levying rates. But the government will not allow a receiver to be appointed.
The question that has to be asked is: Does a local authority or a commissioner (not a receiver) have the legal power under the Rating Act or the LGA to set rates to recover a debt that was entered into ultra vires (outside its powers) by that local authority?
There is nothing in the LGA or the Rating Act that covers this point and it is a matter that may have to be decided by the court.
There are other questions that need to be answered. Former Councillor Bill Guest in the Northen Advocate (here) referred to the personal liability of councillors under the Local Government Act and the power of the Auditor-General to recover any losses from councillors individually. Will the Auditor-General take any such action? She appears to have ample grounds.
There is also a whole stack of case law that suggests that councillors owe a duty of care to ratepayers and that they also have fiduciary obligations. This means that they are very much like trustees and have to handle monies entrusted to them (such as rates) with absolute diligence and must protect the best interests of ratepayers at all times.. Negligent fiduciaries are responsible in law for any losses caused by their failure to adequately comply with their obligations.
Kaipara has made history by being the first local authority to request that a commissioner be appointed. I suspect that in the future it may well be making legal history in relation to the validity of the ultra vires debts of local authorities, and the personal liability of councillors arising out of the breach of their duty of care and their breach of their fiduciary obligations.
MORNING REPORT 14.08.12
COMMISSIONER DETAILS 14.08.12
SANITY PREVAILS 13.08.12
It appears that the process will have to be approved by Cabinet. It will be mid September before the commissioners are in place. In the interim Council will remain in power and will proceed to adopt the LTP.
Ratepayers and ratepayer groups must be very careful that they do not squander the opportunity ahead. There are three matters that need to be considered very carefully.
First, it is absolutely essential that we have a combined attack on the proposed LTP from all directions. It is patently clear that the Plan does not comply with the requirements of the LGA, and that, in addition, an LTP cannot be adopted without the prior annual report being adopted. It is also clear that the performance of Audti NZ is under a very large cloud and it is contrary to all principles of justice that an auditor that is under investigation should be allowed to continue in its role.
It would be good to see the various ratepayer groups reaching some agreement on how they are going to tackle this issue.
Second, the interim rates that are being charged are clearly illegal. We must ensure that the rate strike continues and that every one in the district joins it. We need to get a message across to cental governmant that we are not going to tolerate incompetence and illegalities, and the rate strike is the best way of doing this.
Third, it is abolutely vital that the various ratepayer groups forget their political leanings or other agendas and set out clearly with one clear single voice what ratepayers actually want of the commissioners. If we carry on as we have been doing with many disparate voices seeking different outcomes then we run the risk of being ignored and not having a role when the big decisions are made.
But, by golly, isn't it good to know that Tiller and Geange and the other incompetents are on the way out.
FAR TOO LITTLE, FAR TOO LATE, THE WRONG PEOPLE 05.08.12
Which is really like saying that the Council does not have a clue what it is doing and what it did in the past to get itself into such a financial mess.
It is a bit like the Captain of the Titanic appointing an Iceberg Watch Committee after hitting the iceberg.
I am sure that Councillor Wade has the best of intentions but he and his fellow Councillors are lost souls who do not have a clue what they are doing. Council is facing massive problems of a financial and legal nature. This is high tech stuff and the bunch of amateurs, who caused the problems in the first place because of their ignorance and lack of understanding of their role, should realise that they do not have the knowledge or ability to understand or resolve the problems.
They should swallow their egos, accept the personal financial loss, resign, and allow the experts in to try and put Humpty Dumpty together.
The full article can be viewed in the Northern Advocate here.
STEVE DOES A JACK 05.08.12
This new figure – up from the Salter report’s $10.5 million - comes about because of new legal opinions received from Simpson Grierson, Council’s new lawyers.
Hoopla is one thing but reality is another. The Chief Executive kept the new legal opinions from Simpson Grierson very close to his chest for a long time. Councillors were slow to find out what those opinions said. Ratepayers have only seen a very brief potted version, but we have been denied access to the originals......(continued here)
AUDIT NZ PART THREE 03.08.12
AUDIT NZ AGAIN 02.08.12
AUDIT NZ MUST GO - IMMEDIATELY 30.07.12
The reputation and integrity of the OAG is taking a battering and urgent action is needed.
The full post can be seen here (scroll down).
INCOMPETENCE, INCOMPETENCE AND MORE INCOMPETENCE 29.07.12
Simpson Grierson, one of the top law firms, recently reviewed the rates set by the KDC for the past 6 years. Details of the review were reported in last week’s Dargaville District News. The results confirm that for those 6 years the KDC did not know how to set rates or to comply with the provisions of the Local Government (Rating) Act (LGRA).
Simpson Grierson reports that the following rates were unauthorised by the LGRA. Which means that the Council had no power to set the rates, they were ultra vires, and therefore invalid:
2008/09-2011/12 Mangawhai Uniform Targeted Rate,
2006/07-2010/11 Forest Owners Targeted Rate,
2006/07-2011/12 Maungaturoto Station Village volumetric water rate (minimum amount for a reading).
