ADVISORY PANEL BACK-TRACK 11.04.2015
The EcoCare advisory panel have responded to harsh criticism of their unreasonable, autocratic actions by extending the date for submisssions on the proposed extension of EcoCare, slated by some as the new Ponzi scheme.
Here is the announcement on the KDC website:
Thank you to all those that attended the Open Day, Easter Saturday. Due to public demand for more time to consider all the questions and give them full consideration, the Advisory Panel have extended the reponse date to 24 April 2015.
Ratepayers should take note that their complaints about the panel's behaviour had an immediate response. There is a lesson to be learned. If enough of us get off our butts and challenge the autocratic actions of the Commissioners and their acolytes we can make a difference.
BECA'S TRACK RECORD 11.04.2015
Ratepayers in Kaipara will be very aware of the role that Beca played in the EcoCare fiasco. Beca was not only the adviser and consultant to the KDC but the EcoCare joint project manager. If you read the harsh criticism of the management of the project in the OAG's report, you will wonder if in fact there was any management at all.
The project was ill-planned, the KDC and its planners and advisers out of their depth, with the project simply being out of control. No one really knew what was going on and the contractors were virtually free to charge what they liked.
It is frightening for those of us who believe that contractors on the international stage must have some basic competence in their area of expertise, to find out that they were out of their depth.
EcoCare was not a one-off. Bernard Oarsman reported on a similar blow out in a sewerage scheme in Masterton in 2011, and guess what? Beca's name crops up again. This is what the writer said about Beca:
Rates are expected to rise a cumulative 19 per cent in the next two years after it was revealed last week that Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner underestimated the cost of the wastewater project by at least $5.1 million.
At Monday's meeting, before a gallery of about 50 spectators, Masterton District councillors moved to explore legal action against Beca and to look for savings in the $30 million project by an independent scrutiniser at the consultancy firm's expense.
Explore legal action? That certainly rings a bell. But I imagine that nothing came of it, just as nothing came of the hollow promises of the Commissioners to pursue Beca in the courts. Beca is too big and too important a cog in the local government machine to sue. And, remember, the first rule in local government is that you never do the dirty on your fellow feeders at the trough.
Local government is an unregulated, frenzied feeding ground for all the corporate piranhas because it creates wealth for those who matter in our community, and the prey that they feed on, the ratepayers, seem to be quite content to be the victims of such mayhem.
Is Beca doing a reprise of its EcoCare role? Is it behind the advisory panel's clumsy thrust to force EcoCare Mark 2 on to the hapless ratapayers of Kaipara? Is it coming back for a second bite of the very juicy cherry?
PLEASE READ THIS
This is an important time for Kaipara ratepayers. You may not know it but you are being consulted on the future of the EcoCare sewerage scheme and the proposals put forward by the Commissioners' advisory panel.
Those proposals entail very expensive extensions to EcoCare, that are not based on a rigorous assessment of the sewerage system, and are going to create massive more debt for ratepayers.
You are being asked to complete a questionnaire and return it by this Friday 10 April 2015. Like all questionnaires that emanate from the KDC, it is carefully designed to lead you into selecting the proposals that they are promoting.
Ratepayers are encouraged to read the following posts and then let the advisory panel know if you do no accept their proposals and that you insist on a fundamental and rigorous assessment of the current sewerage system and a cost analysis of all options, including stand-alone-options, being undertaken before any further steps are contemplated.
MEETING WITH THE ECOCARE PANEL 08.04.2015
Last week several groups were invited along to view a presentation by the KDC advisory panel on the proposals for the extension of the EcoCare scheme, now dubbed the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme (MWWS).
I have in the past been extremely critical of the panel, its selection, its terms of reference and of the propaganda-laden articles that it has published, courtesy of the Mangawhai Focus.
I was interested to see how the panel would measure up in real life.
The members of the panel are very sincere and clearly very talented, qualified and experienced. They have enough letters after their names to make up a complete alphabet.
BUT.......there appeared to be a lack of intellectual rigour and simple down-to-earth nous, which one would expect from such a band of highly qualified people. They seemed more like members of a religious sect with esoteric ideals and principles that are untouched by facts and common-sense.
They appear to have taken on board the ridiculous terms of reference set by the Commissioners without any objections; they refuse to look into the past, which, in a case like this, is the key to the future; and they have embraced a slick marketing campaign with expensive props for the EcoCare proposals that raise serious questions about their integrity and their motivation.
Clearly the strategy is to promote the purity of the harbour as the main goal, which is what the proponents of the original EcoCare rort did. The main goal then was, in reality, for those involved to make money out of the wretched ratepayers, and the purity of the harbour was the catch-phrase for sucking everyone in.
That appears to be the modus operandi again, even though there is evidence that the purity of the harbour has not improved because of EcoCare, and that the biggest danger to the harbour is from cows and not humans.
But the advisory panel is not going to let facts get in the way of a good marketing strategy and the profits that will be available to those unknown personages who are promoting the proposals.
There are indications that some large eminence grise is behind these extension proposals. In the previous scheme, that proved to be such a debacle, Beca was the brains and the driving force that led us down the path to ruin. Now that the Commissioners have pulled the plug on taking legal action against Beca, has it re-entered the fray to have another bite at the golden cherry?
The panel members had everything off pat. They all made a point of saying that they applied for the positions on the panel. They were not tapped on the shoulder because they are mates of the Commissioners, as many have suggested.
The protestations sounded contrived and unbelievable. They are the mates of the Commissioners and are at one with their strategies. Is it not true that those who had voiced any concerns about EcoCare were barred from the panel?
They are adamant that the plant is capable of untold connections and disingenuously quote the report of the OAG as its source. They know as well as all of us that the report was a whitewash of what took place in Kaipara and any comments in the report on the viability of EcoCare are vague and have no engineering merit whatsoever.
My suggestion that there should be an independent engineering assessment of the whole of scheme - plant, reticulation and disposal - before making any decisions about dealing with sewage, was treated as bordering on heresy. The project director blustered that it would be too expensive and would I be willing to pay for it personally?
He didn't seem to get it, that they were investing a small fortune in marketing their vastly expensive proposals to build on the EcoCare lemon without even checking to see if the foundations were safe.
Another of their mantras is that they are promoting the proposals for the good of the people, but they shun any knowledge of the massive existing debt and the cost of their proposals is a no go area. They squirm when costs are mentioned and when asked how ratepayers can afford to meet the current EcoCare debt AND the new debt to fund their proposals
They say, as one, that the cost of the proposals would be too expensive to cost at this stage. They just want ratepayers to tell them which option they prefer.
Like all good salesman, they lure you in without telling you the cost. Once they have got you on the hook they can reel you in. Worry about the cost later. That can be fudged and hidden. Just like with EcoCare Mark 1.
CONSULTATION - YEAH, RIGHT 08.04.2015
Believe it or not, you have had you consultation and now you have to give the panel your feedback by this Friday 10 April 2015.
The public demonstration of the proposals was last Saturday at the Domain and you are given only a week in which to make your views known. This has come as a surprise to everyone and the suspicion is that the panel wishes to close down consultation before ratepayers have the opportunity to voice their concerns.
The questionnaire can be viewed here.
The whole of the questionnaire is geared to the EcoCare scheme being extended and asks carefully constructed leading questions with that outcome clearly targeted.
The whole of this consultation is a farce and ratepayers need to let the advisory panel know that.
What to do with our sewerage system is an important issue but such serious issues are never going to be resolved under John Robertson and his Commissioners because of their total lack of transparency, their disdain for genuine consultation, and the fact that his strings are being pulled by others who do not give a proverbial about the best interests of ratepayers .
The viability of EcoCare, the viability of the KDC itself, are vital issues that must be answered honestly before Kaipara can go anywhere. That means getting advice from genuine independent experts who can tell us the truth about the financial viability of both the KDC and EcoCare.
We need to send a clear message to the advisory panel that we do not want any part of their nonsense. We refuse to consult on their preposterous proposals and will not join in their games.
But don't just think it. Do something about it. Send them an email and tell them what you think, and do it by Friday at the latest.
AN ALTERNATIVE GETS THE BOOT 08.04.2015
Local architect Christian Simon is seriously opposed to the advisory panel's proposals because the panel and those unknown people who are driving the panel are asking the wrong questions. Christian believes that we need to reassess our sewerage needs and ask whether the current scheme is salvageable and whether stand-alone schemes are a better option.
Christian set up a stall at the advisory panel's open day, to present some true alternatives to ratepayers, but was asked by the panel to leave under threat of the police being called.
That pretty well confirms what many of us think about the panel
The details of Christian's proposals are available in some shops in Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai Village and Kaiwaka..
His responses to the panel's questionnaire is available here.
ECOCARE FACTS AND FIGURES 08.04.2015 The number of connections So how many connections are there at present? A simple question, and one would have thought that there would be simple answer.
The information put out by the panel states that there are 1800 connections. A nice round figure. The project director states that this is absolutely accurate and when I quoted a figure of 1,600 odd based on a figure provided by the Council, he was adamant that there had been additional connections since that figure was provided to make it up to 1800.
Another member of the panel was not so certain. He felt that the figure was closer to 1700.
Mmm, some uncertainty with a fairly crucial number. Not a good start.
The figures that I have are taken from the LOOKING AHEAD document which is the consultation document for the 2015/2025 LTP. It is only a few months old and I suspect that it is up to date.
It states with some precision that the number of connections to the scheme, which are liable for the annual connection charge, is:
Residence 1,647 Other 43 Total 1,690
However, we must bear in mind that the targeted rate is charged on SUIPs and not rating units. So if there are two SUIPs on a property which are billed for two connection charges, there is in fact only one connection. The number of SUIPs is unknown but the number of actual connections could be reduced to around 1,650.
The proposed cost of the EcoCare scheme The statement of proposal (SOP) for 2006 was consulted on, but illegally, because the KDC had signed the contract document and the loan documentation before consultation even took place.
Ratepayers were led to believe that the total cost of the whole scheme - plant, reticulation, disposal and connections - in that SOP was $35.6 million and that the scheme would provide 3,300 connections.
There was also a provision that cost over-runs were to be borne by the contractor.
The final scheme, which was never consulted on, had no such precision. Although there was a contract price for the plant, the contractor was allowed basically to alter the specifications at will and simply charge the KDC without any prior consents, consultations or approvals of ratepayers or councillors. It was open slather. There are very few records and no one knows exactly what we ended up with, or how much it cost.
The Beca report, which promoted the later scheme using figures derived from fantasyland, based its calculations on providing 4,500 connections and the Chief Executive Jack McKerchar boasted that the later scheme doubled the capacity of the original scheme.
The actual cost of the scheme No one knows what the EcoCare scheme cost in total.
The current EcoCare debt is said to be about $58 million.
But that is the current debt. It is not the cost of the scheme.
A sanitary subsidy from the government of $6.63 million was received.
Many millions have also be raised in EcoCare capital charges from ratepayers, along with development contributions.
According to Steve Ruru, the previous Chief Executive, these items totalled $11.5 million.
In addition, we must not forget that the KDC filched every bit of money that was held in trust for ratepayers, including reserve funds, depreciation funds, and the Mangawhai Endowment Fund. These may have added up to another $10 million.
We can therefore calculate that approximately $21.5 million was received in cash to fund the scheme and was presumably used for that purpose. .
So if $21.5 million was paid in cash and there is still a debt outstanding of $58 million, then the total cost of EcoCare was close to $80 million.
Cost of Ecocare per connection If the total cost of EcoCare for 1,650 connections was $80 million then the cost per connection at present is about $48,500.
Who pays? The word that I got from the panel is that the plant "may have" further capacity, but the reticulation and the disposal farm are pretty well dead ducks. The cost of upgrading them, extending them, or replacing them is going to be huge. Future development contributions will never be sufficient to meet the costs of any extension proposals so any capital extensions will have to be funded by the ratepayers. Even more debt, even bigger rate rises to pay for an even bigger lemon.
Ratepayers are already faced with an EcoCare debt of around $58 million, plus about $10 million that has to be repaid to the Mangawhai Endowment Fund and trust reserves. That makes $68 million.
