A SMALL BUT SIGNIFICANT VICTORY 23.12.12
Council has finally agreed - after four years - to amend the assesment of Legal Eagle's bach so that he is only charged one EcoCare rate for the current year.
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.
BREACH OF TRUST 23.12.12
In July this year Council resolved to work hand in hand with ratepayers to resolve the issue of prior illegal rates. The commissioners have now decided to rescind those resolutions and to deny the community any input into the decison.
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
Kaz's complaint to the Ombudsman relating to Council's refusal to reveal the contents of the $36,000 legal opinions can be seen here.
GREG GENT SUPPORTS VALIDATION WITHOUT CONSULTATION 22.12.12
In a letter in the Kaipara Lifestyler (here) review team chief Greg Gent supports the validation process adopted by the commissioners even though they have failed to comply with his team's recommendations and the Minister's terms of reference and consult with ratepayers BEFORE making the decision.
His letter and the comments of Legal Eagle can be seen here.
JACK ATTACK 21.12.12
Former Chief Executive Jack McKerchar has threatened to file an injunction to stop the Council releasing details of his severance package with the Council. The press release can be seen here.
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
The mystery of the missing Council letter threatening to take court action against defaulting ratepayers has been solved.
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
John and Margaret Henderson have written to local MP Mike Sabin criticising his role in supporting the validation procedure. Their letter can be seen here.
Please let us have your views on this crucial matter. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the name that your post is to be go under.
COMMISSIONERS ISSUE DECREE 19.12.12
The commissioners press release relating to validation can be viewed here. The press release is full of the usual misleading information and half-truths. Legal Eagle comments on the contents of the press release here.
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
At a Council meeting yesterday the beleaguered commissioners finally conceded that many of the rates for the past six years are invalid. They do not know which ones because, in spite of recently spending an unbudgeted $36,000 on secret legal opinions, the invalid rates have not been clearly identified.
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
The decision by the commissioners that many of the rates are invalid means that Council cannot legally collect rates. By going down the validation road it was obliged to acknowledge that the rates were invalid. This undermines its whole argument that the rates are due and payable. No court is going to entertain any action to recover the rates when Council admits itself that they are invalid.
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
Read Sharon Sunderland's comments (here) on the illegal rates and the effect it is having on her elderly parents.
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
The MRRA has released parts of the opinion from Kitt Littlejohn Barrister (here). The opinion confirms the view expressed by many that the current LTP fails to comply with the Local Government Act. It is therefore invalid. This means that the rates set for the current year are also invalid because they are based on an invalid LTP.
This will come as great comfort to those ratepayers who are holding out.
RESPONSE TO COUNCIL 17.12.12
We have been unable to find any threats from Council to issue legal proceedings against individual ratepayers. However, Legal Eagle has drafted a response to the claim for rates pointing out that the rates are not due and payable and Council does not have a legal case to pursue.
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
Several reports were commissioned from Alan Bickers by Greg Gent's review team. One related to the condition and value for money of the EcoCare plant and peripherals. The aim was to assess if the contractor had complied with the terms of the construction contract and that the plant was fit for the contracted purpose.
Nothing has emerged from the Council's fortress about his matter. Does anyone have any information?
THREATS VAPOURISED? 17.12.12
In their Press Release of 5 December 2012 (here) the commissioners stated that they had advised more than 400 ratepayers that they would take action in the courts to recover arrears of rates outstanding.
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
Ratepayers are incensed to hear that the commissioners are going to seek a private bill to validate what chair of commissioners John Robertson calls a "dog’s breakfast of procedural and technical failings". The media release can be viewed here.
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.
GULLIBLE RATEPAYERS 11.10.12
It is so clear that the long term plan is invalid, and therefore the rates, that it is hard to believe that there is anyone who will be paying this instalment of rates. Council is again bordering on the criminal, issuing rates invoices when it knows that it has no power to collect rates because the underlying plan is invalid.
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
Planner Joel Cayford questions the figures in the LTP and Legal Eagle suggests that payment of rates should be withheld until the government gets an independent appraisal of Council's financial status and viability. Pouring further monies in to a sinking hulk seems pointless. See the post here
WHO FOOTS THE BILL? 10.10.12
If ratepayers are not responsible for the illegal debts of the KDC then who is?
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
The Kaipara commissioners appear to have been infected with the same "spin " disease that affected ex-Mayor Tiller so badly.
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
John MacDonald has an interesting article in the Kaipara Konnection (here) about the new rates asessments that have just landed in everyone's mail box.
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
Fiona Govan in an article in The Telegraph (here) about how the Spanish financial crisis has affected the Valencia region, likens it to a ghost city that has become a symbol of Spain’s spending woes.
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
Legal Eagle comments on the Paul Holmes' comment in yesterday's Herald and reflects on the how the media and the general public meekly accept illegalities and inquiries that are not truly independent.(here)
WORZEL WISDOM 03.10.12
Worzel from the Mangawhai Focus presents his own personal perspective on the Kaipara financial and legal debacle here.