In addition, the following rates were not set in accordance with the funding impact statement in the annual plan or LTP, and were therefore invalid:
2009/10-2010/11Mangawhai Uniform annual charge
2006/07-2011/12 all other wastewater rates
2006-07-2011/12 Forest Owners targeted rate
2006/07-2011/12 Maungaturoto Station village volumetric water rate (minimum amount for a reading)
No mention is made of other matters of illegality or non-compliance such as the illegal development contributions, the non-complying rates assessments, and the unit of demand rates on separate units which were completely outside the scope of the LGRA.
And these are just the rating errors. We haven’t mentioned all the other errors and illegalities that have blighted, and continue to blight, the McKerchar/Tiller/Geange regime. (All the other "stuff-ups" as Deputy Mayor Geange calls them.)
Council had the review done in secret - as befits its track record - and totally contrary to the Auditor-General’s recommendation of an independent review.
Legal Eagle has applied for a copy of the review under the Official Information Act. So far nothing has materialised.
“Now what’s that new bump in the carpet, Steve?”
The total amount of illegal rates charged to ratepayers is acknowledged by Council to be $17.3 million. The true figure, if all the other illegal charges are added in, is in excess of $20 million. No matter what spin Council puts on this it is a debt that is due and owing. Add it to the current debt and Council's total indebtedness will be in excess of $100 million.
THAT IS WHY STEVE RURU IS DOING ALL HE CAN TO BURY THE ILLEGAL RATES DEBT
COUNCIL CAN NO LONGER MEET ITS COMMITMENTS FROM ITS INCOME
THAT IS WHY ALL RATEPAYERS SHOULD CEASE PAYING THEIR RATES - IT IS MONEY STRAIGHT DOWN THE ECOCARE GURGLER
WHY COUNCIL MUST GO 26.07.12
Individual ratepayers also need to make their voices heard.
The full article can be seen here (scroll down).
ITS NOT JUST KAIPARA WITH A PROBLEM COUNCIL 26.07.12
Note the lengths the Chief Executive of Christchuch went to in order to avoid consultation with ratepayers. The KDC is not that devious. It simply ignored the law when it committed itself to the EcoCare contract and the debt.
In a Herald article (here) Stephen Franks looks at the Auckland City Council and what he calls an “elected dictatorship”. (Note that the Auckland Mayor has special powers granted to him by legislation. Our Mayor and Chief Executive who have acted in similar ways do not have the same statutory powers. They simply act outside the law.)
JULIE GEANGE GETS IT RIGHT - AT LAST 24.07.12
Her authoritarian approach, along with a large dollop of self-interest, has not helped her popularity with ratepayers. Of all the Councillors, she is the one who is leading the charge to lumber Mangawhai ratepayers with the illegal debt whilst offering preferential treatment to her own voting base on the West coast.
That being the case, it is a rare occasion when she and Legal Eagle are in agreement on a particular issue.
In a Northern Advocate report (here) on the the Tiller wastewatergate scandal she was quoted as follows:
Deputy Mayor Julie Geange said the matter was "another stuff up by council ... it's backed itself into a corner ..."
Spot on, Julie! I am sure that every ratepayer would endorse those comments.
But note how the Councillors from the west used every excuse for not charging the west coast ratepayers all the arrears of rates that they were clearly obliged to pay. Yet the same Councillors have shown a dogged determination in dumping the illegal debt on Mangawhai ratepayers.
At the end of the day the wash-up is that the Mayor escapes liability. Let us hope that the OAG investigates the matter and charges the Councillors personally under the LGA for failing to collect monies to which Council was entitled.
MINISTER'S OPTIONS 21.07.12
Specialist local government lawyer Michael Garbett's article about Christchurch City Council - Christchurch needs cohesive leadership - written earlier this year, sets out the procedures available to the Minister. (Go here)
The appointment of a commission or a commissioner is looking more and more likely. What ratepayers have to aim for is to ensure that they are represented by a joint commissioner or adviser, and that the terms of reference meet the requitrements of ratepayers.
The Minister has, so far, shown a clear reluctance to consider the views and the best interests of ratepayers. His sole intent appears to be to make sure that the illegal KDC debts are paid by ratepayers and that an impenetrable curtain is brought down on the incompetence and the illegalities of the past.
If the Minister continues to travel along that path then he is inviting further chaos. Ratepayers will have no option to but to go to court and ensure that sanity and the rule of law are returned to Kaipara.
Let us hope that it does not come to that and that John Key's government can acknowledge the real isues and work collaboratively with the people of Kaipara.
THE THREE WISE MEN 20.07.12
Legal Eagle declined to meet with the review team. Their appointment is thoroughly illegal because the Minister has no power to appoint a review team, whch they themselves acknowledge. Their plea in mitigation is that there is legislation before parliament which will, sometime in the future, give the Minister power to appoint a review team. So near enough is close enough for the Minister and his team. That's a pity. One of the underlying problems in this whole sorry affair is that the KDC has ignored the law at will because the Minister and the Auditor-General have allowed it to. The Minister is still heading down that same path whilst insisting at the same time that ratepayers must obey the law to the letter.