Of that amount $26.2 million has been parked to one side to be paid by the fairies at the bottom of the garden, while only 50 per cent of the interest is being paid (is it?) and the rest capitalised and added to the debt.
We also have to remember that the KDC represented to us that the EcoCare debt was going to be ring-fenced and paid by those connected to the scheme, and not by the general ratepayers across the district..
Again, a fantasy scheme hatched in Never Never Land.
$68 million at say 5% would cost $2,060 per annum per connection in interest only with no capital repayments and no running costs or depreciation. And that is before the advisory panel are let loose on Ecocare Mark 2.
Last year $1.9 million or 9% of the general rates, levied across the whole district, were used to fund EcoCare. This year the figure is $2.8 million or 14 % of the general rates.
How much will it be when the full interest is paid on the $26.2 million plus capitalised interest?
And how much will it be when the advisory panel's proposals are steam-rollered through?
FORUM NEVER GOT OFF THE GROUND 08.04.2015 The advisory panel's forum never got off the ground. It was supposed to be here, but there is nothing to show.
JOHN KEY MEETING TODAY 26.03.2015 John Key has just arrived back from Korea and will be holding a public meeting in Dargaville at 2:30 pm today.
SABIN PAGE 26.03.2015 A new page has been added on the Sabin mystery with the following posts:
TIME-LINE FOR SABIN DISCLOSURE
VOTERS DEMAND DISCLOSURE ON SABIN
The new page is here.
"Tell me, Mike, . . . . . . . . ."
TACTICAL VOTING 26.02.2015 When voting in the by-election it is important to remember what the various candidates have said about voting. Several of the candidates have stated that voters should vote for other candidates with the aim of getting Winston Peters over the line. That effectively makes it a two horse race.
Here's what they say:
Bruce Rogan, Independent: Vote Winston Peters
Reuben Porter, Mana: Vote Winston Peters
Joe Carr, Focus: Vote Winston Peters
Willow-Jean Prime, Labour: Vote strategically
PETERS WELL IN THE LEAD 26.03.2015 The latest TV 3 poll shows Winston Peters in the lead with 54% of the vote, Mark Osborne with 34%, and Willow-Jean Prime on 10 per cent.
In addition, 74% believe that the promise of bridge upgrades is a bribe.
See Whale Oil's comments here.
MASSIVE EARLY VOTES IN NORTHLAND 26.03.2015 Whale Oil reports that 7,800 early votes have been cast so far in the Northland by election. .That compares to 9,400 votes cast overall in last year’s general election.
Early votes generally mean that people have a strong feeling and they are no longer listening.
There is an undercurrent, as if the Northland electorate has woken from a slumber.
PAEDOPHILE'S NAME SUPPRESSION TO BE REMOVED - PETERS 26.03.2015 Winston Peters party New Zealand First will introduce a bill that will allow publication of a paedophile's name where the consent of the victim is obtained.
Claire Trevett of the Herald reports:
"There have been so many cases of sexual violence in New Zealand where the offender hides behind a cloak of secrecy imposed on the basis that secrecy protects the victim."
He said his bill would remove that "legal cone of silence" in cases where the victim wanted the crime exposed.
COLIN MOYLE ENDORSES PETERS 26.03.2015 Claire Trevett is tracking Winston Peters throughout Northland and reports in the NZ Herald that there was something very special from the past:
His day was made after former Labour MP Colin Moyle went past and said he had voted for Mr Peters. Mr Moyle had beaten Mr Peters in the Hunua electorate in 1981 - the year he returned to Parliament after resigning in 1977 over Muldoon's accusations of homosexuality.
Yesterday Mr Moyle said he never thought he would see the day when he was voting for Mr Peters. However, he believed it was in the interests of Northlanders to do so and important to make Northland a more marginal seat.
TE AHU TRUST REARS ITS HEAD 26.03.2015 Trailing in the polls, and with the pork-barrelling being recognised for what it is, poor Mark Osborne has taken another hit with revelations concerning his involvement with Te Ahu Trust in Kaitaia.
Whale Oil's blog I’m starting to sense National may be dodging a bullet comments:
It's clear the community centre was nothing but a tax payer troughing exercise, and it displays no specific eagerness to be fiscally prudent. A community centre that needs taxpayer support and doesn’t even return financial results to offset depreciation is nothing but a rort.
At this stage, Osborne will need luck to take the electorate on Saturday. Everyone is calling it “too close to call”, but the realisation that Steve Joyce has stuffed up in Northland has settled into the inner circle. They’re despondent, they’ve given up, and Osborne is essentially on his own.
When it gets to the point where the local membership refuse to put up election hoardings and the imported MPs and out-of-region helpers had to step up to do it, it signals that the brains trust and the grass roots are in a dysfunctional relationship.
VOTERS DEMAND DISCLOSURE ON SABIN 25.03.2015 Voters in Northland are miffed that they were not told about the police investigations into Mike Sabin until after the general election last September.
The TV3 Poll which came out earlier this month showed that 71% of those polled considered that they should have been told of Sabin's offences.
Clearly very few voters believe the protestations of John Key and the National Party that they themselves did not know until December last year.
If John Key manages to kep his big secret under wraps until after the election then there is little doubt that the electors of Northland will feel thoroughly cheated by the Prime Minister and the National Party for, yet again, pulling the wool over the eyes of the electors in Northland.
THE SABIN OSTRICH
"Is the by-election over yet?"
Scroll down to: NATIONAL'S FOUR BIG SECRETS
MANGAWHAI FOCUS SHOWS ITS TRUE BLUE COLOURS 25.03.2015 It is good to see that the Mangawhai Focus has got a modicum of balance at last.
In the latest edition it has printed almost verbatim the news release of Honest John about the shameful decision not to pursue Beca.
Again, it is unadulterated propaganda to support the views of the newspaper's owners, masquerading as journalism.
But at least, on this occasion, it adds, at the end, the highly critical comments of Winston Peters on the matter.
But, sadly, the lesson has not been learnt.
The folksy-style editorial - Ed said - is not so balanced.
It dismisses any criticism of National's pork-barrelling with the comment that : "The ends justify the means".
One can see why the Focus has been a staunch supporter of burying the Kaipara illegalities when it states:
Bribes, inducements, discounts, ‘two for the price of one’, these carrots are all part of everyday life from ‘specials’ at your local grocery store to the top of big business. As I have said before, all of life involves compromise and negotiation.
Bribes and inducements indeed? Oh that seems like a tick of approval for the McKerchar/Tiller regime.
And what about this bizarre comment:
While the PM has come in for some criticism for ‘babysitting’ his candidate, the media still refers to him generally as ‘Honest John’. I notice no such tag has ever been attached to Winston.
Since when do the media refer to John Key as "Honest John"? They refer occasionally to him as "Teflon John", because many of the claims against him do not stick.
In any case, I think there are very few people in the country who still believe - honestly and at the bottom of their hearts - that the John Key of 2015 is the honest man that many of us thought he was when he first came to power.
Even those in his own party must have doubts, especially now given his dreadful handling of the Sabin issues.
"Honest John" in this neck of the woods is John Robertson, chair of the Commissioners.
Honest John, John Robertson, is happy to boast of a blame-free past, and a record of complete transparency, total legal compliance, utter integrity and putting ratepayers' interests above all others, in carrying out his duties as chair of Commissioners.
The comment : "I notice no such tag ("Honest John") has ever been attached to Winston." is ridiculous and gratuitous.
It could not be applied to Winston because his name is not John.
But lurking there.... no, it doesn't lurk ...... there is a blatant suggestion that Winston is not honest.
That is just the start. There follows the "dirty tricks", the dissing of Winston Peters. All the old chestnuts that the National Party trots out:
More utter rubbish follows:
None of the candidates are particularly well-known locally so regardless of who represents us, ‘we’ in Mangawhai are unlikely to receive the attention we have had in the past.
Where was the Focus team when Winston Peters made a public stand, many times, at meetings, in print, and on TV that he will to do all that he can to fix the Kaipara problems. He has National running scared because they know that he means it.
We do not know what Winston Peters will do. What we do know is that he will fight for the best interests of the ratepayers in Kaipara and Mangawhai, something the National party will never do.
If Winston can help bring about a fair settlement of the Mangawhai debacle, ensure that the illegal debt is shared by those who were culpable, stop us being swallowed up in the unitary authority, and return our democracy to us, then the whole population will be rejoicing.
Except, of course, for those who want to bury the illegalities of the past that might incriminate them and expose them as the self-seeking hypocrites that they are.
Will the real "Honest John" please stand up
TIME FOR A CHANGE 25.03.2015 The letters to the editor in the latest Dargaville & District News reflect the feeling in Kaipara that it is time for a change.
NATIONAL'S FOUR BIG SECRETS 25.03.2015 National has four big secrets that it must keep under wraps until polling finishes on Saturday.
If they are leaked to the public then they could have a massive influence on the outcome of the election, with electors shying away from National.
The secrets are:
1. What did the former MP Mike Sabin do? Prime Minister John Key has called Sabin's problems "family and personal issues" but it seems clear that he is being charged with serious criminal offences against third parties.
Whale Oil, Cameron Slater, said back on 21 December 2014 that what happened was "almost too horrible for words". The coming by-election in Northland
But the National Party has done everything that it can to ensure that the general public does not know what the offences are as this could be detrimental to its performance in the by election.
2. When did John Key and the National Party learn of Sabin's issues? Many Parliamentarians know and have known of the rumours since before the general election in September last year. Willow Jean Prime, Labour's candidate, has stated that she knew then, having heard it on the Northland grapevine.
The suggestion is that National knew before the general election and Sabin should never have been allowed to stand. This by election, and its cost, is a direct result of that decision.
National party MPs have been well schooled. They all state that they did not hear of the rumours until late December last year. Mark Osborne was a friend and colleague of Sabin's but maintains that, in the words of Manuel: "I know nothing, Mr Fawlty".
John Key, after some fudging, says that he was advised on 1 December 2014.
Others have suggested that he knew before he appointed Sabin as chair of the parliament's law and order select committee.
John Key's reputation will be at risk if it is revealed that he knew about the offending prior to last year's general election, or prior to the appointment of Sabin as chair of the parliamentary select committee.
Likewise, John Key's reputation will be at risk when Sabin's offences become public, given John Key's minimising of Sabin's offences, and giving the quitting MP a glowing reference, when he knew the full nature of those offences.
3. Democracy is dead in Kaipara. Associate Minister of Local Government, Louise Upston, was going to announce this month the denial of democracy in Kaipara by the extension of the Commissioners' regime.
But, with Winston Peters ready to pounce on any example of National's autocratic approach to Northland, that has been delayed until after the election.
And, if Winston Peters wins, National will have to go back to the drawing board.
4. The unitary authority is going to swallow up Kaipara. Basil Morrison's Local Government Commission was due to announce before the end of this month that Kaipara was to be part of the Northland unitary authority.
That would mean even bigger debts, bigger rates, and absolutely no say in anything for the people of Kaipara.
That was too hot a potato to take out of the fire with Winston marauding, so it has been put on hold, awaiting the result of the election.
The last two have been taken out of the equation, but it will be interesting to see if National's soft under-belly relating to the Sabin affair is exposed before Saturday. The sharks are circling.
Q & A TODAY 22.03.2015 Winston Peters and Mark Osborne go head to head on Q & A today.
PETERS LAMBASTS HONEST JOHN 22.03.2015 At an election meeting in Mangawhai last Thursday Winston Peters lambasted Chair of Commissioners, John Robertson, for his curt announcement that Beca would get off scot free for its part in the Mangawhai debacle because the limitation period had expired.
In Rob Stock's article on the Stuff website, he reported Peters as follows:
He criticised commissioner John Robertson, a former National MP, for not having filed a "holding action" shortly after the commissioners were appointed in September 2012.
Peters also pledged to put pressure on the council to reverse that decision, which he has dubbed as "extremely faulty", dismissing the commissioners' claims that a lawsuit is statute-barred as "bulldust".
Robertson's retort was:
I'm not going to get into a debate with Winston Peters on these matters."
He may well have to. If Peters becomes the local MP then he will be breathing fire down Honest John's neck and demanding explanations of the Commissioners' dodgy actions.
The Rob Stock article also highlights the Peter's pledge to pressure the government to stump up with its share of the illegal debt.
