Draft Annual Plan 2014/15
HAVE YOUR SAY
Legal Eagle comments on the questions posed by the Commissioners in their Have Your Say document at the end of the Summary of the Draft Annual Plan:
1. The new Community Development Fund
The Commissioners completely misrepresent the situation by suggesting that the financial situation of the KDC has improved. They cite the repayment of some debt and a budget surplus of $1 million.
That is all rubbish. They have simply played with the figures. They have reduced depreciation substantially, deferred road projects, and emptied all the monies out of the reserves fund and the Mangawhai Endowment Fund. They are as broke as they always were and the KDC is not a "going concern". It cannot meet its commitments out of its income. It is only getting thorough by creative accountancy, deferring works, and using ratepayers reserves for other expenditure.
An independent financial assessment would soon tell the true story, and until that happens such incentives as this can be seen as a desperate attempt to distract the community from the dire situation the KDC is in.
Say NO to any such mad ideas. Time for honest assessment and tightening the belt.
2. Allocation of Financial Contributions for Reserves
The question is what activity you would like to see supported. But what you might miss is that, except for a small amount that is to be spent on reserves, you are agreeing to the balance of the Reserves Fund being used by the Commissioners for other unrelated purposes (not disclosed). There is no intention to repay those monies whilst the Commissioners are in power because that would entail more external borrowing. Effectively, they are taking ratepayers' monies with no intention to return them.
Scroll down to DRAFT RESERVES CONTRIBUTION POLICY below.
3. Community Assistance
Is this a bribe to suck ratepayers in? Can the Council really afford it?
An independent audit of Council's finances should come first.
4. Sale of non-strategic surplus property
Do not believe a word that they say. They want carte blanche to sell anything that brings in money. They will sell reserve lands and land that is vitally important to ratepayers.
Make this a resounding NO otherwise they will see your silence as an endorsement.
5. Responding to the findings of the Auditor-General’s Inquiry
Note the list of what they are doing or proposing to do. This was what the OAG was all about. A slap on the wrist and recommendations about improving systems. The fundamental issues for all ratepayers are:
Neither is mentioned because no one in local government wants anyone to be held responsible, or the banks to lose any money
Say NO and insist on the Commissioners applying themselves to the two main concerns..
6. Review of fees
All sorts of excuses are given for this money-gouging exercise, such as matching the higher fees of other local bodies, and recovering the full costs of services. The reality is that it is a desperate grab for money.
Kaipara will only survive if we can attract growth and that is never going to happen with such a notorious council, high development contributions, and higher consent fees.
7. and 8. An Early Opportunity
You are invited to have your say on issues that will arise in the future. This includes the Reserves Contribution Policy and Minimum Level of services. All wonderful stuff that serves as a distraction to the real issues: the insolvency of the Council, the massive debt problem, the lack of income to meet the debt, the illegal actions of the Commissioners and their lack of honesty and transparency
The real issue with Development Contributions is whether they will exist in the future once the amendment to the LGA is passed. What is absolutely certain is that they will never be able to fund a major part of the debt as proposed in the LTP. There is going to be a massive shortfall. No sign of such a major issue being discussed. Forget the disaster looming and just re-arrange the deckchairs.
The Commissioners are trying to engage ratepayers in a trivial conversation so that we do not notice that behind our backs the SS Kaipara is slowly sinking.
Make your feelings felt, strongly, and get all your friends and neighbours to makes submissions as well. If ratepayers stay silent then they will take us all to the cleaners.
Remember: 8 April is the deadline.
‘Fox’ On obfuscated accounting 01.04.14
Was it Goebbels who, upon German ships encountering mines and being sunk, reported favourably that the Germans ships had engaged and totally destroyed some British mines?
Commissioner Robertson reports a reduction in Council secured debt of around $6 million as a significant achievement, yet $9 million of works have been deferred!
When credibility is such an issue why is there such resistance to an independent forensic report which so many for so long have sought? Why would commissioners "mis"appropriate $500,000 if necessary to oppose ratepayers seeking, at ratepayers cost, the truth?
Legal Eagle has shown that there is around $17 million of unsecured internal debt existing, ultimately requiring raising more debt and therefore more rates if it is to be reimbursed to the appropriate parties or purposes; and that the current level of rates already cannot support the present level of debt.
If the commissioners honestly represent ratepayers, they must not appeal the Judicial review which could arguably lead to a reduction in ratepayer debts of possibly some $30 million.