FIXING RATING BLUNDERS 03.10.12
One of the options that Council is considering to legalise the illegal EcoCare and other rates is a local bill through parliament that validates the rates. The legal advice that Council has received seems to suggest that this is an easy process that can be achieved in a short time without any problems.
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
Legal Eagle looks at the personal liability of the commissioners (here) if they blindly follow the dictates of the Minister and do not act in accordance with their legal obligations and in the best interests of ratepayers.
DOTCOM AND ILLEGALITY 30.09.12
One interesting point that has come out of the Dotcom farce is the question of when an illegal act can be seen to be illegal.
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
Prime Minister John Key has acknowledged that government agencies broke the law when intercepting the communications of KDC - Kim Dotcom. How long will it be before he is faced with the similar admissions of law-breaking in respect of the other KDC - Kaipara District Council?
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
Legal Eagle examines (here) the conflict of interest facing the commissioners. Do they follow the dictates of the Minister and put the best interests of the banks and the government first, or do they comply with their legal obligations under statute law and the common law and make the well-being of the community and the best interests of the community their top priority?
HOW TO COMBAT THE KAIPARA DISEASE
MEET THE COMMISSIONERS 23.09.12
The MRRA and the KCRA have met with the commissioners. The comments of Bruce Rogan of the MRRA can be seen here and here and here. The comments of Ron Manderson of the KCRA can be found on its website here.
JEFFERSON COUNTY 23.09.12
See the article here on the bankruptcy of Jefferson County in the US - because of a sewerage system that ran out of control.
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
Hear John Key talking to Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB (here) about Auckland rates and you realise how councils are running out of control and central government can do little about it.
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
On today's Morning Report (here - scroll down to Kaipara ratepayers say...) Bruce Rogan of the MRRA comments on the first meeting of his executive with the Kaipara commissioners.
DISHONESTY IN GOVERNMENT 17.09.12
There are those who may think sometimes that some of the comments on this website are over the top. The criticism of the ethics and the honesty of the government does not align with New Zealand being the most uncorrupt country on the planet.
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
Ratepayers were somewhat surprised by the Minister's blunt instructions to the commissioners in the terms of reference (here) to enforce the rates.
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
Frank Newman compares (here) Kaipara and Whangarei with the beleaguered European nations such as Greece and Spain and states that they have the same "hallmarks of demise".
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
Anne Hunt in the Trojan Horse column on Council Watch muses about the problems of Kaipara and the influence of the Auditor-General.
WHO FOOTS THE BILL WHEN A COUNCIL GOES BERSERK? 09.09.12
Bernard Hickey at interest.co.nz (here) asks this interesting question.
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.
The reality is, and the government is doing all it can to ignore this elephant in the room, that although a receiver appointed by a bank has certain powers to assess rates to recover payments under an illegal debt, a council or its commissioners have no such power. A council can only levy rates based on the four well-beings of the community under the Local Government Act, and has to comply with its fiduciary obligations to act in the best interest of ratepayers at all time, and always put the ratepayers' best interests before its own.
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 Minister's terms of reference for the commissioners can be seen here.
THE CIRCUS LEAVES TOWN 06.09.12
The Circus finally packs up and leaves town today as the commissioners take over. Any regrets from the clowns?
THE CLOWN'S LAMENT
with apologies to Frank Sinatra
And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
To you, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I did, what I was told
I cast my vote, there was no leeway
And yes, I do confess, I did it Jack's way
Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what Jack said to do
And saw it through without exemption
I took, the easy route, those fateful steps
Along the wrong way
And yes, I do confess, I did it Jack's way
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I closed my brain and just freaked out
I Ignored it all, and I stood small, and did it Jack's way
I've made, some big mistakes
I've had my fill, of non-compliance
And now, I've been caught out,
Its goodbye to my defiance
To think, I did all that
I'm not at fault, it was not my way
"Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it Jack's way"
Yet what did I do, that was so wrong?
I just said yes, and went along
And cast my vote, with little fight
And failed to ask, if it was right
There is no doubt, that I copped out, and did it Jack's way.
And amen to that
COMMISSIONERS TAKE OVER 06.09.12
See the Northern Advocate article here on the commissioners taking over the reins of the Kaipara Council today.
THE ROMANS SHOW THE A-G THE WAY 06.09.12
Legal Eagle examines some basic principles of law and questions how the Auditor-General can be holding an inquiry in which her Office is one of the parties being examined. (here)
BNZ AND ANZ HOLD THE DESTINY OF KAIPARA 06.09.12
Read Gareth Vaughan's latest article in interest.co.nz. here about the debt situation of Council.
JOHN DICKIE'S LETTER 04.09.12
Read John Dickie's excellent letter in the Kaipara Lifestyler on the findings of the review team and how he sees the future.(here)
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
The Kaiara Lifestyler provides photos and backgrounds of the newly appointed commissioners.(here)
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
See Paul Campbell's article in the Kaipara Lifestyler (here) with comments about the KDC's illegal plan and the new rates.