Peters said Audit New Zealand's failings meant the Government needed to take responsibility, and called for the debt to be shared "across the nation".
Those ratepayers who have fought long and hard for accountability warmed to the words. They do not want handouts from the government but believe that the government was negligent in two ways.
First, the two government appointed agencies that act as local government watchdogs, Audit NZ and the Auditor General, ignored persistent legal warnings about the illegality.
They allowed Kaipara and its ratepayers to be plundered by an out of control council, by its consultant, advisers and contractors. But it was worse. The Minister of Local Government, under its various incumbents, was also advised of the illegalities in detail but thumbed the Ministerial nose at the ratepayers.
The Ministerial nose-thumb
Second, the Office of the Auditor General, the watchdog of the local government sector, and the KDC's auditor, (appointed by Parliament and answerable to Parliament) failed dismally to perform its legal duties. It then carried out a formal enquiry into its own negligence (unbelievable but true) and delayed its findings for so long that any claim for negligence against itself was largely statute barred.
Likewise the Commissioners, appointed by the Minister of Local Government, and controlled by the Minister, delayed taking action against any of those responsible for over two years, with the end result that any claim to recover the Council's losses from the guilty parties were severely prejudiced because of the Limitation Act.
If one believed in conspiracy theories, one could say that there was a conspiracy between central government and its National Party Commissioners to take steps to ensure that the innocent ratepayers, and ratepayers alone, were to be dumped with the illegal EcoCare debt, and to ensure that all the liable parties would be allowed to slope off into the shadows.
The MRRA and other protesting ratepayers have been beating this particular drum for years. Now we are within a whisker of having a local MP who, unlike the last one who shafted us with his validation bill, hears what we are saying, believes in what we say, and will do everything that he can to hold the government responsible for its appalling treatment of Kaipara ratepayers.
Coincidentally, Mark Osborne has refused to commit the government to funding any part of the illegal debt. He said that the National government would concentrate on ensuring accountability for those culpable. Which sounds very hollow and very naive given the National inspired Validation Act was passed to dump on the ratepayers, the decision no to pursue councillors and the KDC's legal advisers, and the recent announcement of National's Commissioners that they would not pursue Beca.
PROMINENT NEW ZEALANDER APPEALS 21.03.2015 The "prominent New Zealander" who is fighting the lifting of name suppression for the charges that he is facing, has appealed the decision to end the name suppression.
The suppression order was cancelled by the court on February 19 February but he was given one month in which to appeal that decision. The appeal was lodged on 19 March, the last day of the appeal period, presumably to delay the matter as much as possible.
Read Whale Oil's comments here.
Note also Whale Oil's warnings about his readers making comments.
This is one of the most secret events ever to occur in New Zealand history, and, for various reasons, the government is doing everything that it can to delay the information getting into the public arena for as long as it can.
MORE SECRET COURTS 21.03.2015 Unrelated to the prominent New Zealander case above is the Court of Appeal's decision to pull up the drawbridge of secrecy on an important legal decision of the Court. Take a look at Jock Anderson's article in the NZ Herald. Scroll down to More secret courts.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE TRIALS DELAYED FOR LONGER 21.03.2015 David Fisher reports in the NZ Herald that the "longest period it has taken for a sexual violence jury trial to reach a conclusion - from the date charges are filed to their outcome - has gone from just over three years to four and a half years in the past six years".
TIME FOR A LAUGH 19.03.2015 Cartoons on the Northland byelection (here).
Thanks to Ron Manderson
EMMERSON FROM TODAY'S HERALD 19.03.2015
WATCH THE CANDIDATES 18.03.2015 Watch the candidates for the Northland byelection here.
COMMISSIONERS DAYS MAY BE NUMBERED, IF ...... 18.03.2015 With Winston Peters taking a personal swing at Honest John and his Commissioners (see post below), new battle lines are being drawn. The New Zealand First candidate for the Northland byelection makes no secret of his dislilke for Honest John and his cronies and what they represent.
If Winston Peters is returned as member for Northland then Kaipara ratepayers who have been rorted for years and are being compelled to take on even more debt, will have a voice in parliament that will not be silenced.
Kaipara ratepayers are not asking for any handouts. All we want is a fair settlement. The government was negligent and failed to protect the people of the district from the predation of its out of control council, consultants and contractors even though it was warned many times of the persistent illegalities. It turned a blind eye and left ratepayers to their fate.
The government and its so-called watch-dogs need to compensate Kaipara for their failure to ensure that the delegated powers of central government were carried out in compliance with the law.
They also need to compensate ratepayers for allowing their own appointed Commissioners to delay taking action against the perpetrators of the EcoCare rort so that the statutory time limit would expire.
And while they are at, Steven Joyce can cajole the banks who hold the debts to take a haircut on the shonky loans that they bought for a 40 per cent discount.
BYELECTION MEETINGS 18.03.2015 Winston Peters will address a public meeting at the Insley Street Rec Centre commencing 5.00pm this Thursday 19 March. He will also meet with local residents.
Candidates Meeting at the Kaiwaka Hall at 7;00pm on the same day.
PETERS TAKES A SWING AT HONEST JOHN 18.03.2015 This is Winston Peters response to the announcement that the Commissioners have decided not to pursue Beca for its role in the EcoCare rort:
Monday, 16 March 2015, 3:49 pm Press Release: New Zealand First Party
Commission at Kaipara District Council Make Faulty Decision
The Commission for the Kaipara District Council have made an extremely faulty decision not to assume legal action against consultants managing the $63 million Mangawhai sewerage scheme blowout, says New Zealand First.
“This was a disgraceful episode in non-accountability, with elements of appalling misuse of ratepayer funds and dismal oversight by the audit office in examining the council books,” says New Zealand First Leader and Northland candidate Rt Hon Winston Peters.
“Saying that there was ‘limited chance of success and not a productive use of ratepayers funds’ is a total cop out.
“Mr Robertson, former National MP and Chairman of the Commission, should understand his duty to have filed at least a holding action to get to the truth.
“Pleading the Limitation Act is also a pathetic excuse.
“He himself is in control of statute of limitation issues in this case.
“Once more Kaipara District ratepayers are being sold down the drain by a national administration that doesn’t want its shortcomings exposed,” says Mr Peters.
"Once more Kaipara District ratepayers are being sold down the drain by a national administration that doesn’t want its shortcomings exposed,”
PANIC STATIONS IN NORTHLAND 17.03.2015 John Key has cut short his trip to Japan to chaperone "Home Alone" National candidate Mark Osborne. See Whale Oil's view of it here.
FORCE FOR THE NORTH IN MANGAWHAI 17.03.2015 This mesage from the MRRA executive:
Campaign Meeting Northland By Election
Winston Peters will address a public meeting at the Insley Street Rec Centre commencing 5.00pm this Thursday 19 March. The meeting will conclude around 6.00pm. There will be a focus on the Mangawhai/Kaipara issues at this meeting, and it would be valuable for anyone still undecided about their voting preference to come along and hear what is said. Based on responses so far there will be a big turnout, so please come early. We have the hall from 4:30 and it would be much appreciated if some able-bodied members could arrive early to help set out chairs and tables.
If you have friends or acquaintances who are still making up their mind about who should be the next MP for Northland, encourage them to come along.
Later, there is a candidates’ meeting in Kaiwaka, at the hall, commencing 7.00pm on the same day.
BECA NOT TO BE PURSUED 16.03.2015 As predicted on this website, Beca, the guiding light behind the EcoCare shambles, is to get off scot-free. The Commissioners have announced (here) that:
Kaipara District Council has decided not to take legal action against Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner Limited ("BCHF") in relation to its involvement in the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme (MCWWS).
Beca is an important member of the club that controls most local authorities in New Zealand and the fundamental rule of the club is that members of the club are staunch and do not undermine fellow members in any way.
It was Beca that provided many of the models for the EcoCare project and provided the report that persuaded the Council into extending the EcoCare scheme so that, in the words of Jack McKerchar, it was almost "doubled in size". Coincidentally, it was almost doubled in price.
We all know now that this Mark 2 version of EcoCare was never consulted with ratepayers as required by the LGA, that the KDC deliberately kept the deal secret, and even conspired with its lender ABN Amro to keep the EcoCare loan off its books.
Heath J had no hesitation in declaring the EcoCare scheme, and the loans, to be illegal because of the failure to consult with ratepayers. It was glaringly obvious that the KDC had failed to comply with the LGA.
But, and this question has never been answered, why did Beca and the council's solicitors Bell Gully, both no doubt very experienced in local authority law, not advise and warn the KDC of the illegality? Why was the KDC allowed by their advisers to make such decisions and take such actions when they were blatantly illegal?
Perhaps they did advise the Council of the problems and were ignored, but I have not seen any evidence of that.
It all comes back to one thing. In local government the ratepayer carries the can for everything. Unless the MRRA's cases in the District Court and the Court of Appeal are successful, the ratepayers of Kaipara will have to shoulder the debt. That is how the system works.
The only other hope is that the new Lone Ranger (played in this remake by Winston Peters) can force a rethink of the Kaipara solution from the government.
TEN BRIDGES TOO FAR 15.03.2015 Matthew Hooton on National's promises in Northland with the finger prints of Steven Joyce all over the bribe.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT 15.03.2015 Rod Emmerson's cartoon in Saturday's NZ Herald with his version of the Eagles' Hotel California.
AMALGAMATION TACTICS UNDERHAND 15.03.2015 Mike Butler's article on unitary authorities should be compulsory reading for all Kaipara, and for that matter, Northland ratepayers.
Note his comments on ginger groups that have been established to promote the views of the Local Government Commission and use all the dirty tricks at their disposal:
As already mentioned, the Local Government Commission works closely with the “Better . . . ” groups by sending press releases early and planning media initiatives. When it came time for the opinion survey in Hawke’s Bay, the Local Government commission unleashed a media blitz.
He explains the background and the reasons for these groups:
Another innovation that appeared with the 2012 amendment was that any “demonstrable support” for amalgamation in any region could trigger a proposal.
Unsurprisingly, pro-amalgamation groups started to appear including A Better HB, the Better Wellington group, and a similar group in Northland.
They pose as grassroots movements clamouring for salvation by amalgamation but they are small groups of wealthy individuals often with close ties to the Local Government Commission.
It is possible that these people are positioning themselves for lucrative roles in council controlled organisations to which responsibility for the regions’ resources are likely to be devolved.
In Kaipara we are well aware of such a group, that effectively controls the local press and feeds out propaganda unadulterated by any fairness or balance.
One of the biggest problems for Kaipara ratepayers is the question of the debt and how it would be treated.
This is what Mike Butler has to say about Hastings Council's debt:
In a vaguely worded statement, commission chair Basil Morrison proposed ring-fencing that would mean loans raised by the current councils would be repaid by their current ratepayers, through a targeted rate in those areas. Ring-fencing would be from the start date of an amalgamated council, should it proceed on November 1, 2016, for five years to 2021.
A big issue in Hawke’s Bay was how an amalgamated council would handle Hastings public debt of $55.7-million and internal debt of a further $32.1-million.
Hastings councillor Wayne Bradshaw in a letter to the editor of the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper, interpreted the commission’s vague ring-fencing statement to mean that payment of Hastings combined internal and external debt of $87.8-million over five years would mean a 25 percent rates hike of around $550 a year for every Hastings ratepayer.
Note that the Hastings Council dicloses its internal debts to give an accurate figure of the total amount owed, something that the government-controlled Commissioners in Kaipara refuse to do.
If the acknowledged debt of Kaipara is $76 million, and the true debt about $100 million, that means that each ratepayer in Kaipara (a guess at 14,000) would have to pay an additional special rate $1,428.47 for each of the next five years to clear the debt.
Forget all the meaningless verbiage in the Consultation document for the LTP about minimal percentage increases. That is mere window-dressing that will never be actioned. Basil Morrison's bulldozer will shift the goal posts to where the government wants them to be.
"Hi, John, Basil here. Where do you want them?"
All of us look with horror at what the Auckland unitary authority is up to, a behemoth out of control that will eventually cost the residents of that City dearly, and all the other ratepayers in New Zealand. (Don't foget that under the Local Government Funding Agency every ratepayer in New Zealand guarantees the debt of every council in New Zealand.)