Through Ecocare KDC has incurred around $65 million of our debts and these cannot possibly be supported by the present 1,600 users, nor should it be the debt of those who had no part in approval of the scheme unless and until the full responsibility is determined.
Goebbels or whoever it was would appear more credible here, and more determined to pursue those responsible. Time for the commissioners to publicly pledge to represent Kaipara peoples best interests, and for more ratepayers to withhold rates until they so pledge to facilitate recovery.
‘Fox’ On Kaipara Developments 01.04.14
Several years ago KDC was receiving around $2 million to $3 million per year in “Development Contributions” and the Mangawhai Ecocare Scheme was promoted on the assumption some 3,000 more sections would be developed contributing around $50 million in contributions to the proposed facility and future extensions.
Commissioners, in spite of the advice of those with ‘skin in the game’, promoted the current Annual and therefore Long Term Plan predicated on substantial development contributions, which have not been received, nor are they likely under the current mis-use by KDC of the Resource Management Act.
It does not matter what theoretical cost is used to set the Development Contributions; at street level, when spending one’s own money, the market, one’s capital, one’s income, one’s rates, one’s alternatives determine what one will bid to for homes and land or sections and development contributions that push section prices above the market are just not collected and actually depress the economic wellbeing of Kaipara.
Furthermore although some times developers make highly envied profits, history shows high risks, many failures, and the market evidences little interest in acquiring and developing for profit in Kaipara, as opposed to developing to reduce accumulated debt and holding costs.
Research shows average provincial sections are some $200,000 cheaper than City sections yet our commissioners appear to do nothing to assist developments or promote Kaipara where retirees and others could shift to and save over $200,000, which at 8% is $310 per week; and with many other advantages of provincial living
Finally even government at say $300,000 per provincial 3 bedroom home versus say $600,000 per city home could if 3,000 existing Housing Corp. tenancies were transferred to provincial towns provide for some 6,000 families, and save taxpayers some $1.8 billion dollars capital. save over $200,000, which at 8% is $310 per week; and with many other advantages of provincial living.
Why do our rates and Annual and Long term Plans seem to provide only for the priorities of the Banks and Governments which failed so miserably to adhere to existing regulations, yet propose that amended regulations would be the answer, and do so little to employ and empower Kaipara people?
Is it simply because we keep providing them excessive rates?
DRAFT RESERVES CONTRIBUTION POLICY 23.03.14
This draft policy is up for consultation along with the Draft annual Plan. The Draft Policy can be seen here.
Financial contributions are levied on developers by a local authority under the RMA "to pay their fair share of the costs of purchasing land for reserves or upgrading existing reserves".
Kaipara is divided into three areas and the funds in the reserve are allocated 60% to the local area and 40% for district wide purposes.
The current financial status of the accounts for each area can be seen here at page 4.
Following the 60/40 allocation the funds for each of the three areas and for the whole district are as follows:
Then we get down to the nitty gritty.This is what the policy says:
Amounts available for funding in any one year
The financial constraints on Council require limits to be placed on the use of the Reserves Contributions fund. While it is fully accounted for in Council’s accounts, it is not held in cash. Any allocations from the fund may require an increase in Council debt. To manage debt, it is intended in the short term that the historical income of Reserves Contributions is not used except for $100,000 each year. A policy for the management of the fund in the longer term will be developed for the Long Term Plan 2015/2025.
In other words, to avoid taking on more debt the Commissioners are going to commandeer the whole Reserve fund (except for $100,000 per year and the amount collected in the previous year only) and use it for the general purposes of the Council.
Thus in the 2013-14 year the Mangawhai-Hakaru area will only be able to use $138,869 even though it technically has $1.7 million in its account.
This treatment is accorded to every account held on ratepayers behalf for special purposes including the Mangawhai Endowment Fund.
It gives the Commissioners millions of dollars of extra funding to spend at will (on a Validation Bill, Commissioners' remuneration and costs, blocking ratepayer access to the courts etc) but the great advantage is that it does not show up as a debt on the ledger.
So when the Commissioners head off to some new victim in 18 months time they will proclaim vociferously that the external debt has been reduced and extol their financial wizardry.
But further scrutiny will show that the Council's cupboard is bare and that they have pillaged the ratepayers equity and all the monies held on trust, and all the accounts are empty.
When those monies are reinstated - by further external borrowing- the truth of their so-called wizardry will be revealed.
This is Item 7 on the on-line KDC Draft Annual Plan submission form.
Make sure that you vote NO if you do no like the 60/40 split or you do not want want the Commissioners to use the reserves monies for their own purposes.
