Final Council Meeting
This comment from John MacDonald, KCRA executive member and editor of Kaipara Konnection, was first published here.
The Battle Might Be Won But The War Goes On 02.09.12
What a comedy act in Hokianga Road on Wed 29th. Kaipara District Council, minus the mayor who has broken his leg, met for the last time. Without fanfare, Jonathan Larsen trumped the day with a prepared speech which he read out – against the wishes of the Deputy Mayor – and lambasted his colleagues for their conduct. He concluded by saying “I will not be a party to such unlawful, shameful and disgraceful actions in these dying days of our Council. I resign effective immediately.” He then walked out of the chamber. Timing – 100 out of 100. You can read Jonathan’s speech here.
Amidst more heckling from the overflowing public gallery, the Council agreed to adopt the Annual Report for 2010/11 and the Long Term Plan 2012/22. And with that the meeting closed and the remaining members pass into history as the first District Council in modern times to be sacked by the Minister of Local Government for gross incompetence.
Within almost minutes, the Minster of Local Government announced the appointment of 4 Commissioners to run the Kaipara District for the next few years. You can read the press release from the Beehive here.
Also released was the full report of the Review Team, which was handed to the Minster on the 17th August 2012, and provided the catalyst for the appointment of the Commissioners. You can read that report here. Of particular note in this report is the justification for providing the report much earlier than required by the terms of reference because of the clear inability of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Councillors to run the Council effectively. Of concern is the finding that there is a “culture” imbedded in the Council staff which will have to be removed if the Commissioners are to gain the respect of the citizens and ratepayers. This respect is essential if there it to be any possibility of the District picking itself up and regenerating.
It Seems Likely that Withholding of Rates Will Probably Continue
The first big battle ahead for the Commissioners is dealing with the rates that have been struck in the 2012/22 Long Term Plan. Many people who received their interim rates bill a few weeks ago were somewhat surprised at the apparently small increase in their payments. Remember that that amount was only 20% increase on last year’s rate.
Read the LTP as adopted on Wed 29th Aug and you will find that a significant increase of more than 30% has been decided on across the District – depends where you own property.
Not only has the base rate gone up, but increases have been added to the whole list of other items against which the final bill for rates is struck. This means that In Dargaville for example, a property with a land valuation of $74,000 will see their rates bill increase from $1335.70 for the year 2011/12 to $1850.37 for the year 2012/13. That is an increase of $494.87 $9.50 per week) or 37%.
In Mangawhai a residential property with a land valuation of $120.000 last year paid rates of $1800.00. This year 2012/13 the rates rise to $2589.12. That is an increase of $789.12 $15.18 per week) or 44%. Ah. “Jack’s dunny” has to be paid for of course.
Maungaturoto comes out best with a rate increase of only $540.16 ($10.39 per week) or 33%.
Now that the figures are official there it seems reasonable to predict that there will be a significant increase in people withholding their rates.
According to the report of the Review Team this action was a major factor in forcing the Minister of Local Government to sit up and take notice – aka People Power.
And it is not just ratepayers who are affected. While rates make up only a percentage of rent, it is important to remember that many people in this District rent their accommodation. They are often on a fixed income from pension or other Government assistance and simply cannot afford to have their rental increase by this amount. Take a single person on a sickness benefit with other allowances) who receives approx $235.00 a week in the hand at present. Council owned single person rentals in Dargaville cost around $100.00 per week which leaves $135 for power, phone, clothing, medical and dental charges. No money to run a car, go out of town, or even swim in the pool. That is reality. Now put a 37% increase in rates into the $100.00 equation.
And its no better “down on the farm”. There are believable stories around town of farmers who are so stretched that they are about to walk into their bank, leave the tractor and house keys on the counter and walk out the door with the remark “and the cows are due to be milked at 3.30pm. See you in the bankruptcy court.”
Hence the title of this weeks editorial article. We may have won a battle in getting rid of the inept Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and councillors, but the legacy they leave behind is mind blowing. No consensus figure seems to be available for the debt they have bequeathed us. Most agree that it will probably climb to over $100.000.000.00. That is an awful lot of zeros isn’t it? We have not seen the terms of reference for the 4 Commissioners yet but one thing remains certain. A growing number of people will continue to withhold their rates for the meantime until a legal Long Term Plan is written with community input and a sensible, new level of rates is struck. Let’s hope that the Commissioners can quickly encourage that essential community support and begin the recovery process. Then, and only then, will the Kaipara once again be a great place to live in, work in, and play in.
Brent Agnew 30.08.12
After attending the Dargaville Circus today I hold my head low with sorrow. Sorrow that the LTP (Long Term Plan) has been pushed through and will apparently stand. Sorrow that none of us even knew the contents of the revised LTP. Sorrow that the revised LTP was not made public prior to today’s circus. Sorrow at all the illegalities that occurred today.
I thought we lived in a democratic society....I now believe we don’t. I went to today’s circus having absolutely no faith in the Kaipara District Council and I left today’s circus with now having absolutely no faith or trust in the Parliamentary appointed Auditors as well as Central Government. It is obvious that Central Government are pulling the puppet strings and see the Kaipara issue as one that needs to be extinguished a.s.a.p in the Governments favour, so as not to cause ripples of descent in other rate paying districts throughout NZ. Where is the justice and why aren’t the Auditor’s Office undertaking a forensic audit to determine why the Kaipara District is in such a financial mess and lay blame at the feet of those who have caused the mess?
Where to from here? Well I am very sure that the implosions within the KDC will continue until someone takes leadership and control to the extent that they acknowledge the wrongdoings of the KDC and its leadership. Will the Commisioners do this? Whatever happens McKercher, Tiller, Geange and any Councillors who have supported the illegal activities of the KDC need to be held personally accountable and have justice served. I handed over $20.00 today to Bruce Rogan as a start point of raising funds to take the KDC to task legally through the High Court Of New Zealand or whatever other court we need to go through to have justice served on those legally held responsible. I place my name forward to help in fundraising the amount of funds needed to gain a legal victory that will see justice correctly served.
Pete Grierson 30.08.12
At today's meeting, both the DIA and OAG said (words to the effect) that it is neither of their jobs to check that (any) council is acting within the letter of the various laws re the Local Government Act etc.
Pardon me if this is an obvious question - but if it's neither of those two bodies role - then who's role is it? Otherwise - what is the point of having an Act with any deadlines at all?