Mike Butler also looks at how support for unitary authorites has changed. Note carefully these comments from Mike Lee:
After years of silence, Auckland councillor and former head of the Auckland Regional Council Mike Lee has gone on record over the Auckland amalgamation, a proposal he initially supported.
“What we didn’t reckon on was the intensive back-door lobbying by vested interests and the emergence of a multiplicity of government appointed council-controlled organisations dominated by appointees of the new National-led government and devolving of key regional responsibilities to these bodies”, he wrote.
“Nor did we envisage the influence of the un-elected Independent Maori Statutory Board, with two votes on every committee, the result of a coalition deal between National, Act, and the Maori Party”.
According to Peter"smoke and mirrors" Nicholas, propagandist for the local ginger group, and Mangawhai Focus contributor, the Local Government Commission is scheduled to announce its determination for the future shape of Northland this month.
That was scheduled before the "Winston effect" became apparent. National is now in total disarray over the Northland by-election and even Teflon John is beginning to look very vulnerable. An announcement advising that democracy is to be denied to the people of Kaipara for another year would not go down well. Likewise, an announcement that the Northland unitary authoiry was going ahead, contrary to the wishes of a clear majoiry of voters in Northland, would not be the most popular move.
And then, of course there is the Sabin factor. But scroll down to DESPERATE MEASURES 13.03.2015. for more about that.
THE GUNFIGHT FOR NORTHLAND 15.03.2015 Jeremy Jones' animated version of the gunfight for the Northland seat, shown on The Nation on TV3 yesterday, can be seen here.
A BONANZA FOR NATIONAL? 14.03.2015 Is National candidate Mark Osborne any relation to Hoss Cartwright of Bonanza fame?
COUNCIL LYING IS OK 14.03.2015 See Stephen Franks' article on lying by councils here.
KDC TEETERING ON THE BRINK 14.03.2015 A few days ago I wrote about the Solid Energy crisis (scroll down to SOLID ENERGY 03.03.2015) and the government virtually ordering TSB to write off its $54 million loan to the SOE.
Solid Energy is a cot-case and, like the KDC, hanging by a thread. Read the article by Brian Fallow in the NZ Herald and you will see what I mean.
In fact the KDC appears to be in a worse financial situation.
The KDC has breached several of its banking covenants and the banks could call up the loans immediately.
Certainly the KDC has substantial assets in the way of land and buildings and other holdings but the reality is that they cannot be sold because they are needed for the performance of the functions of local government in Kaipara, a statutory requirement under the Local Government Act.
Even if a local authority goes into receivership, it is still required to perform its statutory functions. And it is worth remembering that loans to a local authority are secured over the rates pool and not against the general assets of the authority.
The test applied to a local authority, by the OAG when it is not asleep, is whether it is a "going concern". That means that it must be able to meet its commitments out of income for the foreseeable future without government assistance.
The Commissioners represent that the KDC is a going concern but that is only by manipulating its accounts to that end. They disguise the Council's true debts by masking its internal debts - monies pilfered from ratepayers trust accounts - and they disguise monstrous amounts of interest that is not paid but capitalised on part of the external debt that has been allocated to future development. (Interest on $26.2 million, believe it or not.)
The current debt is represented by the Commissioners to be about $76 million but that does not include the capitalised interest on the debt that is accruing each year and the internal debts - monies pilfered or "borrowed", if you like, from the Mangawhai Endowment fund, the reserve funds, and all the other funds and reserves held by the Council. The cupboard has been stripped bare. Not a cent left.
But the situation is much worse. The Commissioners reckon that the debt can be reduced to around 60 million by 2025. That is external debt so add another $10 to $20 million for "hidden" debts.
But that is just fanciful.
Consider that there are no depreciation funds, no reserve funds, no endowment funds to draw on. Monies have to be borrowed to fund those requirements.
Then consider the replacement of infrastructure. This is what the Consultation document for the LTP says:
Not much has been replaced in the past so there is a long list of work required that cannot be delayed much longer. There is a small risk that an asset may fail because of the lack of renewal works we have done in the past, and pipes (invisible to the eye) that are nearing their use by date.
The water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure has not had enough money spent in it in the past and it is getting old and is in need of costly renewal (with the exception of Mangawhai stormwater and wastewater).
Why exclude the Mangawhai scheme? The EcoCare lemon has come to the end of its life and needs millions spent on it if more connections are to be made.(Note: We paid for 4,500 connections. We have only 1,600)
The Consultation document talks of additional borrowing of $2.7 million for "the extension of the network". But what of the disposal plant? That has come to the end of its life. The Browns Road one cost over $15 million. What will its replacement cost?
Now wait for it, or as Larry Mitchell says: "Hold onto your hats!"
The Consultation document states that the KDC expects to spend just shy of $700 million on "new or replacement infrastructure over the next 30 years - 2015/2045".
Yes, that is $700 million. You have not misread it. That is $23.33 million for each year of the next 30 years.
And the debt in ten years time, we are told, will be $60 million.
So how is the rest funded?
You won't find any detail in the Consultation document. Nothing that is going to frighten the horses. Just subtle hints. This is one of the Commissioners' financial strategies:
Introducing additional funding phased in over time for renewal expenditure on water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure assets.
"Introducing funding " is the Commissioners' way of saying that rates are going to rise or that more monies will be borrowed. And the amounts will be huge
It is an absolute horror story.
Remember that to meet the going concern test there could be no intervention from the government.
Well, government passed the Validation Act to prevent the KDC being forced to refund 6 years of illegal rates, which would have tipped it into receivership.
The only thing that keeps the KDC afloat at the moment is an arrangement with its banks whereby the government has given some comfort and reassurance to the banks that their loans will be protected, or, as in the case of Solid Energy, it has simply instructed the banks not to call up the KDC loans.
The influence of the judiciary
The problem is that the District Court case arising from the issuing of proceedings against hundred of ratepayers might spoil the party. There is a good chance that many of the rates and penalties over the last half a dozen years will be found to be illegal and may have to be refunded.
That is going to tip the KDC over the edge and John Key and his banks can do nothing about it.
Likewise, if the Court of Appeal finds that ratepayers are not obliged to pay rates to meet an illegal debt.
An even worse scenario is that the status of the KDC's loans as "protected transactions" is challenged in the High Court. Deeming the loans to be "protected transactions "under the LGA means that the debts can be enforced against the Council even though they are illegal. (The EcoCare debts have been declared by the High Court to be illegal.)
To qualify as a protected transaction the lender has to act in good faith. It is clear that the KDC and ABN Amro (the lender) entered into an arrangement in respect of EcoCare and its financing that was designed to circumvent legal compliance in many respects and to keep the loans off its balance sheet.
There was no good faith.
It was a shonky loan right from the start and that is why the loan was bought at a 40 per cent discount when ABN Amro went bust.
If the High Court found that the lender had acted in bad faith then the loan would not be protected and the KDC would have no obligation to pay it.
Another scenario is that current loans, which are refinances of the original debt, are not protected transactions because the banks were aware at the time of the refinancing that the loans had been declared illegal by the High Court, that banking covenants has been breached and that the KDC was not a going concern and only relied on government intervention and pressure to keep it above water.
It could be messy and the auditor has added a warning to the Consultation document for the LTP about the possible effects of judicial rulings.
Time will tell which goes under first, Solid Energy or the KDC. But what is absloutely certain is that Kaipara ratepayers are faced with a massive millstone of debt for decades to come, unless the whole fanciful charade of the Commissioners is brought to an end by political action or judicial decision.
The KDC ratepayer
DESPERATE MEASURES 13.03.2015 "Desperate times call for desperate measures", so the old adage goes. And these are desperate times in Northland if you are a National Party supporter. Like Lazarus, Winston Peters has risen again and is giving National one hell of a run for its money.
National is so scared that the dirty tricks brigade, pork-barrel politics, and Machiavellian strategies have all been dusted off and brought up to the front line.
A worried John Key has virtually become a resident of the Northland as he chaperones and bolsters his lack-lustre candidate. If he lingers long enough he will be entitled to vote in the by-election.
Cabinet Ministers are burning up the tarmac heading to the North - and no doubt cursing that the Holiday Highway is not yet finished - laden with gifts for the peasants. Bridges promised by Bridges, the key to the future from Key. (But little is promised by Labour's Andrew Little.)
Even the Mangawhai Focus has moved up a notch and moved the propaganda of Peter "smoke and mirrors" Nicholas to the front page. He now reports that his mates in the National Party have amassed a petition of 1300 to support an extension of the enforced regime of the Commissioners.
No doubt this is all on the instructions of Wellington who wanted the Commissioners men to win the tit-for-tat bidding in this round of poker. In their first effort they only managed 55 pathetic signatures. The MRRA outdid this many-fold in a few days. Now the Commissioners men have raised the stakes again.
Here we are striving to have our democracy returned to us and we have these clowns playing poker-politics to deny us our birthright.
However, the Winston factor has swung the balance dramatically. Some things have become very certain:
• Associate Minister Louise Upston is not going to announce the cancellation of democracy during the campaign,. And if Winston Peters is elected as MP for Northland then the National Party will do so at its peril.
• National will be moving heaven and earth to stop details of Mike Sabin's offences being publicly revealed.
Mike Sabin has already left a shameful legacy in Kaipara because of his betrayal of the residents. Not only did he support the validation of the inept KDC illegalities, but he backed the imposition of utterly vindictive penalties to punish rate strikers.
With a bit of statesmanship he could have brokered a fair deal between the parties, but instead he jumped to the orders from on high and helped create a festering feud between ratepayers and the Council.
But his legacy will be much worse when the details of his alleged offending are revealed, and when questions are inevitably asked about the National party's hierarchy's handling of the whole matter. John Key has already been under considerable pressure about the timing of his knowledge of the alleged offending, and that will become pivotal when the facts finally emerge.
It is a very unsavoury business, not only the alleged offending, but also the cover up by National. But that cover up has to remain in place until the by-election is over, otherwise all is lost.
Perhaps Peter "smoke and mirrors" Nicholas could organise another petition to stop the publication of details of the Sabin case until after all National's bribes have had their effect and the last vote has been cast.
Disclosure: The author was brought up in a Labour household but has voted National for many years. That is until the Kaipara scandal showed the true colours of John Key's government, its disdain for the rule of law, and its abysmal treatment of the people of Kaipara.
PENNY BRIGHT WINS RATES BATTLE 13.03.2015 Rates activist Penny Bright has won her latest battle against Auckland City . The Council was trying to sell her house to recover over $30,000 of rate arrears.
Details can be seen in the NZ Herald report from Patrice Dougan.
The decision of Judge Harvey in the District Court is highly relevant to the proceedings issued by the Commissioners against many ratepayers in Kaipara, but unfortunately it is not reported verbatim and one can only rely on a journalist's interpretation.
The essence of the case, as reported in the Herald, is that the "rates statement", which is presumably a summary of how the debt is made up, did not include the original rates invoices which under the Local Government (Rating) Act (LGRA) create the liability to pay rates.
Another issue was the inclusion in the amount payable in the rates statement of legal costs that the Council was attempting to recover from Penny Bright. That is a fundamental flaw as it misrepresents the figure that is owing for rates alone.
It is quite astonishing that Auckland City made such fundamental mistakes. It spends an awful lot of money on top legal advice and one would have thought that, given the importance of this case, that the best of legal brains would have scrutinised these proceedings
To acknowledge that an "over zealous" council worker was responsible, sums up, perhaps, the ineptitude of councils in such matters.
Kaipara has the same problem. It is wasting hundreds and thousand of dollars that could be spent on roads and other services on legal advice to justify its illegalities and persecute ratepayers. But it still gets its fundamentals wrong.
The statement of defence in the KDC v Rogan has raised many matters of non-compliance on the part of the KDC in relation to the rates assessments and rates invoices delivered to all ratepayers. These are statutory documents that create the liability for rates (in the assessment), and the obligation to pay the rates specified (in the rates invoice).
Over the years since the LGRA took effect in 2003, compliance with the provisions of the LGRA has diminished throughout all local authorities in New Zealand, no doubt on the basis that anything local authority does is legal until a court decides otherwise. Compliance with the law is largely irrelevant in local government.