CR LARSEN'S SPEECH 04.09.12
The video of Cr Jonathan Larsen's farewell speech and criticism of the KDC can be viewed here.
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
Gareth Vaughan's article in interest.co.nz (here) talks of the digraced Kaipara Council and raises concerns over the Council joining the Local Government Funding Agency to access cheap loans.
BOUQUETS FOR THE REVIEW TEAM 03.09.12
Legal Eagle has some bouquets for the Ministerial review team's analysis and swift response and some of its statements and initiatives. But he also sounds a word of warning if the commissioners do not listen to, and act upon, the concerns of the community.(here)
KAIPARA KONNECTION 02.09.12
Read John MacDonald's comments on the Council meeting in Kaipara Konnection and the alarming figures for the new rates. (here)
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
Legal Eagle looks at the amazing decision of the Auditor-General to ignore the law and allow the Council to adopt its annual report (here).
RATE STRIKE LATEST 31.08.12
As promised, Legal Eagle sets out the legal side of withholding rates, and the importance of not paying the interim rates that are due for payment on 10 August.(here)
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
Greg Gent from the Minister's review team was absoltuely right when he said at Wednesday's Council meeting that Council had to have an LTP. Without an LTP it does not have the power to collect rates, and if it cannot collect rates it cannot survive.
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
At yesterday's Council meeting a large crowd of ratepayers was witness to a display of cynical manipulation when the grey suits shepherded and pressured the Councillors into adopting the annual report and the LTP.
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
It was quite apparent that at the Council meeting yesterday only ratepayers were aware of the massive elephant in the room. Councillors and bureaucrats were totally oblivious to the imposing presence of the elephant, known as Legal Compliance, which watched the proceedings but played no part in them.
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
Greg Gent talks to Mary Wilson about today's happenings. (here) - scroll down to Government sacks Kaipara Council
COUNCIL ADOPTS 2010/11 ANNUAL REPORT AND 2012/22 LTP
Cr Linton voted against both. Cr Larsen resigned at the commencement of the meeting and delivered a verbal broadside at Council.(here)
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
This is a very big day at the Kaipara Circus. The Circus is putting on its last performance before it packs up and heads to the hills of ignominy and shame.
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
Mayor Tiller has broken his leg and will be unable to attend the vital Council meeting on Wednesday. He was going to sign the letter of representation on behalf of Council to the effect that the Council is financially viable and is a going concern.
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
Legal Eagle has made submissions to the Auditor-General re the audit sign-off for the annual report and the LTP. The 18 reasons for not signing off the audit can be seen here.
REVIEW TEAMS REPORT 26.08.12
Does anyone have a copy of the Minister's review team's report that caused Council to ask for commissioners? If so, are they prepared to leak it to me? I will happily publish it to the world. No dirty secrets here.
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
Legal Eagle makes his feelings known about Council's ridiculous decision to endorse the annual report and the LTP and about Greg Gent's involvement in the matter (here).
KDC ENDORSES REPORT AND LTP 23.08.12
The Council has voted to endorse the 2010/11 annual plan and the 2012/22 LTP. It has confirmed that the Council meets the going concern assumption.
Crs Larsen and Linton voted against the former, and Cr Larsen voted against the latter.
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
In a surprising move the Auditor-General has released letters that she sent to the Mayor and Councillors.The letters have been released "as a matter of community interest" because the Council failed to make the letters publicly available as requested by the A-G.
The letters can be seen here.
CHECKPOINT COMMENTS 23.08.12
Comments from Bruce Rogan, Neil Tiller and Wayne Linton can be heard here. Scroll down to Mayor refuses to comment.
PRESSURE ON COUNCIL MOUNTS 23.08.12
Pressure is mounting from the regulatory authorities for Councillors to sign off the LTP before they disappear in to the History books. Steve Ruru has withdrawn his guidance, failed to get legal advice to assist the Councillors, and left them very much in the lurch.
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
A ratepayer comments:
Regarding McKerchar .. as per his stupendous enlightening paragraph below extracted from the Northern Advocate:
He said yesterday that leaving the council was the best decision he had ever made.
"I'd stopped having fun. I now have my life back," he said.
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 ....
Mary Wilson discussed Jack McKerchar's golden handshake on Checkpoint yesterday evening with Bruce Rogan of the MRRA. The interview can be heard here. Scroll down to Golden handshake......
MCKERCHAR OFF THE HOOK? 22.08.12
Yesterday's revelations about Jack McKerchar's platinum handshake (and his new-found happiness) have caused a few prickles. It is good that Steve Ruru has finally decided to liberate this skeleton from the closet, but there are many more to come.
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
Apparently the Council meeting yesterday was a bit of a circus, which is what one would expect from a .......circus.
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
See the Advocate's article here.
LAST DECISIONS 20.08.12
Tomorrow is an important day in Kaipara. Council is being called upon by the Minister to endorse the blighted annual report for 2010/11 - nearly 10 months behind the statutory deadline - and to adopt the rag-bag of the LTP which is riddled with illegalities.