The review team appears to acknowledge that the the fiction of the Council requesting help was just that - a fiction. The decisions in Council are made (believe it or not) by the Councillors, and the Chief Executive simply implements those decisions. In this instance the decision to appoint a review team was nothing short of a an illegal conspiracy between the Minister, the Chief Executive, the Mayor, and the Deputy Mayor. As usual with the KDC, the ones who were supposed to make the decisions - the Councillors - were left completely in the dark.
Another reason for my decision not to meet with the team was that they are only focused on the future. The terms of reference state quite clearly that they cannot investigate the past. To me that is a complete and utter waste of time. They are simply reorganising the deck chairs on a crippled hulk of a ship that is sinking fast. You cannot solve the problems of the present Council without first getting rid of the people who made such a hash of things. Then you have to go back and sort out the mess that they have created.
One only hopes that the three wise men show more wisdom than went into their appointment and the terms of reference. If they know what they are about then they will have realised by now that the KDC is a total cot-case and that the skeletons that are rattling loudly in the cupboards have to be listened to.
Hopefully they let the Minister know in no uncertain terms that the only way forward for Kaipara is to get rid of the Council, appoint a commission with ratepayer representatives, and then examine the financial and legal shambles to see who is to be responsible for the illegal EcoCare debt.
WASTEWATERGATE COMPLAINT REJECTED 20.07.12
The Police advised: "As things stand there is insufficient information to warrant a police investigation."
That is a judgment call that the police have to make, but a comparison with the murder charge brought against Ewen MacDonald invites some comparison. In that case the police knew that a crime had been committed but had very little evidence to link the accused to the shooting. But they still went ahead to try and make a case.
In the Wastewatergate scandal it was absolutely clear that the Mayor had been granted a financial benefit by the Chief Executive and his staff.
It was also clear that the Mayor was not entitled to that benefit.
It was also clear that the benefit did not come about because of some oversight or error. It was deliberate.
The clear inference from the facts that the benefit had been given for some reason that had not been explained but appeared to be inappropriate and could possibly be criminal.
Ratepayers in Kaipara must wonder what magic spell Jack McKerchar and Neil Tiller possess. So much incompetence, so much illegality, and so many questionable actions, And yet the watchdogs have all turned a blind eye. Audit NZ, the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, the Minister, and now it looks as if the NZ Police are going to look the other way. Even John Key maintains that he knows nothing of what is going on.
The initial complaint of theft and obtaining by deception against the Council is still with the Police. They are obtaining a legal opinion to see if charges should be laid.
GAOL FOR FRAUD 21,0712
Our Councillors are much cleverer. They bought a $70 million sewerage system illegally with ratepayers money. They misled all the ratepayers in the district and totally ignored the law. And so far, there is no suggestion of going to gaol. In fact they have the Minister of Local Government doing all he can to cover the matter up.
Rod Petricevic should have chosen a career in local government.
ILLEGALITY, ULTRA VIRES AND FRAUD 17.07.12
Legal Eagle summarises what went wrong with the EcoCare project and the part paid by the KDC.
Read the article here.
JOHN KEY'S ADVICE 17.07.12
Prime Minister John Key exhorted about 600 local government conference-goers in Queenstown to tighten their belts.
“Times are tight and ratepayers just can’t endure unaffordable rates rises," he told them.
"We are not telling you how to do your jobs, but we would urge you to think carefully about the capacity of your communities during these difficult financial times.
“I know it’s not easy, and it’s tempting to think your council is an exception or faces special circumstances, but we all have to face up to making difficult choices.”
But will the KDC listen?
MORE AND MORE ILLEGAL RATES 14.07.12
Clearly it has no intention to refund these illegal rates. This massive debt remains as a big lump in the carpet while Council manoeuvres around it.
The law that I learnt in Law School is quite clear that if Mr A owes you $100 and then, in a later transaction, you end up owing $40 to Mr A, then you can set one of against the other. Mr A then pays you $60 and you are all quits. That is called the right of set-off.
So any one who paid illegal rates in the past has the right to set-off the illegal amount already paid against any new legal rates being demanded.
The problem is that finding a legal rate set by the KDC is nigh impossible. Steve Ruru is having problems, and so is Simpson Grierson. That legal firm has just identified another swag of illegal rates that have been set over the past few years.
Council's lawyers have also examined the rates assessments for the past few years and have found them to be defective, as pointed out by Legal Eagle on many occasions.
However, according to a report from Glennis Christie, the lawyers did not feel that the failure to comply with the Act would invalidate the rates. With respect, that is a matter which only the court can resolve. The rates assessment is the legal demand for the bill and I am sure the court would assess non-compliance far more strictly than Simpson Grierson which, to be frank, is acting as Council's hired gun.
To me the errors are of serious nature, especially for those properties that have been charged illegal "unit of demand" rates, and I have no doubt that the court would hold that such non-compliant assessments would make the rates invalid.
RATES FOR THE NEW RATING YEAR 14.07.12
Presumably Steve Ruru has obtained an opinion from Simpson Grierson on this point. It would be nice if that was passed on to ratepayers. Or does Steve Ruru take the view that any rates set by Council are legal until the court decides otherwise?
SUIPS AND UNITS OF DEMAND 14.07.12
These so-called rates were completely ultra vires and utterly illegal. However Council has skirted around them for several years and, apparently, has not subjected them to the scrutiny of Simpson Grierson.