Peggy Bright has shown, and the Rogan case will show, that over a decade of flouting the law does not make the slightest difference. Likewise, the argument that most other councils in New Zealand adopt the same non-compliant procedure, will fall on deaf ears.
If a local authority wants to enforce payment of its rates in court then it has to show that the ratepayer has a liability for the rates and an obligation to pay the rates, and that means proving that its rates assessment and its rates invoices are legally compliant.
The Commissioners have already acknowledged two major blunders in the proceedings that they have issued against ratepayers.
1. They included in the latest rates invoice under Adjustments an amount which represented the legal costs of pursuing the arrears of rates from that ratepayer. As we have seen in the Bright case, this is illegal and nothing more than a money-grabbing exercise.
In this instance, the Commissioners were warned of their illegal actions and immediately cancelled the relevant invoices and issued new ones with the Adjustments amount omitted.
However, the problem is that the amounts claimed in the various statements of claim that they have issued include other unexplained miscellaneous costs under Adjustments in past invoices. More than likely, the inclusion of these other charges will defeat any claim for the recovery of rate arrears.
2. Under the LGRA a local authority has to include its "penalty regime" in its rates assessments. The KDC includes the following as part of its penalty regime:
"Any payment you make towards your rates will be credited first towards the oldest amount due."
This is a policy that is adopted by many local authorities in New Zealand. Effectively it states that a ratepayer does not have the right to nominate what the payment is to be applied to, and has no right to pay the current instalment only unless all arrears are paid as well.
The only problem is that the policy has never been formally adopted by the KDC, and, even if it had been, it is totally contrary to the provisions of the LGRA.
The LGRA is quite clear that a ratepayer is entitled to pay an instalment only without any penalty, if paid by the due date, irrespective of whether there are any arrears outstanding.
For endless years the KDC has been misrepresenting to ratepayers their legal rights and denying them their entitlement to pay the current instalment only without any penalty being accrued. In fact the KDC recently refused to accept payments nominating that only the current instalment was to be paid. They returned cheques and quoted the illegal policy of older debts first.
Realising that they have made a mistake the Commissioners have ordered the staff to advise that the policy would no longer be applied in the "circumstances", but still stipulated that a nomination had to be made.
Even if the policy is not applied in the future it still does not remove the illegality in the past and the illegal charging of instalment penalties and further penalties (each six months) over many years.
Those two major errors are just samplers of the multiple defects in the Commissioners' legal case against ratepayers. More will emerge as the Rogan representative case progresses. But what is startling, in both the Bright case and now in the Rogan case, is how two local authorities can spend some much money on legal advice and get it so fundamentally wrong.
I guess if you are a Commissioner and you are spending ratepayers money then it does not matter. There is no accountability in local government.
PS Well done Penny Bright. She has no legal training and she has shown the Super City that it too has to comply with the law and cannot trample on the rights of ratepayers.
DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS? 09.03.2015
Democracy is set to return to Kaipara on 17 October 2015, all being well. That is when the election of a new council is being held, just seven months away.
But, like everything in Kaipara there are undercurrents, and certain individuals - see the comments in red above - are doing all they can to extend the regime of the Commissioners so that a newly appointed democratic council cannot bring in independent experts and expose the rorts of the past and cast some daylight on the finances of the KDC and the shortcomings of the EcoCare Ponzi scheme.
Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston, in the mould of Basil Morrison who is driving the Unitary Authority steamroller, is determined - no doubt on John Key's instructions - that democracy will not return to Kaipara. She was supported in this view by Mike Sabin who shafted ratepayers over the Validation Bill and deprived them of their legal rights and who had no qualms about depriving them of their democratic rights as well.
Mike Sabin has gone and there is no doubt that his replacement, Mark Osborne, if he assumed the mantle of power, would kow-tow to the requirements of his party in the same way that Mike Sabin did. Banks and big business first and ratepayers last.
But then along came Winston Peters. He knows a lot about Kaipara and its shameful past, and being a lawyer he knows a lot about legal compliance, democracy and the rule of law. He also knows that the Kaipara rort is still ongoing and that the denial of a return to democracy is all part of the ongoing scheme to deprive Kaipara ratepayers of their legal rights.
John Key will not announce the cancellation of democratic rights in Kaipara while a byelection is looming. And if Winston Peters gets elected, and we support him in getting elected, then John Key is going to have to think very hard about chancing his arm by extending the Commissioners' regime.
Note: The KDC's website states that that the elections are "currently" scheduled to be held on 17 October 2015.
THE MARCH ON MOSCOW STALLS 09.03.2015
Honest John's march on Moscow - his attempt to sue hundreds of ratepayers in the District Court - is slowly unfolding. He obviously expected that once he lined up his legal forces, with a bottomless pit of ratepayers' money to back them, then the enemy would be routed and surrender unconditionally.
As in all other marches on Moscow in history, the opposition sees it differently. It is the same in 2015 for Honest John as it was for Napoleon in 1813.
Honest John on his road to nowhere.
All he has done is to entrench the opposition and open another legal front that will give his opponents another opportunity to expose the incompetence and the illegalities of his regime whilst impoverishing Council's funds even more.
The District Court will have been less than impressed with his attempt to flood the Court with hundreds of cases based on the same grounds and has taken steps to rationalise Honest John's ill-considered strategy.
Judge de Ridder in the Whangarei District Court has issued a Minute, consented to by counsel for the defendants and the KDC, that states:
• The representative case - KDC v Rogan - will proceed on its own.
• All other proceedings that have the same defence as the Rogan case are stayed, pending the Court's decision in the Rogan case, no matter what court they were filed in
• All those other proceedings will be transferred to the Whangarei court.
• A fixture for the Rogan case has been set down tentatively for a two day hearing on 30 June / 1 July 2015.
For those who used the MRRA defence then no further action is required until the Rogan case is resolved.
There are other proceedings where ratepayers have employed other solicitors, with different defences, and at this stage it is uncertain what will happen to them.
The lawyers representing the Rogans have sought further discovery from the KDC and will be filing an amended statement of defence in early April. The original statement of defence highlighted illegalities and non compliance in the KDC's rates assessments and rates invoices and the amended statement of defence introduces more illegalities and failure to comply with statutory requirements.
Moscow is looking like a long way away. I don't think the old hack that Honest John is riding will make it.
CONCRETE COVER UPS 09.03.2015
We all know how for years the government and its agencies covered up the illegalities and rorts that were going on in Kaipara. When they were warned and given full details, and presented with irrefutable evidence, they did nothing. They told us to go to court. And, when we did that, they passed validating legislation to validate all the illegalities retrospectively. They also used the OAG report to whitewash all the rorts.
This time it is concrete cancer that the government is trying to bury. (See Whale Oil article here.) Minister Nick Smith is running for cover, denying liability and dumping blame when in fact the government was warned of the problem and took no action. New Zealand First is demanding that the government obtains independent expert reports that are truly independent and not conflicted, and then takes firm action.
It is Kaipara all over again. Why does the government allow an insolvent council to carry on incurring more and more debt, to lie about its financial status, and dump unsupporable debt on its ratepayers, when a simple independent report on the true state of the KDC's finances would give us all the information we need to take positive steps for the future based on fact and not fiction?
And why does the government allow the Commissioners to con ratepayers into pouring more money down the EcoCare Ponzi scheme, when everyone knows that it looks like a lemon, smells like a lemon, and squeezes like a lemon? Only a fully independent report on EcoCare's fitness for purpose would resolve the issue once and for all.and confirm whether it is a lemon or not.
JUDITH COLLINS NEW ROLE 09.03.2015
"Crusher" Collins may have been relegated to the back benches but she is a star in her own right. See this video from Campbell Live. The nitty gritty is at 2:40 and the full version is at 4:50. Note that the song she dances to - "What'd I say, now!" - seems very appropriate given her steely, authoritarian approach.
HAWKES BAY UNITARY AUTHORITY 09.03.2015
The battles in Hawes Bay and Wellington between the local ratepayers and the Local Government Commission should be a warning to Kaipara ratepayers of what is in store for them once the Basil Morrison steamroller heads north.
Wellington and the Wairarapa featured strongly on Campbell Live last week and the battle lines are being drawn in Hawkes Bay with allegations and threats flying about - see Simon Hendery's article in Hawkes Bay Today.
MANGAWHAI'S DAY IN THE SUN 08.03.2015
Mangawhai was awash with politicians at the weekend. Winston Peters Force for the North bus hit Mangawhai on Saturday morning followed by John Key's troupe with National candidate Mark Osborne in tow. Act leader David Seymour's car was also spotted.
Winston Peters visited the Mangawhai Village market and made an impromptu speech on the steps of the village hall. He pledged to help Kaipara and Mangawhai with its problems IF the local ratepayers voted for him and elected him as their MP.
He showed a detailed knowledge of the Kaipara rorts and pulled no punches about the liability of the government for the EcoCare blow out because of the negligence of its watchdog, the Office of the Auditor General.
John Key arrived on key as Winston Peters was departing with National candidate Mark Osborne and his wife, his minders and a dozen or so youngsters decked out in blue outfits . No speech, but a lot of hand-pressing and photo opportunities as he toured around the market stalls.
Legal Eagle was approached by the PM, no doubt thinking that I looked like an older National supporter, and I had the opportunity to ask him about democracy in Kaipara and the debt. He said that there was no easy fix, but I pointed out that the government was clearly to blame because of the failure of the OAG and several Ministers of Local Government to take action when they were warned about the Kaipara excesses. All the government had to do was to front up to with some money along with the other guilty parties.
There were some vague mutterings and a natty little side-step as he moved on to his next target.
"Don't mention Kaipara"
Next stop was the Sail Rock Cafe for the official launch of National's campaign with invited National Party supporters.
THE OPTIONS 08.03.2015
I was talking to Bruce Rogan of the MRRA after we had watched Winston Peters and John Key do their thing in Mangawhai yesterday. We agreed that the options for Kaipara ratepayers are quite simple. If a National candidate is returned for Northland then there will be no change in policy. The illegal EcoCare debt will be shafted home to the innocent ratepayers and will take generations to pay off. The guilty parties will be protected by the National Party credo of "protecting its own". The Commissioners' ocupation will be extended (but only after the by election is over) and there will be no democracy for Kaipara. Kaipara will be bundled into a unitary authority by Basil Morrison and his bulldozing team, even though a clear majority is against it.
The other option is that those responsible for the illegal debt and blowouts, and that includes the OAG, the shonky advisers and the government, pay their share of the illegal debt, and ratepayers assume liability for the fair value of EcoCare. The debt would be halved and ratepayers of the district could then get on without this massive millstone around their knecks.
Winston Peters has pledged his support to fix the Kaipara problems and for the unitary authority issue to be resolved by referendum.- provided that the electors of the district support him and vote him in through the ballot box. He has a mixed history and many doubt his sincerity but his commitment to Kaipara cannot be faulted. In his address given in Mangawhai prior to the general election he clearly nailed his colours to the door, and he has not resiled from that.
For many, voting for Winston may be a gamble, but the reality is that he has made a clear and unambiguous commitment. His party is the only one (except for Mana) that voted against the Validation Bill. He is the only chance that Kaipara has, on the political stage, of resolving the Kaipara issues on a fair and honourable basis.
The decision is simple. National offers us no democracy, a massive debt, and a unitary authority. New Zealand First offers us some hope of a fair settlement and the opportuinty to put our woes behind us.
BRUCE ROGAN TO STAND 04.03.2015
MRRA chair, Bruce Rogan has advised that he will be standing as an independent candidate in the Northland by election. A Radio NZ report can be seen here and an interview heard here.
SOLID ENERGY 03.03.2015
Last week, Stuff reports, TSB Bank wrote off the entire value of its $54 million loan to Christchurch-based Solid Energy.
Despite the fact that many see an SOE as having an implied government guarantee, the government has waved a big stick and compelled banks to write of massive debts owed by Solid Energy. Stuff reports that banks were obliged to write off their debts and enter into a restructuring deal:
Finance Minister Bill English repeatedly warned that if the banks were not willing to accept the deal, the Government would put the company into receivership.