Mangawhai Focus 23.03.14
Rates not the full story
I note the "very minor" rates increases proposed for the coming year, however statistics can be very misleading. In my previous neighbourhoods, services such as refuse collection are an integral component of the rates.
Kaipara District Council has outsourced numerous services, who are free to charge the public directly. Prices of the blue plastic refuse bags and the yellow recycling bags continue to rise. One blue bag and two yellow bags a week comes to over $300 per annum, but are not considered part of the rates!
To get a true reflection of how much we pay and how competitive our rates are, the total costs of council services – whether provided directly or outsourced and "user pays" – is a more accurate and ethical representation.
Steve Green Mangawhai
Dargaville and Districts News 20.03.14
To those who think the rates strike is wrong; My rates have gone from $793.90 in 2012 to $1763.47 in 2013 and are going up again.
This is a lot higher than the percentage stated by the nonelected people controlling us.
Council’s ability to borrow the large amounts without consent (from the ratepayers) and then charge the ratepayers is a dictatorship and needs to stop.
Councils were put in place and paid for by the people and should not be used for extortion tactics namely the ability to sell defaulters land because of unpaid rates and adding penalties for those unable to pay by the due dn in ratepayers over the last few years and more charges have been put in place so rates should be going down, not up.
My ancestors will be turning in their graves.
I support Mangawhai.
Our proposed increase(16.5%) matches the concerned dairy farmers but is only 1.5 acres. We also live on a property bounded by state highways and never venture on Kaipara's dusty trails unless there is a diversion, no water supply, sewerage or rubbish collection and a 70 km drive from Dargaville where they do enjoy these services. Is the average increase of 2.3% for Dargaville?
The mystery is out!
I and many others have been asking Council to justify their claims regarding the level of rates increases for the last couple of years. Well according to Linda Osborne (Customer Relations Manager) the quoted figure only applies to the General Rates, ie the General Rate and the Uniform Annual General Charge.
Because of the changes made to the rating process however you will find it quite difficult to compare between years, so when it comes to the spin declaring 'rates are only going up 9.3% for 2013/2014' it becomes rather meaningless. Nothing is said to skite about any changes to other items included in the rates demand.
When we look at the total rates demanded we look at the total they want us to pay, not selected items. It is mystifying (or is it?) why the people in power don't want to tell the full story. In our case we have a total increase of 50% in just two years; I am aware there are many others who have suffered to an even greater extent.
To make matters worse, Council doesn't include such things as water supply (separately metered) or rubbish collection (separately charged).
Comparing with other districts therefore becomes tricky, as many have these charges included in their rates calculations.
It's all smoke and mirrors.
Larry of Puhoi 14.03.14
Amongst the biggest fibs going around NZ Councils is their time-honoured? practice, particularly evident in election year, of their announcing "average rates increases".
Unsurprisingly, these are invariably
(a). an under-estimation and
(b). are based on the use of misleading "averages".
Here's whats ... "Wrong with this Picture"
None of these statements is subject to audit sign off ... they are merely PR puffery supporting the incumbents/status quo
They do not show how the "average" is calculated nor do they give the median, standard deviation, highest/lowest increase-reductions ... nil, nada, ... nothing!
Never! ... 12 months later, do they report actual % increases ... compared to their budget-announced % increases ... so that we never know "The Truth".
To just sit back and do nothing about this, ('Come On" Ratepayer groups) is to admit that their assessment of ratepayers ... as a bunch of bozo-dumbos ... is a correct one.
Is it not about time we got some accountability within this disgraceful travesty?.
You fine Kaipara people might like to do an OIA requesting KDC to disclose all the details (above) this year ... and earlier ones too
... and while you are at it, pressure your new bunch of auditors to audit it ... for free (public service for the firm). Fat chance?
Jed Hermit Matakohe 10.03.14
Reviewing the estimated rates increases for our properties in Kaipara has shown me that there is much to question as to how these are worked out.
7 hectare Matakohe; up 3.3%
2500m2 Ruawai; up 1.1% another on 1000m2 up1%
Dargaville; 4.6 to 5.6 % increases on 900m2 to 1000m2
So where is the 2.3% average the council 'proposes' .
After all the cow manure the commissioners and CEO have thrown during the year they feel they can appease the peasants by only raising rates by single figures instead of 26% and 11% [for us ]over the last few years.
I cannot see why the rates should be increased at all, unless it is to recover their court, legal and newspaper advertising costs, which should be paid by the government who no doubt instructed the commissioners to go down that track. We have not received any additional or upgraded services.