In fact Council is planning to continue rating Mangawhai properties for wastewater on the same basis as the old "unit of demand", as though the old regime was completely legal. The only change is that there is to be an updated definition of a separate unit.
Council needs to be very careful for the following reasons:
• The factor of liability for rating a SUIP is the number and nature of connections to the sewer. Seeing that Council has absolutely no idea which properties or SUIPs are actually connected to the sewer - it appears, quite incredibly, that Council contractors kept no records - it makes it very difficult to levy rates based on "connection" to the sewer. Guesswork is not sufficient.
• Another major problem is that, where a connection can be identified, most SUIPs do not have a separate connection to the sewer. Invariably where there was a principal unit and a SUIP the contractors installed only one connection. If that is the case then the LGRA makes it clear that Council can only charge rates on the basis of one connection for the whole property.
The reality is that Council will find that there are very few SUIPs that can be targeted for the SUIP rate, and it may well be that it is simply not worth the effort.
• The new definition of a SUIP is a far cry from the draconian impost of Jack McKerchar. If Council is going to get it right then it simply cannot proceed on the basis of the old rating database and simply assume that those properties that have been illegally rated for the past four years as "units of demand" are now automatically SUIPs.
Council has a legal obligation to assess rates for each property based on the definition of a SUIP set out in the new plan. It cannot use a scattergun approach and classify all and sundry as SUIPs and then leave it to ratepayers to apply for correction of the database.
Council has to remember that any defect in the rates assessment may render the rate demand invalid and relieve ratepayers of the obligation to pay rates.
• If Council is introducing a SUIP regime in this plan then it needs to be treated as a fundamental change to the rating system. This means that it must go through the decision-making process set out in the LGA, and which was singularly absent from the now abandoned draft LGA when introducing SUIPs. This means complying with the requirements of sections 77 and 101 and looking at the figures and options etc.
To suggest that such a decision-making process was not necessary because SUIPs in the form of units of demand are already in place would be totally unacceptable. Units of demand were and are illegal and ultra vires. Their introduction was not accompanied by any decision-making or consultation. They have to be completely ignored.
In my view Council is treading on very dangerous legal ground in respect of the SUIP regime. It is basing it on a previous rate that is clearly illegal and ultra vires and there are several matters that raise serious legal questions about Council's approach.
Council would be best to shelve the matter of SUIPs for the current year. It then needs to find out which properties are actually connected to the sewer. It will also then have the time to get legal advice from its lawyers on the correct basis for charging SUIPs.
There is no doubt that rating SUIPs is a useful tool for introducing a fairer "user pays" regime. However, the way Council is doing it, in haste, in ignorance of the law, without any factual basis, and with no comparative figures to support it, smacks of recklessness in respect of legal-compliance and a looks very much like a desperate money-grabbing exercise.
Councillors and the Chief Executive certainly have no compunction in dumping massive illegal debts that date back many years on the people of Mangawhai.
There is a large body of evidence to suggest that the failure to bill the Mayor in the past could well come within the ambit of corruption and bribery. It also seems to me that Steve Ruru and the Councillors have to be very careful about the way that they handle this matter in the present.
They have shown scant regard in the draconian draft LTP for the wellbeing of thousands of ratepayers in Mangawhai and on the East coast and would have been quite happy to destroy their livelihoods and their communities, all for the purpose of paying for Council's incompetence and illegal debts. It would be somewhat contradictory for them to decide not to collect monies that are legally due and owing because of sensitivity about a handful of West coasters having to pay a few years' arrears of a debt.
When there is a debt owed by the Mayor to Council then Councillors are obliged to ensure that no special treatment is offered to the Mayor. The debt must be paid in full without fear or favour.
Councillors should also be aware that they can personally be held responsible for losses to a local authority (section 46 LGA) if "a local authority has intentionally or negligently failed to enforce the collection of money it is lawfully entitled to receive" (section 44).
OAG IN TOWN 14.07.12
In the meantime they are suggesting that all those who want to make submissions do so in writing.
Many ratepayers have contacted me over the past few years with horrendous tales of inappropriate and threatening behaviour by Council staff. There have been suggestions of improper procedures and corruption. Now is the time to put pen to paper and make your complaints to the Auditor-General. Your complaints are privileged. That means that they are confidential and you cannot be charged with defamation or any offence in making the complaint.
It does not matter how small your complaint is. Most of us have had problems with the connection from our properties to the actual sewer in the road. If you had a problem like this then let the OAG know.
Full details of the terms of reference can be found here. Submissions should be sent to: email@example.com Or: Office of the Auditor-General, Private Bag 3928, Wellington 6140.
WASTEWATERGATE COMPLAINT LODGED WITH POLICE 13.07.12
It is alleged that there was no rational explanation for the failure to bill or to collect the monies that were due and owing, and it was felt that the police should make enquiries to see if the benefit accorded to the Mayor was in any way an attempt to influence the Mayor.