Amazingly, this current debt write-off follows a similar one in 2013 when banks were required to take a $65 million "hair-cut". (See here).
Compare the EcoCare loans.
Those loans, arranged by the KDC with ABN Amro, were patently illegal. There was no consultation with ratepayers as stipulated by the LGA and the bank and the KDC entereed into an arrangement to hide the debt so that it did not show on the balance sheet. The loans only proceeded because of the negligence of the auditors (Audit NZ) and the OAG in failing to identify and act on the blatant illegalities relating to the loans and to protect the best interests of ratepayers.
The OAG and Audit NZ are government appointed organisations and watchdogs of the local government sector, appointed to ensure that the statutory powers delegated to local authorities are exercised in compliance with the law.
The government not only has an obligation to appoint watchdogs but it has an additional obligation to ensure that its appointed watchdogs perform their obligations competently.
The government failed to meet those obligations.
But more than that, when advised of the persistent illegal actions of the KDC and the failure of its own regulatory authorities, the government, through the Minister of Local Government, failed to take any action and allowed the illegalities to continue.
It is interesting that the banks that lent monies to Solid Energy did so in compliance with the law and on the presumption that there was a government guarantee. Those banks that lent to the KDC (ABN Amro and the banks who bought the debt) knew that it was a shonky loan and illegal but relied on a guarantee that they thought was implicit in the LGA.
In the Solid Energy case the government has bullied the banks into takiing a hair-cut, but in the KDC case it is insisting that the ratepayers carry the can, despite the illegality of the debt, and the banks' knowledge of that, and the clear negligence of other parties, including the government and its own agencies.
YOU CAN FIGHT BACK 01.03.2015
Democracy still rules in local government despite an autocratic council provided enough people are prespared to make a stand. See the article on New Plymouth's ratbag Mayor and his council trying to foist their view of democracy on the people of the district.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS PETE 27.02.2015 Peter Nicholas, the smoke and mirrors man at the Mangawhai Focus and the apologist of Honest John, is at it again. He is churning out propaganda about the KDC's reign of terror which reportedly consists of issuing up to 300 separate proceedings against the good honest citizens of the district and forcing another 200 or so to succumb to pressure from their banks to pay their rates.
Peter Nicholas reports on it with the same relish and enthusiasm that one would expect in a story about the extermination of a plague of rats.
The first half of the article is full of facts and figures that are clearly regurgitated directly from Council sources. The second half is full of direct quotes from Honest John himself.
You can search high and low for the two sides of the story, for fairness, for balance, but you will not find it. This is the partisan, biased, one-sided journalism that we have come to expect from the Mangawhai Focus.
You may wonder why thousands of good citizens refused to pay their rates and why over one hundred of them are prepared to make a stand in court. It is unprecedented, and yet neither Peter Nicholas nor the Focus is the slightest bit interested.
One has to ask how much the Commissioners pay the Mangawhai Focus to persuade it to print such rubbish and to suspend its journalistic ethics.
Is it all part of the Dirty Tricks campaign?
OOPS! 27.02.2015 Further to the post above, Smoke And Mirrors Pete doesn't understand the basics of what he is writing about. Take this for example:
it is likely that banks will soon force mortgagees that have not already paid, to pay that portion of overdues (sic). Almost all mortgage documents have clauses that say the mortgagee must keep all charges against the property (such as rates) “current.”
The problem is that the "mortgagee" is the bank. In both instances where he used "mortgagee" he should clearly have used mortgagor.
MRRA STATES ITS CASE 26.02.2015 This letter from the MRRA was published in both the Mangawhai Focus and the Kaipara Lifestyler.
In response to John Robertson's letter of January 26, Time to end the Battle, I would like to say, Mr Robertson, that the ball is in your court.
So far, you have seen fit to allocate all of the debt from the EcoCare debacle to the ratepayers. When you have successfully held to account the parties responsible for the burgeoning of the debt to something in excess of $70 million and have reduced the exorbitant rates being charged accordingly, then my fellows on the MRRA executive will be willing to put a line under past grievances.
Recent publicity reveals that some 50 odd people in the Kaipara are calling for an extension of the Commissioners rule here. This is not surprising as there will always be some people who feel more secure under a dictatorship. However, there are many more who prefer democracy.
For every one person who signed in favour of retaining dictatorship in the Kaipara, there are more than five who petitioned the Associate Minister of Local Government asking her to return democracy and honour the Government's promise of a local election in the Kaipara in October this year.
Any deferral of the proposed hand back would indeed give credence to suspicions already being formed that there is a connection between the timing of the return to elected representatives and the planned reorganisation of the northern group of councils into a "super-council" in the not too distant future.
BOVINE POLLUTION OF HARBOUR 26.02.2015 In its latest propaganda piece in the Mangawhai Focus, Honest John's pet Advisory Panel somewhat surprisingly acknowledges that pollution of the harbour is caused by animals.
The members of the Panel have read historical reports that show how, for years, run-off from the land surrounding the harbour affected the water quality. Some of the run-off was and still can be attributed to birds and/or livestock.
If that is the case then what is the Panel planning to do to ascertain the exact cause of the pollution, and what steps is it going to take to prevent the pollution of the harbour by animals?
A milking cow actually dumps 150 lbs of poo a day. Multiply that by the number of cows that graze on the edge of the harbour and you can see the size of the problem.
OWEN MCSHANE'S VISION 25.02.2015 Three years ago the late Owne McShane wrote an article about council amalgamations and Nick Smith's - the then Minister of Local Government - penchant for unitary authorities.
Many of his comments were true then but, some three years later, are even more spot on. How about this for an example:
Councillors suddenly found themselves in charge of multi-million dollar organizations that demanded skills and experience well beyond their levels of competence. Since then, the Chief Executives (previously known as Town Clerks) have been able to exercise largely unbridled power.
Those problems were then compounded by the 2002 amendments to the Local Government Act that gave Councils the power of general competence. This expansion of powers enabled already over-extended authorities to expand into new policies and activities totally outside their competence. Their general incompetence has been demonstrated all around the country – as exemplified by the losses on V8 races, entertainment events, swimming pools, sewage schemes, arenas, and exploding levels of debt and rates. Project cost overruns became the norm as a councillors lost control of their staff, consultants and advisors.
The end result has been that most of our councils have been colonized by major corporations who are now busy exploiting the local “environment industry”. These consultancies regard our districts and cities as little more than well-funded ATM machines.
Thanks to Ron Manderson
UNITARY AUTHORITY 25.02.2015 For those interested in the wheels that are turning behind the scenes, take a look at the following commentaries or websites relating to the government's attempt to force unitary authorities on New Zealand:
Breaking Views - Mike Butler
Breaking Views - Frank Newman
Muriel Newman - An Amalgamation Agenda
Any other references welcomed
Any other references welcomed
THE MONKEY OR THE ORGAN GRINDER? 24.02.2015 More propaganda emerges each week from Honest John's Advisory Panel on the EcoCare extensions. (Mangawhai Focus 23 February 2015)
Forgive those of us who think that those on the the Advisory Panel are patsies who are being fed a load of rubbish, but we have seen it all before. The old council and the proposers of EcoCare "sold" the project to the ratepayers on the back of a mountain of misinformation and false figures and projections that were fairy story stuff.
The OAG's report has stated quite clearly that the whole scheme was out of control and the so-called experts had no idea what they were doing.
Do you remember that they told us it would cost $30 odd million, all up with everything?
It cost well over twice that amount and is still a lemon.
Do you remember when they told us that the debt would be "segmented" and ring- fenced to those who were connected to the scheme in Mangawhai? Other ratepayers would not pay a cent towards it.
That was never feasible. It was wrong. It was a lie. Now every ratepayer in the district will have to pay for it, and the children of every ratepayer, and the grandchildren of every ratepayer.
Remember when they had financial models prepared by one of the top accountancy firms in the world but refused to let anyone see them, including councillors, because they were commercially sensitive?
Not worth the paper it was written on. And that is why they didn't release it.
EcoCare was a rort on a massive scale and the Commissioners will still not allow us to access the pure and simple facts and figures relating to the Scheme.
They have appointed a panel of so-called advisers who actually know diddly squat about sewerage systems but who are fed selected, doctored information via the Commissioners which they then regurgitate back to Honest John, and label it independent advice.
The Focus propaganda states that the Advisory Panel has had:
a number of presentations from professionals to understand how the scheme got to where it is. the number of connections the scheme is designed to handle and where to from here.
If those outside advisers are genuinely qualified and independent and not afraid to open themselves to public scrutiny, then why not publish what they have to say?
As Winston Churchill so aptly said, "Why listen to the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room?"
We ratepayers, who have to pay the bills, can then judge for ourselves whether this is the same old rubbish that we have heard for the past 12 years, or whether there is something in it.
We were bitten very badly - to the tune of perhaps $70 million - and are very wary about being bitten again, by the same dog, with the same bark, but with a different master.
MIKE HOSKING ON AUCKLAND CITY 24.02.2015 Mike Hoskings comments on yesterday evening's Seven Sharp on Auckland City, triggered by the discovery of Auckland City employees living in different cities of the world, can be viewed here.
The full text follows:
So, as we showed you at the top of the show, another chapter in the madness that is the Auckland City Council, the council that thinks, as it turns out, that it s a globally significant entity not a local body authority
The council with aspirations in far flung parts of the world while not being able to mow your berms.
Uncle Len clearly sees himself on the global stage not the community stage
I'm surprised that they have not launched a bid for a seat on the Community Council
I am surprised they haven't got committees putting together pitches for the Olympics in 2026 and the World Cup in 2028
Have you ever wanted a living breathing example of a bunch f local body try-hards living in a bubble that has no connection to reality, then this is your lot
They encapsulate all that is wrong with regional politics, their delusions of grandeur, their puffed up sense of self-importance.
The reason so much of the rest of the country laughs at Auckland is that these are the clowns that give them so much material.
The world is my oyster
Auckland is a juggenaut that is out of control, run by big business for its own benefit, with ratepayers having no say and its councillors marginalised.
Is that the future of local government that we want to see in Northland?
MANGAWHAI FOCUS CENSORS ITSELF 23.02.2015 In an earlier post BOVINE POLLUTION OF THE HARBOUR 11.02.15 (scroll down) I reported on a letter to the editor in the Mangawhai Focus (edition of 9th February) from a marine biologist outlining the findings of tests on the water in the Mangawhai Harbour for the last six months of last year.
The main finding was that pollution was caused by bovine E-Coli from the farms bordering the harbour and not from human E-Coli, as portrayed by Honest John's hand-picked Advisory Panel in their Mangawhai Focus articles.
I also reported that although the letter went to print it was pulled from the on-line version of the Focus, presumably because it ran contrary to the propaganda that the Focus chooses to promote.
Interestingly, as at 23 February (two weeks after publication) the letter is till not available on line. It simply has the tag: "Story to come". (see Letters to the Editor)
Make up your own mind why.
But there is more. In the latest edition of the Focus, a letter to the editor is critical of the letter from the marine biologist, not because of its contents but because the "arrogant" writer did not go through the proper channels and because the letter embarrassed the farmer involved.
The letter takes a swipe at the marine biologist:
"You may well have just come out and put the farmer's name in the paper for all to read ...."
Many people know who the farmer is and the rumours are rife that his farm, and no doubt others, plays a major part in the pollution of the harbour and always has done.
That is a story that the Focus does not want to tell. There is nothing like the truth to make the rubbish that comes from the EcoCare Advisory Panel look like the bull shit that it is.
As I have said on many occasions: Take a look at those who want to extend the underperforming EcoCare scheme and invest tens of millions more in a "lemon", and look at those who want to retain the Commissioners, and you will find a group of people who have something to hide in the past that they don't want revealed.
They know that they will be safe with a Commissioner run council.
MANGAWHAI ENDOWMENT FUND 23.02.2015 Correspondent GJ Smith wrote to the Mangawhai Focus correcting some of the errors in Peter Nicholas' smoke and mirror treatment of the Mangawhai Endowmwnt Fund in his article in the previous edition of the Focus headed Historic Endowment Fund misunderstood.
Peter Nicholas was given the immediate right of reply and casts another pall of smoke over the whole dubious misappropriation of trust funds.