Daft annual plan
What a load of bollocks. The council must sell off all assets that are under utilised, stop trying to improve parks and gardens, stop handouts to community groups and get back to basics.
I have never understood why there is a need for council owned/ funded community halls, when there are school halls, churches, club rooms etc that could be used for meetings and hire.
Playgrounds and equipment, toilet blocks, change rooms, parks, picnic tables etc could be sponsored by local companies and some financial assistance given to existing groups working to improve their community areas with planting, clearing and rubbish removal.
Millions of dollars are wasted each year just in poor quality road maintenance, with the same repairs being redone year after year. No doubt there are other examples.
Nothing will change, it could get worse. The general apathy of many ratepayers I have talked to about the council situation is appalling, they either refuse to or cannot see why they should take the time to consider what is happening to our quiet corner of the country.
Let alone do something about it.
All it would take, is for 20% of the largest rate payers to educate themselves on this matter and if they see fit, to withhold their rates until the court action is concluded.
Our withheld rates are put into bonus bonds.
Legal Eagle 09.03.14
I am working through the Draft Annual Plan making comments as I go:
Local authorities plans are written in local governmentese, which is a language based on on all the appropriate comments and outcomes that should be achieved in a perfect council, but in practice are not, It has very little truth in it but it forms an essential part of the facade that is local government. It is nothing but make-believe and propaganda.
If you go back and read the glowing plans that Jack McKerchar was responsible for during his predatory reign, you would never suspect that underneath that veneer of competence, probity and transparency that the plans promoted, the Council was actually out of control and heading headlong into legal and financial ruin.
Here are some of the comments from the Commissioners:
Page 3 sets out the key focus areas:
"We continue to work transparently and openly with communities."
Simply untrue. Lets have a look at recent major decisions which were matters of significance as defined by the LTP which should have required (under the LGA) consultation at the highest level:
The Validation Bill - I
The Commissioners were compelled by their terms of reference. to consult with ratepayers on options for dealing with the illegal rates issue. They ignored their terms of reference. They also reneged on an agreement by the previous Council to consult. They made the decision to proceed with the Validation Bill without any consultation.
No consultation, no transparency, no working with the community.
The Validation Bill - II
No consultation, no transparency, no working with the community.
Defending the MRRA legal action
Again, a decision of massive significance. The Council was obliged to act in the best interests of the ratepayers. To have liability for the illegal debt (acknowledged by the Commissioners) decided once and for all by the High Court was in the best interests of the Council and the ratepayers.
The Commissioners shunned any consultation and did all that they could to prevent the ratepayers going to court, and when it came to Court they supported the interests of the banks against the best interests of ratepayers.
No consultation, no transparency, no working with the community.
The Commissioners promised Parliament that they would remit penalties if Parliament passed the Bill. However they had no such power to do so. This was a significant decision that demanded consultation of the highest order with ratepayers under the Local Government Act before the decision was made.
The stance by the Commissioners also showed that they had predetermined the outcome which meant that the statutory decision-making process was a farce. The statutory consultation process was non-existent.
The Commissioners also decided to to use the current rates remission policy to remit the penalties even though it does not cover such a situation. This was to avoid having to consult with ratepayers and perhaps being forced into remitting all penalties.
No consultation, no transparency, no working with the community
Andrew Craig 09.03.14
Further to your blog item on the Disappearing Debt, I think the far bigger lie is the 2.3% average rates increase that the KDC have said they will apply..
We don’t have any council provided services, and live down a metal track near Whakapirau. Our 2014/15 Rates will be 16% greater than the 2013/14 rates…
I noted in Robertson’s letter that he stressed that the 2.3% was an average.. But looking at farms around our area… they ALL have 15-16% increases…. So to average that up.. some people must be paying less rates next year.. or even getting rates refunds!.. but I don’t think so… A lot more non-dairy farms are going to fold…
To lie about the Rates increase is actually a “smart move” on their part, they get a pat on the back for the low increase, and anyone with a larger increase will just think its them or their area.. In reality, everyone in the district may be getting a 15%+ increase.. and the Commissions know they can get away with saying it is 2.3% ON AVERAGE! .. Who can check apart from them ?…I hate to think what increase the people in the areas that need new drains etc will actually have !
People need to check their 14/15 rates now… a rise like that is enough to start a Rates strike!
I can’t find any documents showing the Councils annual actual & forecast income from rates? .. or is this information privileged/restricted?