COUNCIL ACKNOWLEDGES THAT ADDITIONAL PENALTIES ON RATES ARE ILLEGAL 09.07.12
In relation to the proposed levying of an additional penalty on last years rates I have looked at this issue further and note that we agree with your analysis. As a result Council will not now be proceeding with the imposition of this penalty. This is a matter that we should have investigated further before the letters were sent and so I apologise for that.
Apologies are fine but Steve Ruru's letter caused a lot of distress to many ratepayers across the district, This follows close on the heels of the Ruru inspired draft LTP which also caused massive anguish amongst a large section of the community that was clearly evidenced by the heartfelt feelings expressed at the hearings of submissions.
One has to question whether this Council really cares at all about its responsibility to ratepayers and the four well-beings that are supposed to be the basis of all its actions.
We ratepayers have suffered for many years under a Council that was incompetent and operated outside the law. Clearly there has been absolutely no improvement, and the KDC continues its aimless meander towards self-destruction.
PENALTY SHOOT-OUT 09.07.12
Council has been pragmatic (some would say Machiavellian) about the situation and adopted the view that it does not matter whether the rates and penalties are illegal because there is no one in NZ who gives a tinker's cuss whether local authorities comply with the law or not. That is with the exception of ratepayers, but in this modern-day feudal system they are totally insignificant, and end up footing the bill for the unbridled excesses further up the feeding chain.
However, with the NZ Police decision on the complaint of theft against the KDC due to be aired this week, there is a certain amount of nervousness in Council circles. The Mayor has apparently packed his overnight bag, and the Deputy Mayor has already lined up Greg King as her lawyer.
Council has finally agreed to come up with an independent first principles solution to resolve the uncertainty once and for all. It has gone international to look for a remedy and has decided to invoke FIFAA rules.
FIFAA - Financial and Illegal Funding Activities Association - has procedures for settling issues where there is some doubt about the legality of some particular matter.
In respect of penalties on rates, any concerns about the legality of such penalties will be decided by a penalty shoot-out. If a goal is scored, the penalty will be legal. If a goal is not scored, the penalty will be illegal.
Ratepayers who smugly feel the odds are stacked in their favour at the thought of Councillors such as Julia Sutherland having to score from the penalty spot, will no doubt be dismayed to hear that FIFAA spokesperson Steve Ruru has announced new rules for this particular shoot-out. The goal will be 20 metres wide and 10 metres high, and penalties will be taken from 5 metres. There will be no goalkeeper.
However, Mr Ruru was at pains to point out that it will still be a level playing field.
MASSIVE SUPPORT FOR RATE STRIKE 06.07.12
No wonder he is clutching at straws and making wild threats to add penalties that Council has no power to charge. That sounds suspiciously like behaviour that is entering into the criminal arena. Here are the facts:
The rates are clearly illegal. The Salter report has stated that. Council has acknowledged that. The LGRA confirms that a ruling from the court is not necessary to confirm that a rate is invalid.
In spite of that Council is insisting that ratepayers have to pay the illegal rates. The police are at present deciding whether this amounts to theft or obtaining by deception.
But more than that, Steve Ruru has now personally written to ratepayers threatening them with a further illegal penalty if they do not pay the illegal rates.
Section 239 of the Crimes Act (Demanding with intent to steal) states:
(2) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with menaces or by any threat, demands any property from any persons with intent to steal it.
Legal Eagle is preparing a formal complaint to lodge with the police.
TEN PER CENT PENALTY ILLEGAL 05.07.12
See his comments here.
ILLEGALITIES DISCUSSED ON MORNING REPORT 04.0712
The report can be heard here. Scroll down to Lawyer says new rate in Kaipara is illegal.
PENALTIES FOR RATES 04.07.12
This is the last legal action that Council can take for another four months. That gives us sufficient time to bring Council to its knees and for the Minister to come to his senses.
DO NOT PAY THE RATES
The rates are illegal and Council and its solicitor have acknowledged this.
It is not necessary to respond to Council, but if you wish to explain the legal grounds for non-payment then you can use the letter shown here.
If you have no mortgage then Council can take no further action for four months.
If you have a mortgage, Council may approach your bank for payment. If you receive a letter from your bank then please let us know.
Because the Council, with the suport of the Minister and the OAG, is now operating outside the law, the withholding of rates is the only effective power that ratepayers have.
We are winning the battle. Starving Council of cash is the only effective way of bringing this illegal and incompetent circus to an end.
LETTER TO MINISTER 04.07.12
This reinforces the view that the Office of the Minister, along with that of the Auditor-General are responsible for creating a culture in local government whereby chief executives or mayors effectively run local authorities, and councillors are merely a rubber-stamping entity.
That is completely contrary to the provisions and to the principles of the LGA and the fundamental reason why the Kaipara District Council is now in the mess that it finds itself.
The letter to the Minister can be seen here.
DARGAVILLE POOL PROBLEMS 04.07.12
Does anyone have the facts?
COUNCIL MEETING 27 JUNE 01.07.12
LACK OF FOCUS? 30.06.12
It sets out in gory detail how miscreants who do not pay their rates can be dealt with under the provisions of the Local Government Act. It sounds really frightening and transportation to Australia sounds like a much better fate.
There is nothing new in what she says. Council does have quite broad powers in the long term. However, in the short term it can do very little to enforce payment of rates unless one has a mortgage.