There are some basic points that Peter Nicholas needs to front up to:
• The KDC's handling of the fund was inappropriate. This was highlighted by the Minister of Local Government and clearly acknowledged by previous Chief Executive Steve Ruru.
• The fund has long gone. It was spent long ago and no one knows where it went. It is now a simple book entry in the KDC's books.
• The fund "earns" no interest. Each year interest is calculated on the amount that would be in the fund if it had no been stolen by the KDC. The "interest" is then paid by the KDC to that year's beneficiaries. These monies come from rates paid by the whole district. In other words, ratepayers from Kaipara are paying the interest on the Mangawhai Endowment Fund.
• The KDC cannot reinstate the fund because it is insolvent. It does not have a spare $5 million to repay what it "borrowed". The only way that it can do so is to borrow the monies externally, from the bank. That would dump a further $5 million indebtedness on to the ratepayers. In other words the ratepayers would be forced to pay for the $5 million stolen by the Council from the citizens of Mangawhai. Together, of course, with interest.
It all sounds like a massive PONZI scheme to me and it is quite frightening that a local newspaper with clear obligations to the community chooses to publish only one side of a very unsavoury story that needs to be exposed.
I ask Peter Nicholas and those at the Focus how they would feel if the $5 million that Uncle Ebenezer left them in trust with the estate's solicitor was dealt with in such a way.
Imagine finding out that the solicitor had spent all the trust monies on other unidentified expenses, but there was a book entry, so they were well protected..................
As for the interest paid to the beneficiaries annually, the solicitor just increased the fees that he charged them and paid them interest out of that.
And the principal? Well that could be replaced by borrowing the $5 million, but of course, the beneficiaries would have to pay the debt and the interest.
PROMINENT NEW ZEALANDER IN COURT ON INDECENT ASSAULT CHARGES 20.02.2015 Reports on this case can be seen here:
AN AMALGAMATION AGENDA 20.02.2015 Muriel Newman's latest article on unitary authorities in New Zealand is a must read.
If you ever have any doubts about where John Key's local government juggernaut is heading then you must read this article.
And juggernaut it is. John Key's legacy is that "big business" in New Zealand will run every aspect of our lives. But add to that the unelected Maori Advisory Boards and we will all become hostages in our own country.
No wonder John Key refused to consider Local Government New Zealand's suggestion of looking for alternative finance souces for local government. Ratepayers are sitting ducks and are obliged to pay rates even if they are not consulted and even if the rates are illegal. And, of course, with the NZ funding Agency, all ratepayers in the country are responsible for the debts of all local authorities
Why would you want to change a system like that?
One bright hope on the horizon is the North Rodney application to the High Court for a judicial review of the Local Government Commission's decision to decline an application for North Rodney to break away from Auckland City.
That is to be heard next month.
The Court of Appeal hearing for the MRRA is getting closer - in August - and it will be interesting to see if that Court endorses the view of Heath J that a local authority can set rates for an illegal purpose.
The Council's District Court case against rate strikers is proving to be nightmare for Honest John and his advisers. No doubt they thought that they could terrorise ratepayers into paying their bills. What they didn't realise was that they were exposing the soft and precarious underbelly of their rating processes to detailed legal scrutiny and challenge, and affording the ratepayers another chance to expose the incompetence and illegalities of the Commissioners, and vindicate themselves in court.
When you look at it, only the courts stand between the Key juggernaut and all the principles of integrity, democracy, transparency, the rule of law, etc, all of which are beginning to look like threatened species in New Zealand today.
Have a look at Mike Butler's article on Hasting's fight against amalgamation.
WHERE IS THE LTP? 15.02.2015 It is that time of year again, but something is missing. No sign of the draft 2015/2025 Long Term Plan which should have been adopted by now for consultation by ratepayers.
But, like all things with the Commissioners, they have there own special version of transparency and consultation.
You may not know it, but you have already been consulted on many of the policies that are normally included in the LTP. That includes new policies relating to development contributions, financial contributions, revenue and financing, Maori freehold land rates postponements and remissions, and early payments of current years rates and postponements and remissions. In addition, increases in fees and charges (over and above last year's increases) have already been set in concrete. (See the Agenda for the extraordinary 9 February Council meeting here)
Under amendments to the LGA, such policies can now be adopted outside the LTP process.
No doubt you were completly unaware but while you were tucking into the Christmas turkey and frolicing on the beach you were actually being consulted on all of these policies. That's the way that it is with Honest John and his team. When the 2002 LGA was first introduced, local government in New Zealand was aghast at the amount of consultation that was required. Twelve years on, those well versed in the dark arts of local government have learnt how to consult without consulting, and how to exclude ratepayers from having any real say in their own council.
Believe it or not, the draft LTP is already available, but you won't find it on the KDC website in its usual place in Forms and Documents under "Long Term Plan". You will find it under "Have your say" and it has been called: Looking Ahead - consultation document for the Long Term Plan 2015/2025.
Any comments on the new plan are welcome. Please send them to email@example.com and advise the name - real or pseudonym - they are to be posted under.
ASSOCIATE MINISTER SPREADS HER NET 14.02.2015 Associate Minister of Local Government, Louise Upston, has done an about-face and cast her net wider for ratepayer views on the future of democracy in Kaipara. Last week she made an ill-judged, secret sortie into the North to assess the views of ratepayers, but chose to meet with only those few who support the extension of the Commissioners' regime and the postponing of democratic elections.
Following the wide condemnation of such "undemocratic" consultation the Associate Minister has had a change of heart. (See Kaipara Lifestyler) Her press secretary now states:
“While it wasn’t possible for the minister to speak to everyone in the community, she is interested in hearing people’s views.
“Those who would like to also have their say can email her at l.upston@ ministers.org.nz.”
Ratepayers who want to express their views can email the Minister at the address shown or Louise.Upston@parliament.govt.nz and sign the on-line petition referred to in the post below.
ON-LINE PETITION 12.06.15 The MRRA has set up an on-line petition for the return of democracy to Kaipara. It can be accessed here. It has an explanation of what the petition is about under Why this is important.
Please contact all other ratepayers that you know and get them to subscribe to the petition.
VOTE FOR DEMOCRACY
IT MAY BE THE LAST VOTE THAT YOU HAVE IN KAIPARA.
DEMOCRACY IN KAIPARA 12.02.15 Expect Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston to make her move soon. As sure as night follows day, and as sure as the Local Government Commission will try and force a Unitary Authority on Northland, she will ring the death knell of democracy in Kaipara and announce the extension of the autocratic regime of the Commissioners.
The Commissioners only have 8 months to go before elections are held but a very small group of mainly National Party supporters are pressing for the extension of the Commissioners' regime and the canning of the return to democracy.
They are petrified that a truly democratic council would open the books and reveal the rorts of the past (which might implicate some of them), the true parlous state of the KDC's finances, and the sheer folly of the Commissioners' financial projections. They are frightened that an independent assessment of EcoCare might reveal that it is a lemon and that all the rubbish about humans polluting the harbour is nothing more than a deceptive ploy to cover up the true polluters.
One has to have some sympathy for Louise Upston. She was handed the poisoned chalice of Kaipara by Minister Paula Bennett who sensibly realised that getting caught in the Kaipara quagmire could hinder her meteoric rise to leadership of the Nats.
A present from Paula Bennett to Louise Upston
"Hi, Sweetie. Cut your teeth on this."
The new Associate Minister also inherits a Ministry that rivals the old KDC Council and the Commissioners for incompetence and indifference to illegalities. A whole succession of Ministers were advised of the the Kaipara problems but sat and fiddled while Kaipara was pillaged and plundered.
Along with the OAG and Audit NZ, the Ministry of Local Government must bear a very large share of the blame for the Kaipara debacle.
The reality is that Lousie Uptson has no say in the matter. Like Mike Sabin with the Validation Bill, she has to do as she as told, otherewise she is custard. She is driven by John Key's quest to let big business and the banks rule every aspect of our lives, and the DIA, which drives the policy, is not going to let a bunch of rebels spoil the party.
True to form, only the hand-picked few were consulted by the Minister. She declined to consult with the MRRA because she was too busy. She had time to go to Whangarei to consult but could not visit Mangawhai. She did not consult with Legal Eagle.
She can't even consult with our MP because we don't have one.
However, there is nothing to stop ratepayers letting the Associate Minister and the MInister (and all other MPs) know what their feelings are about the return to democracy. With a by election due very soon it is going to be very difficult for them to fly in the face of an overwhelming number of electors and announce the death of democracy.
The email addresses of all MPs can be found on the website of Dr Muriel Newman with advice on how to send emails to a large group - but no more than 20 at a time.
This is very important for the future of Kaipara and I urge all of you to send an email and to encourage your spouses, relatives, friends, work colleagues etc to do the same. Spread the word.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS 11.02.15 Anne Gibson in today's New Zealand Herald does an interesting report on council debt. She quotes Craig Stobo, chairman of the Local Government Funding Agency, as saying that councils in New Zealand are conservatively geared and prudent financial managers because they have assets of $117.4 billion but debts of only $10.8 billion.
She also reports Craig Stobo's comment that ratepayers should be grateful.
If you use statistics and smoke and mirrors, you can tell any story you like.
The fundamental flaw in Craig Stobo's argument is that council debts are not secured against the assets of a council. The assets are generally inalienable assets that are held in trust for the people of the district. If Auckland goes under, Cornwall Park and Albert Park will not be sold to meet its debts. Nor will the local roads and infrastructure.
Council debts are normally secured over the rates income. That is a vast pit of money that can apparently expand to meet any contingency and effectively is without any limit.
As the law stands at present, ratepayers are responsible for all the debts of their council even if the debt is illegal or imprudent. It is as if all ratepayers give their personal guarantees for the repayments of their council debts. If a ratepayer does not cough up then his or her house can be sold. (As 300 odd ratepayers in Kaipara are now discovering.)
But more than that, under the rules of the New Zealand Funding Agency, which Craig Stobo heads, each member council cross-guarantees all the debts of the other councils in the fund. So, at the end of the chain, a ratepayer in Auckland becomes a guarantor not only of the for the debts of his own council but also the debts of all the other councils in the fund.
There is no ratio for borrowing to lending. Councils can spend what they like and simply ignore the rules relating to financial prudence. As we have found out in Kaipara, councils are free to incur debt at will, and if those debts prove to be illegal or imprudent and tip the council over the financial edge, they simply dump their insolvency onto their ratepayers.
Grateful? I think not. We must be mugs to allow such a rort to even get off the ground.
Note: Of the 78 councils in New Zealand 43 are in the fund. Kaipara is not. It is too broke and dysfunctional to join and no one wants to guarantee its debts.
MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS 11.02.2015 The folk at the Mangawhai Focus must be making a mint out of the Commissioners given the amount of space that they provide for Honest John's propaganda. One presumes that they are paying for it as it is scarcely a public service.
The latest issue contains more spin from KDC apologist and Commissioners' lickspittle Peter Nicholas who is regular contributor to the Focus and specialises in regurgitating the spin put out by Honest John. He is also one of the driving forces behind the plan to prevent democracy returning to Kaipara.
This time he is rewriting the "truth" about the Mangawhai Endowments Fund under the heading Historic Endowment Fund misunderstood..
Claims have been made that funds from the account were “stolen” to pay for the Mangawhai sewage system, while claims have been made that the council will need to top up funds that have been used for other purposes.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
He then goes on to recite facts and figures about the "fund" and about the interest it earns.
It therefore comes as a surprise when he states later:
There is no actual separate “Endowment Fund Account” within the Kaipara District Council. But throughout the history of the MELA, there never was a separate account, so nothing has changed.
That's more like it.
The fund was held in trust by the KDC, and, as with all trust monies, was held in a separate bank account and earned interest paid by the Bank. That is how trustees handle trust monies.
At some stage during the heady days of rorts and rip-offs the fund monies were used for other KDC purposes, or whatever, without any records, resolutions or anything. No one knows where the monies went or what they were used for. Even the OAG gave up looking.