The Chief Executive has run a mile and refused to endorse the annual report knowing that it is a total sham and is encouraging the Councillors to endorse it based on their knowledge of the situation at the relevant time. Certainly they were there but did they have any idea of what was going on?
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
It has finally been publicly acknowledged that Jack McKerchar received $240,000 from Council in severance pay when he quit Council last year. Ratepayers who are the victims of the Tiller/Geange fiasco must be wondering why the Mayor and Deputy Mayor agreed to that figure.
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
The KDC, according to the Minister, is so bad that it had to go. Ratepayers would endorse that view wholeheartedly. The comments by Deputy Mayor Julie Geange on yesterday’s Morning Report illustrated to the whole of NZ how a fine blend of ignorance and arrogance has reduced the Kaipara Council to financial and legal chaos.......... For more of Legal Eagle's comments on the KDC being allowed to stay in office for a further month go here.
WORKBOOT'S FAREWELL AS A COUNCILLOR 15.08.12
Take a look at Workboot's latest comments (here) about the final moments of the KDC.
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
David Thornton from No More Rates makes some interesting observations about the apointment of a commissioner here. But is he right when he says that in the end ratepayers will have to bear the burden of the debt?
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
Hear Bruce Rogan, Julie Geange, and Labour's Annette King on this morning's Morning Report here:
COMMISSIONER DETAILS 14.08.12
The government has provided a Q & A document on the proposed appointment of a commissioner. Full details are not yet available but the Q & A document has some interesting information. It can be sen here.
SANITY PREVAILS 13.08.12
Following the review team's report to Council this morning Council has unanimously resolved to ask the Minister to appoint commissioners to replace Council. The press release can be seen here. A report in the NZ Herald is here. A further report is here.
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
Council is setting up a special Finance, Audit and Risk Committee. It is the idea of Cr Wade who said that such a committee would provide an opportunity for the Council to better understand the serious financial position it was in and begin to deal with the issues.
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
Steve Ruru is making a lot of hoopla about his new Focus group and getting ratepayers alongside to offer some advice on resolving the illegal rates issue and the $17.6 million debt (and more) that he has recently isolated and yet surprisingly excluded from the LTP.
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
Legal Eagle looks at the OAG Code of Ethics and considers that there is a substantial challenge to the independence and integrity of the OAG because of the perceived poor performance of Audit NZ. Surprisingly the OAG is taking no action to protect its reputation. Go here and scroll down..
AUDIT NZ AGAIN 02.08.12
Legal Eagle posts more comments on Audit NZ and why it must be replaced as KDC's auditor. Go here and scroll down.
AUDIT NZ MUST GO - IMMEDIATELY 30.07.12
Legal Eagle maintains that Audit NZ must be immediately suspended as auditor of the KDC and replaced by an independent audit firm.
The reputation and integrity of the OAG is taking a battering and urgent action is needed.
Putting aside the fact that it is impossible to find an audit firm in NZ that is independent of the OAG, it is a total breach of every principle of law that an audit firm that is subject to an official inquiry because of allegations of incompetence in relation to the audit of a local authority, is allowed to continue as auditor of the same local authority. It should be stood down immediately
The full post can be seen here (scroll down).
INCOMPETENCE, INCOMPETENCE AND MORE INCOMPETENCE 29.07.12
Many readers will find it difficult to believe that the KDC could be as incompetent as it is claimed on this website. Well it is.
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:
2008/09-2011/12 Mangawhai Uniform Targeted Rate
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
Legal Eagle believes that the Council has to go and be replaced before any progress can be made. He stresses the importance of a united approach by all ratepayer representatives so that the Minister and the government hear one clear message.
Individual ratepayers also need to make their voices heard.
Whoever or whatever the Minister appoints must be light years ahead of the current crop of ineffective lost souls masquerading as Councillors who have absolutely no idea what they are doing.
The full article can be seen here (scroll down).
ITS NOT JUST KAIPARA WITH A PROBLEM COUNCIL 26.07.12
Do you want to know what a mess local government is in New Zealand? Read the article (here) by Chris Hutching in the National Business Review about the dysfunctional Christchurch City Council.
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
Its not very often that Legal Eagle sees eye to eye with Julie Geange, the de facto Mayor of the KDC. She was the finance portfolio holder during the financial collapse of Council and must wear a lot of the personal responsibility for Council's descent into financial and legal chaos.
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
Local Government Minister David Carter, if he chooses to act within the law, has a very limited arsenal of weapons when replacing the dysfunctional KDC. He can go the way of a review authority (NOT review team) but this requires a time-consuming process. The quickest way is for Councillors to request intervention.
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
Last week the three members of the Minister appointed review team met with community groups and representatives of ratepayers to get up to speed with what was going on in Kaipara.
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 NZ Police have advised that they will not be taking any action against the Kaipara District Council in respect of the complaint of bribery and corruption under the Crimes Act lodged by Legal Eagle.