All the rate strikers are aware of that. They are also aware that they have access to advice at any time and the organisers of the rates strike will ensure that no individual is singled out by Council. The aim is to ensure that legal proceedings are not issued against any ratepayer.
If Emma Smith is concerned with illegalities and is so experienced in rating law then I am astounded that whilst she was employed by the Council she did not bring her expertise to bear on the direful rating situation within that organisation.
All the EcoCare rates for the last four years have been declared by Jonathan Salter to be invalid, and Steve Ruru now acknowledges rating botch-ups going back six year. I know that when I was sending my opinions to Council to try and stop the descent into legal chaos Emma Smith was on the payroll of Council. But she did not get involved in any way.
There were a pile of other illegalities which could have kept Emma busy when she was working for Council.
For the sake of balance and fairness I hope that Emma Smith has written to Council and pointed out the dire consequences that it will suffer because of its persistent and ongoing failure to comply with the same legislation that ratepayers are now being forced to ignore.
She should also be writing to the Councillors warning them of their personal responsibility for the losses of Council under the Local Government Act.
COUNCIL MEETING 30.06.12
A report on the meeting and recent developments by Lois Williams on Morning Report can be heard here. (Scroll down to Ministeral Review Team meets troubled Kaipara Council.) MRRA Chair Bruce Rogan has his say, and there is a bizarre interruption. Worth listening to.
THREE WISE MEN 30.06.12
FURTHER INTO CHAOS 30.06.12
That section allows a local authority to base the new rates on rates "payable" in the previous year if it has failed to set the new rates according to the Act.
There is uncertainty about the extent of what Council quaintly calls "irregularities" because Steve Ruru has failed to follow up on his promise to get Simpson Grierson lawyer Jonathan Salter to review the validity of all of the rates set in the last few years. Or, because he has actually obtained that review but is keeping it secret because of the implications it has in respect of Council's debt and its solvency.
Legal Eagle provided an opinion to Councillors on the legality of their actions before the Council meeting, just as he did for all the illegal rates resolutions in the last four years. And, just as before, the Councillors chose to ignore his advice.
Go here to see the legal opinion.
Scroll down below the legal opinion to see Legal Eagle's comments and how Council is getting itself into an even bigger legal mess.
When oh when are the watchdogs - the OAG, the Minister and Audit NZ - going to wake up from their sleep and stop this legal chaos? Or do ratepayers have to go to court and waste every one's money to find out what everyone already knows?
The Northern Advocate article can be seen here.
FREE LUNCHES CONTINUE 30.06.12
The KDC Councillors may not understand much about finances, legal compliance, governance, or setting rates, but they know a good perk when they see one.
See Annette Lambly's article in the Northern Advocate (here).
MORE SKELETONS BEING EXPOSED 26.06.12
Whatever happens there will be a few skeletons coming out of the closet to be picked over, and no doubt Steve Ruru will be cramming some of his own skeltons into closets to join those of Jack's.
MEDIA PERSON WANTED DESPERATELY 26.06.12
TIME FOR A PETITION? 26.06.12
MEETING WITH NICOLA WHITE 25.06.12
SHOULD WE SUPPORT COUNCIL? 18.06.12
THIS IS A CONSPIRACY 18.06.12
That such a conspiracy to defeat the course of justice, fairness and everything else you can think of, could happen in New Zealand in 2012 under John Key's government is a matter that all New Zealanders should be very, very concerned about.
This is a conspiracy at the highest level. The only power that ratepayers have is to show their contempt for such behaviour and stop all payments of rates immediately and ensure that the KDC is put out of its misery.
For those of you ratepayers who have any doubts, let me assure you that the KDC has committed a monstrous fraud on the people of Kaipara by illegally gambling $70 to $80 million of ratepayers money - and lost, and, in addition, is now being investigated by the NZ Police for theft of nearly $10 million.
DO NOT POUR ANY MORE MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN
For further advise on the Rates Strike go here
MINISTER FAILS HIS FIRST TEST 18.06.12
Former Minister Rodney Hide put the KDC on watch for six months in September 2011. That six months probation period expired at the end of April 2012.
The former Minister set out about five areas of concern that had to be attended to by Council during that time. He stressed that the LTP for 2012/22 would be the big test for Council as it would illustrate that all concerns had been addressed.
The reality is that the draft LTP has been a mammoth failure. Council has failed dismally to address any of the matters that concerned the Minister. Not only that, it has continued on its spiral into chaos with a total disregard of compliance with the LGA and a complete failure to come to grips with its financial situation and its massive debt.
So, what action has the Minister taken? (more here - scroll down)
And Cr Geange?
Cr Geange will have spent many hours over the weekend mustering her sheep and corralling those who tried to separate themselves from the flock. That is when she is not reorganising her wardrobe so that there is room for the bulky Mayoral robes and the paraphernalia of power.
SO WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON? 17.06.12
Cr Geange has emerged as the alpha-male of Council who has truly inherited the mantle of Jack McKerchar and dominates other Councillors with a ruthlessness and singleminded self-interest that is totally misplaced in what is supposed to be a democratic organisation based on good governance.