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.
Surely that was sufficient reason for the police to investigate further and at least interview the parties involved?
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
Rod Petricevic has had another four months imprisonment added to his sentence of six and a half years gaol sentence for illegally buying a $1.8 million boat with Bridgecorp monies. He was charged with misleading the firm's trustees.
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
Time to tell the truth about this dreadful Council and the extent of its incompetence, illegality and fraud.
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
Chris Hutching in the National Business Review (here) quotes John Key's advice to local authorities in general but it sounds as if it is directed at the Kaipara District Council:
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
Council has confirmed that there are other rates that have been illegally charged over the past few years. It has acknowledged that $17.3 million is now owing to ratepayers.
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
Council is remaining very quiet on the rates that are being charged for new rating year based on the rates payable in the previous year. Legal Eagle has argued that if the rates for the previous year were invalid or the rates assessment was invalid then no rates were "payable" in the previous year. That means that Council cannot use section 50 to set rates in the new rating year. They are also invalid
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
The elephant in the room when it comes to illegal and ultra vires rates is the "unit of demand" rate that Jack McKerchar invented and levied on separate units because of his failure to understand the LGRA.
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 are due to make a decision on the Mayoral Wastewatergate on Monday. As mentioned in an earlier post, a complaint of corruption and bribery has been lodged with the police. It will be interesting to see if Councillors have the guts to bill the Mayor and the others for all the arrears that they are legally obliged to pay.
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
The OAG has been in town for a few days meeting with ratepayers who want to have their say about the inquiry into EcoCare. They have been fully booked up and there is a possibility that they may return if there is a demand.
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
Legal Eagle has lodge a further complaint with the police. This new complaint relates to corruption and the bribery of an official, and relates to Council's failure to bill the Mayor, Neil Tiller, for his share of wastewater removal at the Sunset West subdivision over several years.
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
It is uncertain whether Council held the penalty shoot-out (see post below) in public excluded session, or whether it consulted with its lawyers, but Chief Executive Steve Ruru has just advised that Council acknowledges that the submissions made by Legal Eagle (here) are correct. This means that the letter sent out by Steve Ruru to several thousand ratepayers was legally incorrect. Ratepayers will not have to pay the additional penalty on rate arrears. This is what Steve Ruru said:
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 is in a real lather about its rates and the penalties that it is trying to impose on non-payment. Every time it charges a new rate, or imposes a new penalties, some lawyer pops his head up and says it is illegal.
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
I have heard that the Chief Executive Steve Ruru sent out 2,500 of his threatening letters to ratepayers who have not paid their rates.
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
Legal Eagle has looked at the Rating Act and considers the additional ten per cent penalty to be illegal.
See his comments here.
ILLEGALITIES DISCUSSED ON MORNING REPORT 04.0712
Lois Williams did an interesting report on this morning's Morning Report about the illegal rates and the the ultra vires decisions in respect of EcoCare.
The report can be heard here. Scroll down to Lawyer says new rate in Kaipara is illegal.
PENALTIES FOR RATES 04.07.12
Steve Ruru is desperate to stymie the Rates Strike and has sent out a letter in his own name threatening another ten per cent penalty for non-payment of the last instalment.
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
Legal Eagle has sent a letter to the Minister suggesting that the appointment of the review team was outside the scope of his powers and effectively disenfanchised the Councillors who are, under the LGA, the governing body of Council.
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
Rumours are going around that the Dargaville pool - one of the KDC's many debacles - has some serious problems.
Does anyone have the facts?
COUNCIL MEETING 27 JUNE 01.07.12
For those who could not attend there are two reports on the recent Council meeting here.
LACK OF FOCUS? 30.06.12
The Mangawhai Focus this week contains an article written by a lawyer Emma Smith concerning the legal situation relating to non-payment of rates. I am not sure if it is an editorial piece or an information piece, but it is decidedly one-sided.
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.
It is hard to say if Emma Smith intends her article to be a genuine warning or whether it is a propaganda piece on behalf of Council. The problem is that Emma Smith was employed by the Kaipara District Council for some time and that is something that the editor should have made clear to readers. Her history somewhat colours her message
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
The Council meeting on Wednesday sounded interesting. Well done all those who attended and for the MRRA for its organisation.
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
Legal non-compliance is catching. We have had six years of KDC ignoring the law and now the Minister has caught the same bug. Legal Eagle's latest post expresses concern at the appointment of the three wise men as the review team and their terms of reference, and wonders whether this complies with the law.
FURTHER INTO CHAOS 30.06.12
The KDC headed further into chaos when it decided to use section 50 LGRA to calculate the first rates instalment for the new rating year which commences on 1 July 20012.
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.
The problem is that many/most/or all of the rates set for the previous year were invalid, ultra vires (outside Council's power), or the rates assessments were invalid.
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
There's an old saying that "there is no such thing as a free lunch". Well it is not true. There is a free lunch if you happen to be a KDC Councillor. And nothing is going to stop that even though the Council is insolvent and facing massive debts.
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
Tomorrow sees a crucial Council meeting. It will be interesting to see if Deputy Mayor Geange has mustered her sheep and brought the potential renegades back into her fold
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.
“There are a lot of issues that council is uncovering. We will continue to find skeletons in the closet over the next few years as we try to put things back together.”
MEDIA PERSON WANTED DESPERATELY 26.06.12
Things must be getting serious if we made the NZ Herald. Wayne Thompson included a report in today's Herald about Sunday's meeting at Mangawhai. That is certainly progress given that the Herald (as opposed to the Herald on Sunday) has studiously ignored our problems so far. (More here -scroll down)
TIME FOR A PETITION? 26.06.12
A few weeks ago I suggested to the various organisations opposing Council that it might be a good idea to have a petition against Council as a tool for showing the widespread lack of confidence of ratepayers in their elected representatives. This would send a loud and clear message - if the petition was signed by enough people - to the powers that be that the KDC could no longer continue to function with the support and confidence of ratepayers. (More here - scroll down)
MEETING WITH NICOLA WHITE 25.06.12
Nicola White the Assistant Auditor General, Legal, made a good fist of winning over the very large crowd at Mangawhai yesterday. She stated very clearly what the EcoCare inquiry was all about, how it would be carried out, who would be involved, and how they could call on outside experts. But at times her explanations became a little frayed around the edges and open to a little eyebrow raising. (More here - scroll down)
SHOULD WE SUPPORT COUNCIL? 18.06.12
Heather Rogan's letter in the last week's Mangawhai Focus pointed out some of the errors in ex-Mayor Graeme Ramsey's letter in the previous edition. The letter can be seen here - scroll down.
THIS IS A CONSPIRACY 18.06.12
Legal Eagle believes that there is a conspiracy by the "powers that be" to deliberately disguise many of the debts of Council and exclude them from the LTP so that the plan can go ahead and ratepayers can be shafted with the illegal debt. (more here - scroll down.)
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
Minister of Local Government David Carter has failed his first major test.
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
John MacDonald's excellent article in The Kaipara Konnection headed "So what's really going on?" (here) is a must read. It highlights the quest for power (and the Mayoral robes) of Deputy Mayor Geange.
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
Read Alan Aagaard's submission to Council to see what a mess Steve Ruru made of the figures in the the draft LTP. (here)
REVIEW TEAM APPOINTED 13 06 12
The review team has been appointed with expanded terms of reference. The KDC has also put our a press release. See full details here.
MORE ILLEGALITIES 13.06.12
More comments about being denied the opportunity to be heard. (here)
RATES STRIKE AT MANGAWHAI 12.06.12
Joel Cayford gives his views on the impending rates strike here.
KDC IN TURMOIL 12.06.12
The KDC is in turmoil after Councillor Andrew Wade's moving address to his fellow Councillors at yesterday's Council meeting. He put forward a motion that decision-making on the LTP should be deferred until the government appointed team is in place and can offer some advice. Councillor Wade was supported by Councillors Larsen, Linton and Sutherland. The full report can be seen in the Northern Advocate here
Council is continuing dicussions today.
MORE ILLEGALITIES 12.06.12
In the scramble to get the Rates Bomb detonation device ready for 1 July, Steve Ruru has tripped himself up again with more legal blunders. He failed to advise those who made submissions on the draft LTP of their right to be heard, and failed to give a "reasonable" opportunity to be heard.
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
I met Andrew Wade just after he became a Councillor in 2010. He struck me as a a kind, down to earth person who was aware of his responsibilities towards ratepayers. I was therefore surprised when he became a follower of the Tiller/Geange faction even though it perpetuated the culture of incompetence and poor governance that Jack McKerchar had bequeathed to Kaipara.
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
Rumour has it that Cabinet is deciding today whether to sign off Minister David Carter's lifeline to the Circus. That means the review team that the Minister has foisted on to Council (see here). It comes as part of a package. The other part of the package is that the Rates Bomb LTP must go must go through at all costs and be in place by 1 July.
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
This travesty of governance continues on its nightmare spiral into chaos. The clowns at the centre of it all must be wondering, with their innate incompetence and a crime-sheet as long as you arm, and dithering from one non-compliant and illegal act to the next, how they are still holding on to power by the skin of their teeth.
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
We were all prepared to give Chief Executive Steve Ruru a chance when he came to KDC at the end of last year and had the unenviable task of taking over from Jack "Ghengis Khan" McKerchar and being compelled to work with Atiller the Hun. Although he appeared to be more open than Jack he failed his first test by failing to get the independent forensic boys into Jack's cupboards. He needed to make his mark and make a stand for governance and straight-shooting. He compromised himself utterly and as the plasma of incompetence and irregularities oozed from the cupboards through every part of Council, infecting the present and the future with the rottenness of the past, he retreated more and more into the smoke and mirrors cover-ups that we know only too well.