The vision of Cr Geange wearing the Mayoral robes should send a shudder down the spines of all ratepayers and be enough to encourage even the faint-hearted to stop paying their rates IMMEDIATELY.
DO NOT PAY THE INSTALMENT OF 20 JUNE
INTERESTING FIGURES IN DRAFT LTP 17.06.12
REVIEW TEAM APPOINTED 13 06 12
MORE ILLEGALITIES 13.06.12
RATES STRIKE AT MANGAWHAI 12.06.12
KDC IN TURMOIL 12.06.12
Council is continuing dicussions today.
MORE ILLEGALITIES 12.06.12
See also what Brent Agnew and Steve Sosich have to say about it. (here)
Other comments along the same lines are invited as I want to lodge a formal complaint with the Auditor-General.
SOME HUMANITY AT LAST 12.06.12
Finally, Andrew Wade has made his mark in the sand. At yesterday's Council meeting Andrew made his feelings known. A report from Starboard Watch on the Councillor Larsen's website describes what happened:
Cr Wade started the day by a personal statement that set the scene - he noted that he was ashamed to be part of such a flawed process - a process that had reduced some submitters to tears - he asked how the council had got it so wrong.
The rest of the comment can be seen here. Also have a look at the subsequent comment from Ralph.
CABINET CONSIDERS KAIPARA'S FATE 11.06.12
It is a brave move by the Minister. He has kept his head down since he took office and one hopes that he is up to speed on what actually is going on in Kaipara. The Rates Bomb is certainly a very powerful piece of weaponry and although it is designed to destroy Kaipara and Mangawhai it is known to be very unstable, and one only hopes that the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues know how to handle it. It could back-fire and create an awful mess, politically speaking.
HEARINGS CHARADE IS OVER 11.06.12
The KDC is becoming one of the longest running jokes in the history of local government in New Zealand. And it would be a joke if it wasn't for the appalling human tragedy that these clowns are about to visit on Kaipara in general and on Mangawhai in particular.
All reports say that the inappropriately named "Hearings" (they didn't listen and they didn't hear) were full of the impending tragedy that will result from the rates bomb.
Bruce Rogan of the Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association was there for some time and gives his own personal account of what he saw. (here)
RURU GROWS HORNS 11.06.12
I think that Steve Ruru thought that KDC was going to be an easy ride. After all he had been through exactly this same scenario at Thames Coromandel District Council. There were protests there as well, but in the end he managed to shaft home the massive wastewater debt to ratepayers. He virtually destroyed the Council and District in achieving that end, but that has not stopped him from doing it all over again.
Ensconced in his bunker, drafting the results of the hearings before they are made available to him and refining the detonation mechanism on his rates bomb, he will not be reflecting on the carnage that he is going to be responsible for. He will be reflecting on his own fate and wondering when the Circus Owner is going to cut the strings that enable him to strut his stuff as Ring Master.
It can't be long, Steve. The carnival is nearly over.
HEARINGS FARCE 11.106.12
But the reality is that it is all a total farce. Minister David Carter has told the clowns that they have to have an LTP in place by the end of June. Dishonest? Illegal? In breach of the LGA? A rates bomb in disguise? It doesn't matter. Circus Owner Carter has ordered it (and the OAG has closed its eyes to it) so it is simply a matter of going through the motions.
Councillor Jonathan Larsen suggests that Council is in a parallel universe and that:
The whole fiasco is completely unrealistic, smacks of predetermination, and is a total breach of natural justice.
For more comments from Councillor Larsen go to his website here.
MINISTER MISSES THE BUS No 2 05.06.12
Mr Carter says the Council would continue with its Long Term Plan consultation and hearings in order to adopt its Long Term Plan by the end of June and set its rates for the 2012/13 financial year.
“The review team will assist the Council with its consideration of critical issues, including setting appropriate rating levels for Kaipara ratepayers for subsequent years. Continuing to borrow to pay interest and operating costs is simply not sustainable.”
The review team has no yet been appointed or approved by Cabinet so the Rates Bomb will have exploded before it even draws first breath.
MINISTER MISSES THE BUS 05.06.12
Mixed metaphors aside, see what Legal Eagle has to say about the Minister's latest move.(here)
MAYORAL WASTE 05.06.12
A sample submission and details can be found here.
OAG CONCERNS 01.06.12
NEWSTALK ZB 01.06.12
Could some actuary type person please go into the Council website and do the calculations for Mangawhai and come up with a true percentage for our village (and include the capital charge which is a rate). Do not deduct the remission. That is solely at the discretion of Council and only on application. It is another con.
Don't let Tiller and his mob dictate the headlines.
SIGNS OF SURRENDER 01.06.12
More money into this bottomless pit named incompetence.