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
We all listened to Councillor Geange some weeks ago proclaiming the the LTP was only a draft and that our opinions were important. We all knew that it was a sham, and marvelled at her brazen effrontery. Does she really believe all that stuff she spouts? Or does she believe that the end justifies the means?
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
John Dickie has pointed out that the so-called review team will have no power to change rates for the 2012/13 rating year. It has a very long term "future focus". This is what the press statement says:
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
Minister David Carter has missed the bus and applied a band-aid well after the horse has bolted.
Mixed metaphors aside, see what Legal Eagle has to say about the Minister's latest move.(here)
MAYORAL WASTE 05.06.12
Remember that this is the last day to make submissions on the Mayoral waste statement of proposal. Steve Ruru and his team of crazy number-crunchers are extracting the last pound of flesh out of Kaipara ratepayers but at the same time they are turning a blind eye to the wastewater arrears of the Mayor. Such patent favouritism raises questions of graft and corruption which sadly the OAG is too busy to attend to.
A sample submission and details can be found here.
OAG CONCERNS 01.06.12
Legal Eagle has had concerns about the Office of the Auditor-General for some time. Council has only been allowed to wreak its havoc because of the failure of that so-called "watchdog" to rein in out of control local authorities. In the case of the KDC there has been an abject failure by the OAG's side-kick, Audit NZ, to audit the accounts and plans of the KDC in compliance with the audit requirements....(more)
NEWSTALK ZB 01.06.12
Hear Mike Hosking interview Ron Manderson here. When oh when are we going to get our act together and get rid of this ridiculous 31 per cent increase that everyone is quoting. Do you believe the figure? Do you believe any figure that comes from Council? It does not include the capital targeted rates because Council has cunningly excluded them from the calculation even though they are rates. And the figure has absolutely no meaning for Mangawhai where the average is at least 100 per cent.
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
John Dickie wants to know when the Council will replace the flag shown below with a white one. The answer, John, is when the government and the OAG face up to their legal responibilities and pull the plug on this desperate, incompetent and thoroughly illegal regime. When you've hit the iceberg it is absolutely pointless setting up a review team to organise the rearranging of the deck chairs.
More money into this bottomless pit named incompetence.
Deck Chair Review Team
SIGNS OF (DI)STRESS 01.06.12
Traditionally an upside-down National flag is a sign of distress. The Kaipara District Council is showing its true colours in this photo snapped yesterday by Paul Morrison outside the Kaiwaka Office of the KDC.
Can this lot do anything right?
SEND SUBMISSIONS 01.06.12
It is absolutely vital that you send a copy of the submissions that you made on the LTP to the Prime Minister, the local MP Mike Sabin, the Minister of Local Government, and the Auditor-General. Let them know directly what you feel about the Plan. Their addressess are:
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
Steven Franks' views about the problems affecting Kaipara can be seen here.
TILLER ON CHECKPOINT 31.05.12
The interview with Mayor Tiller on yesterday's Checkpoint can be heard here.
DIRECT DEBITS 31.05.12
Advice here if you have a Direct Debit for payment of your rates.
MINISTER APPOINTS REVIEW TEAM 30.05 12
Full details of the Minister's latest move can be seen here.
MAYORAL ISSUES 30.05.12
The matter of the Mayoral dunny which I have referred to in earlier posts Remember Steve Ruru is letting the Mayor off the hook by ignoring the arrears for emptying his holding tanks over the past few years.
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
Today is the last day for lodging submissions on the draft LTP.
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)
Time is almost up. Get your submissions in now. If you want some last minute ideas go to the Model LTP Submission here. Or get some ideas from submissions that ratepayers have already filed here.
WASTEWATERGATE SCANDAL 28.05.12
Evidence of a WASTEWATERGATE scandal is beginning to emerge in relation to the EcoCare project. It appears that several of our elected representatives benefited from the scheme or related matters in ways that at the least require further scrutiny.
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
See Stephen Bell's latest submission here. He suggests that all properties that are not connected to EcoCare, for whatever reason, should be obliged to bring their septic tanks up to scratch. Makes sense. If the whole point of EcoCare was to save the harbour from pollution why did Council not think of that? Or could it be that EcoCare had nothing to do with the harbour and was just a get rich scheme for consultants and contractors?
RATES STRIKE 26.05.12
There has been some feed-back from the banks about the Rates Strike. See the latest advice from Legal Eagle (here).
AUDIT REPORT FOR THE LTP 25.05.12
Legal Eagle takes a close look at the audit report for the draft LTP. He is not impressed. Audit NZ are up to their old tricks again, He also points out the devious way in which Steve Ruru has managed to keep the debts for all the illegal rates out of the LTP. He has also found, surprisingly, the outcome of the Auditor-General's inquiry. (here)
"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
Have a look at Elliot Lord's excellent letter to the Minister (here).