Deck Chair Review Team
SIGNS OF (DI)STRESS 01.06.12
SEND SUBMISSIONS 01.06.12
Prime Minister: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Local Government David Carter: email@example.com
Mike Sabin MP: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of the Auditor-General: email@example.com
STEVEN FRANKS COMMENTS 31.05.12
TILLER ON CHECKPOINT 31.05.12
DIRECT DEBITS 31.05.12
MINISTER APPOINTS REVIEW TEAM 30.05 12
MAYORAL ISSUES 30.05.12
The statement of proposal is hidden away, as befits a "secret deal", but can be found here. Submissions close on 5 May at 4pm so makes sure that you send them off. You need to reject all the options and....(more)
IT'S TIME TO PULL THE PLUG 30.05.12
It is also the day when the Councillors receive a very strong message from ratepayers that they have long outstayed their welcome and that it is time to go. If they bother to read the submissions Councillors will receive the message loud and clear that they are incompetent, acting outside the law, and that they have totally betrayed the trust of ratepayers.
Meanwhile the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have been meeting with the Minister and the rumours are flying thick and fast of imminent action to pull the plug ......(More here)
WASTEWATERGATE SCANDAL 28.05.12
It is a basic principle that any person representing ratepayers cannot derive a personal benefit from any of the matters that they deal with in their representative capacity.
It appears that this rule was ignored in several instances.
In the next few days I will reveal the information that I have.
LATEST SUBMISSION 28.05.12
RATES STRIKE 26.05.12
AUDIT REPORT FOR THE LTP 25.05.12
"The devious way in which Steve Ruru has managed to keep the debts for all the illegal rates out of the LTP."
LETTERS TO THE MINISTER 25.05.12
EX MAYOR RAMSEY JOINS THE DEBATE. 25.05.12
NEIL TOLICH'S ADVICE 25.05.12
SAMPLE SUBMISSION 25.05.12
HOW TO MAKE A SUBMISSION 24.05.12
MODEL LTP SUBMISSION 24.05.12
RATES BOMB RANT 24.05.12
IS THIS CORRUPTION? 22.05.12
For more go here.
LTP MODEL SUBMISSION 21.05.12
SUIPs FOR ALL TASTES 21.05.12
WORLD RECORD FOR NZ CRICKETER? 21.05.12
See the article in the Herald on Sunday here
MORE ILLEGALITY FROM KDC 21.05.12
The Councillors have absolutely no comprehension of what this is all about. For years they abandoned their brains and any sense of duty to ratepayers and blindly followed the dictates of an opppressive dictator. Now they are like a bunch of kindergarten kids trying to hobble together a financial plan which is beyond their capacity to comprehend.
For more details of the legal requirements go here.
A STRIKING PHOTO 19.05.12
WHAT KAIPARA AND ATHENS MIGHT LEARN FROM EACH OTHER 19.05.12
Many of the Kaipara considerations for central government are similar to those facing the Germans who will decide whether Greeks should be rescued from the consequences of decades of electing fools and crooks to lead them.
But we all suffer from bad government. There is no court to award protection from such unfairness. There is no cosmic 'Fair Go" or 'Target' to remedy failures of democracy by exposing the idiocy of those responsible.
KDC A SERIAL OFFENDER? 19.05.12
RUTHLESS GRAB FOR MONEY 17.05.12
The LTP is simply a desperate and ruthless grab for money to fund the debt that Council has incurred because of its reckless and illegal acts, It is nothing more than an extortion device that has no basis in law. It was put together by a bunch of number crunchers who basically, blind-folded, threw darts at the board to see who would cop the burden of making up the 31% deficit.
JOHN KEY PLAYS MANUEL 17.05.12
"I know notheen, Mr Fawlty."
John Key looked as though he was playing Manuel this week. When asked about Kaipara's problems by Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB, he replied:
"I don't know the situation"
Now that must be right. But that means that he has not read any of the letters that ratepayers have sent to him, or heard any of the comments that some ratepayers assure me that they have addressed to him in person. And clearly he has missed the reports of Kaipara's problems in the media.
With respect, there are a lot of issues at stake here and some serious failings at a high level. There is an awful lot of egg flying around and looking for a face to land on. The Prime Minister has to be careful that it is not his.
"I know notheen, Mr Smith"
RURU REGRETS 17.05.12
HERALD ON SUNDAY 17.05.12
His previous article can be seen here.
DO YOU TRUST THE DEPUTY MAYOR?
GEANGE IN THE GUN 16.05.12
She has been the de facto leader of Council for some time and has kept the Councillors true to the principles that Jack McKerchar bequeathed. She mustered her flock with skill and dexterity but sadly abandoned them at the first sign of danger.
"COUNCIL INSOLVENT" SAY RATEPAYERS 16.05.12
WANNA GOOD LAUGH 16.05.12
The article also states that the system has the capacity to service 4,500 properties.
Apparently the system is absolutely state of the art. But don't read the article while you are eating. You will choke on it.
For a reality check go here and look at the real situation.
(Thanks to John Dickie for the reference - far away in Vietnam, but still with us.)
COVER UP 16.05.12
A copy of the original statement of proposal - the only one that ratepayers were consulted on - can be found here.
MORE PHOTOS OF THE MARCH (here)
JOEL CAYFORD 14.05.12
It is interesting that at that stage (the year 2000) the scheme proposed by Beca was to cost $16 million.
KAIPARA PONZI SCHEME 14.05.12
MORNING REPORT 14.05.12
THE MARCH AND MEETING 14.05.12
Comments on the March and the meeting with Council can be made here. Please let us have your honest feedback about your feelings. See what Legal Eagle and others are writing here.