EX MAYOR RAMSEY JOINS THE DEBATE. 25.05.12
Ex Mayor of Kaipara Graeme Ramsey (and current Regional Council member) puts forward his point of view on the EcoCare debacle in an article in the Dargaville and District News (here). Both John Dickie and Legal Eagle have some very strong words to say about his views (here). There are some very interesting figures in relation to the EocCare plant. The conclusion is, in legal parlance, that we were sold a dog.
NEIL TOLICH'S ADVICE 25.05.12
Neil Tolich offers his advice on making submissions here.
SAMPLE SUBMISSION 25.05.12
Ratepayer and investigative and forensic accountant John Cregten has agreed to share his submissions on the LTP. They can be seen here.
HOW TO MAKE A SUBMISSION 24.05.12
Read John Dickie's excellent advice on how to make a submission (here).
MODEL LTP SUBMISSION 24.05.12
This work in progress is coming along. Please let me know it there is anything I have missed. Go here.
RATES BOMB RANT 24.05.12
A good Rates Bomb Rant (here) from Fellow Ratepayer suggesting that the Council has no intention of changing its mind on the rates.
IS THIS CORRUPTION? 22.05.12
Legal Eagle has some serious concerns about the goings on in the Sunset West subdivision in Baylys Beach referred to in the post below. He has whiffed the smell of corruption. More here.
MAYOR TILLER IN THE MIRE 21.05.12
Mayor Tiller has been having his waste taken away by Council free of charge for a few years. And it looks as if Council is going to turn a blind eye and wipe his arrears.
For more go here.
LTP MODEL SUBMISSION 21.05.12
I am preparing a Model submission on the LTP (here). You can use it to help prepare your own submissions. I hope to have it completed in the next few days.
SUIPs FOR ALL TASTES 21.05.12
There are two new pages on SUIPs. One sets out the definition and guidelines in the LTP with the notes for interpreting the guidelines.(here). The other page discusses the problems that council has in introducing this new rating policy without complyin g with the requirements of the LGA (yet again) (here).
WORLD RECORD FOR NZ CRICKETER? 21.05.12
Former world cup cricketer Warren Stott faces a rate rise of around 1,343 per cent, going from $6316 last year to a proposed $84,850 starting from 1 July.
See the article in the Herald on Sunday here
MORE ILLEGALITY FROM KDC 21.05.12
KDC has failed to comply with the requirements of the LGA because it failed to consider the economic well being of the community when drafting the LTP. This is what Legal Eagle has to say:
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
This is the heading of Stephen Frank's article on Kaipara's dismal situation. Here are some quotes:
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
Council has now gone and done it again with the last instalment of rates. This is great news for the Rates Strike because it gives ratepayers another justification for withholding the last instalment of rates..........(more)
RUTHLESS GRAB FOR MONEY 17.05.12
Go to LTP submissions (here) to see submissions on the LTP. Legal Eagle is outraged:
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
Do you remember those scenes from Fawlty Towers when an exasperated Basil would desperately ask Manuel to confirm something important. Manuel would shake his head, gesture denial with his hands, and say:
"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
Legal Eagle looks (here) at options for Steve Ruru now that the good ship Kaipara is foundering.
HERALD ON SUNDAY 17.05.12
Russell Blackstock of the Herald on Sunday was in Mangawhai yesterday talking to locals about the effects of the Rates Bomb. I imagine that his article will be in this weekend's paper.
His previous article can be seen here.
DO YOU TRUST THE DEPUTY MAYOR?
GEANGE IN THE GUN 16.05.12
Deputy Mayor Geange is under attack for her attempt to desert her troops and dump the responsibility for the secret illegal EcoCare contract on other Councillors. First she said that she wasn't there when the contract was signed (here). When it was pointed out that she was there, she maintained that she had kept her lips sealed and had not said "Aye".
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
The Kaipara Lifestyler has a report on last Saturday's meeting with Council here.
WANNA GOOD LAUGH 16.05.12
Fancy us ratepayers believing that Council would build EcoCare for $35,6 million Read this article about Water Infastructure Group which boasts of the project costing $60 million, and that is without the Lees Farm.
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
Full details of the cover up by Council can be found here with a copy of the presentation made by Legal Eagle at last week's meeting.
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
Joel Cayford, a Planner and Mangawhai ratepayer wrote a blog a short while ago that should be compulsory reading for Mangawhai ratepayers. He looks at the real sources of pollution of the harbour and the driving forces behind the EcoCare scheme.
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
Joel Cayford has just issued his new blog on the Mangawhai crisis. He explains that the real reason behind the extension of the EcoCare scheme was a Ponzi scheme hatched by the Council and developers. Council were sucked in by consulttants and developers and gambled ratepayers monies on a get rich quick scheme that collapsed, as Ponzi schemes do, leaving ratepayers carrying the financial burden.
MORNING REPORT 14.05.12
This morning's interview with Bruce Rogan and Deputy Mayor Geange can be heard here. (Scroll down to Ratepayer Revolt threatened in Mangawhai)
THE MARCH AND MEETING 14.05.12
Have a look at the photos of the March here. And please send in your photos.
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.