Previous Chief Executive Steve Ruru reported to the Council in 2013, at page 196:
In September 2011, for example, questions were raised by the Minister of Local Government about how the funds in the Mangawhai Endowment fund and Land Subdivision Reserve were being used. Implicit in the questions raised was a concern that funds were being used to fund Council's general operating costs without an appropriate level of supporting documentation to enable the use of funds to be tracked.
It is also interesting that at a meeting of the Mangawhai Endowment Lands Account Committee on 4 March 2013 it was reported that:
after consultation with the community over ten years ago the Council adopted the policy of protecting the capital of the fund.
The gist of this is that only the net income of the fund from interest and rent is available each year for grants. Perhaps the reason for that decision was because the fund no longer existed and there was no capital to allocate to projects.
The reality is that the fund does not exist. It was long spent by the KDC. Its only claim to "existence" is a paper entry in the books of the KDC which says that the KDC owes the fund that money.
So if the capital was required by the fund then the Council would have to borrow the money externally to reinstate the fund.
But what of the interest that Peter Nicholas says is available to fund projects? He makes it sound as if the fund earns its own interest. It doesn't. It can't because it doesn't exist. After years of paying no, or insufficient interest on the monies that it purloined, the Council has now put its books in order and now pays interest on the fund at an agreed interest rate.
That means that the interest on the fund, which should be paid by the bank with which it should be invested, is now paid by the KDC. The KDC funds the interest from the rates.
So, effectively, it is the ratepayers paying the interest on the Mangawhai Endowment fund. and, not only that, it is the ratepayers throughout the district who are paying the interest on a fund which benefits only parts of Mangawhai
I quote from an earlier piece on this website:
This must be one of the best Ponzi schemes around.
The Council is entrusted with ratepayers monies for specific purposes. It spends the trust monies for other unrelated purposes and then makes ratepayers pay the annual interest bill to fund grants to local organisations. When the capital has to be repaid the Council borrows monies externally and then bills the ratepayers for the interest on that loan and for the principal repayment.
If any trustee in real life carried on in such a way then they would end up in jail. But, in the rarefied alternative universe of local government in New Zealand, the rules are totally different and allow ratepayers to be shafted again and again.
BOVINE POLLUTION OF THE HARBOUR 11.02.15 The latest edition of the Mangawhai Focus (9th February) includes a Letter to the Editor on page 18 from a Marine Biologist outlining the findings of tests on the water in the Mangawhai Harbour for the last six months of last year. The main finding was that pollution was caused by bovine E-Coli from the farms bordering the harbour and not from human E-Coli.
The farms that contribute to the pollution were identified in the tests but not named in the letter.
Interestingly the letter is not available on the Focus' website. It simply states: "Story to come." I am not into conspiracy theories, but has the letter been pulled from the website because it tells the truth and rebutt the smoke and mirrors of the EcoScam adivisory panel in the same issue? (See article following.)
MORE POLLUTION FROM THE ECOSCAM ADVISORY PANEL 11.02.15 So, its all to do with human waste, and the magnificent EcoScam scheme is the only thing preventing the degradation of the harbour. And we desperately need EcoScam Mark 2 to prevent any further pollution.
That is the message that Honest John's carefully selected "advisory" panel are projecting yet again in their latest spin in the Commissioners' propaganda rag, the Mangawhai Focus.
Clearly the spinmeisters and dirty tricks brigade behind EcoScam Mark 2 are using "Magical Mangawhai "and the pollution of the harbour as catch-phrases for their campaign of deception.
The reality is that human waste was never an issue but was used to "sell" and justify the EcoScam Mark 1 rort to ratepayers and enrich all of those involved. Now it is being dragged out of the closet for the promotion of EcoScam Mark 2.
The truth is that any pollution of the harbour results from bovine pollution from farms that border the harbour. That's cows and bulls. But they will never tell you that. (See article above) Sewerage and water have become the major vehicles for rorting ratepayers by councils and big businesses, and there is no a lot of money to be made in collecting and processing cow shit.
The advisory panel are part of Honest John's softening up process to get you used to the concept of EcoScam Mark2, to convince you that your harbour will be unusable without it, and that stumping up a few more tens of millions for what you have already paid double for, is a really good idea.
Meanwhile, those who are in fact polluting the harbour can, like all the other guilty parties in Kaipara, get off scot free
It's all bullshit of course. Take the hype in the first sentence of the article: "The Scheme ..... has put the magic back into Magical Mangawhai".
Then the lies: " ....and has capacity to cope with many more connections".
Really? For years the KDC has told us that the disposal field at Brown's farm is at the end of its life with a small expansion possible - if extra borrowing can be arranged. But a new disposal option is becoming crucial and that is going to cost tens of millions. (Browns Road cost $18 million.)
As for the processing plant itself, there are no figures, just smoke and mirrors. We paid for 4,500 connections. We have at present 1630, according to Honest John. Will it take another 100 or will it take another 2,900, which is what we paid for?
If I was on the advisory panel I would be demanding answers from independent experts and not swallowing the "fluff" fed to me by Honest John and his advisers.
I am sure that those who were selected by Honest John to form his "Yes Panel" are offended by my labelling them as "patsies". Regrettably, so far, they have proved to be exactly that. If they want us to listen to them they need to get real, get some spine, and some integrity, get some independent reports, and present the true picture to the ratepayers.
Enough of fluff and bullshit and magic.
"The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
― Joseph Goebbels
ECOSCAM MARK 2?
NOEL PAGET'S VISION 05.02.2015 Mangawhai resident Noel Paget has set out his vision of the future in a letter to the Mangawhai Focus.
Most people would have no objection to many of his comments. I think we are all sick and tired of having to hash around the past and, in so doing, we are putting the future on hold.
The problem is that the KDC was effectively "bankrupted" by the previous Tiller/McKerchar Council and we may not have a future.
Instead of the government resolving the situation amicably between ratepayers and the Council, and sheeting home responsibility for the mismanagement to those responsible, John Key chose to impose virtual martial law on the district with Commissioners sent in to crush the ratepayers revolt, impose ruthless penalties for disobedience, and protect the interests of the banks.
It has back-fired dreadfully and the incompetence, illegalities and lack of transparency of the previous Council have carried on unabated under the autocratic rule of the Commissioners.
Kaipara will never be able to pay its existing debt and the Commissioners, beside disguising the true indebtedness of ratepayers, are now planning Mark 2 of the EcoCare scheme which is almost certainly going to push the district into penury.
We all dream of what Mangawhai in particular could be like but those dreams will never be fulfilled while we are burdened with the current debt and planned future debts.
But it could be different.
If we could get some decent compensation from Beca and Bell Gully, the OAG, Audit NZ,Jack McKerchar et al.
If the banks discounted the debt to what they paid for it (40% discount). (They were impaired, shonky loans that ABN Amro did no due diligence on, for a fantasy-land development, for a Council that could never afford it.. Everyone knew it and that is why the loans were discounted.)
If the government accepts that ultimately it is responsible for the fiasco because its appointed watchdogs and auditors, the OAG, Audit NZ and the Ombudsman, ignored the clear evidence of malfeasance that ratepayers presented to them, and allowed the rorts to go on for years.
And if the government accepts that successive Minister of Local Government have sat on their hands fiddling, in spite of endless warnings, whilst Kaipara was being pillaged.
If the government accepts that responsibility for those fundamental failures and chips in with come compensation.
If the ratepayers agree to accept responsibility for the EcoCare lemon that they have been lumbered with, at a fair price for what it is, not what it was supposed to be.
And, on top of all that, if we boot the Commissioners out and democracy, transparency, legal compliance and integrity return to Kaipara, we might be getting close to being able to actually plan positively for the future. We might be able to fulfil some of Noel Paget's visions, and eventually we might be in a position to put the magic back in Mangawhai.
YOU ARE BEING CONNED - AGAIN 05.02.2015 Those who have been around for some time will recall that the con-artists who promoted EcoCare used the so-called pollution of our harbour as the reason why the sewerage scheme was absolutely essential.
Like everything related to EcoCare it was very much an overstatement, and the reality is that nothing has changed very much in spite of the illegal outlay of vast sums of ratepayers monies on a scheme that has proved to be a lemon.
The Commissioners have resurrected the same harbour pollution argument to sell Mark 2 of the EcoCare rort, a further extension of the scheme at some huge cost to ratepayers, who will never be able to pay for Mark 1.
Have a read of the article in the Mangawhai Focus headed Why Mangawhai is "magical". It is written, supposedly, by the ratepayers advisory panel (personally selected by Honest John) but it has all the hall-marks of the spin-meisters who have cooked up another rort and are slowly and subtly selling it to those ratepayers who are begging to be bitten twice by the same mad dog.
We are given some irrelevant facts and figures on how many school swimming pools the sewage would fill, which is rather cute given that the Mangawhai school and neighbouring properties on the waterfront are not connected to the sewer. That is an anomaly that has puzzled many.
There are a couple of token comments aimed at critics. "Regardless of the ongoing debate..." and "Despite what some people might tell you ......" and there is the vague statement that "the scheme can cope with many more connections".
That, of course is simply untrue. We were tricked into believing that the plant would process 4,500 connections, and that is what we paid for, double what we were told.
The plant itself has at present less that 1700 connections and it has the capacity for a little more. How much more no one knows and no one is going to tell you.
As for the disposal farm, that is at the end of its life and can take very little more without further capital costs. The soil on the farm is unsuited to sewage disposal and it looks as if a totally new disposal facilities will have to be established.
Off the top of my head, I believe that the total cost of the Browns Road farm was about $16 million including all the works and piping. That was in 2008-2009..
As Larry Mitchell would say, "Hold on to your hats!".
But there is more. Before any new subdivisions can be connected to the scheme there has to be massive investment in reticulation. Sections need to have piping connecting them to the plant.
The original half-baked idea was that development contributions for new sections would cover the cost of future reticulation and pay a share of the original cost of the scheme, until someone realised that the contributions, in many instances would not even cover the cost of the reticulation.
But things are worse than that because about $27 million of the current EcoCare debt has be loaded onto future development. In other words, the development contributions from future subdivisions have been ear-marked to repay that portion of the existing debt.
The problem is that the amendment to the development contributions policy, required by an amendment to the LGA, may not allow that.
But even more telling is the fact that there simply isn't enough money from future developments to pay off the allotted share of the current debt, and to pay for future expansion or replacement of the plant, and disposal facilities, and to fund the reticulation.
Either developers will have to pay massive, untenable development contributions, which may run foul of the LGA, or, guess what, ratepayers will be in for a second round of the Great Kaipara Ponzi Scheme.
The advisory panel signs off its article with the comment:
Our aim is to keep the harbour clean and Mangawhai magical.
Don't be fooled. Whatever they do won't make the slightest bit of difference to our harbour. This is another rort that is going to impoverish Mangawhai even further. That is if ratepayers allow it to get off the ground.
KDC SURVEY 05.02.15 It's a bit of déjà vu.
I remember when we first moved to Mangawhai and discontented ratepayers were clamouring to get some sensible answers from Jack McKerchar and his staff to explain the bizarre EcoCare rates of 2008 and 2009, and the even more bizarre unit of demand imposts.
KDC staff, when they bothered to respond, were coming up with all sorts of nonsense to try and placate angry ratepayers, and the arrogant Councillors simply dismissed all criticism.
We all mocked when the KDC arranged a survey to test public perception of the Council, and, as you might guess, the Council came out squeaky clean.
Well, it's all happening again. Community Engagement Manager, Barbara Ware, has announced a survey of Kaipara residents to "track what our residents think about us". (See Mangawhai Focus)
The survey is, of course, supposed to be independent and kosher and all that. But forgive me for being sceptical. Nothing happens in Kaipara that is independent and transparent, at least under the last Council and under the Commissioners.
Take the selection of the ratepayers panel for Ecocare Mark 2. Hand-picked patsies selected by Honest John to endorse his proposals.
Take the Local Government Commission and Basil Morrison's inquiry into a unitary authority for Northland. Is there anyone in the country who actually believes that he is independent and impartial?
We now have Louise Upston, Associate Minister of Local Government, who appears bent on having the Commissioners regime extended, and has carried out her own independent survey, but only of the select few.
It seems to me that this is all part of a cunning plan. Louise Upston will find that those she consulted want to retain the Commissioners, and the Commissioners will be able to hold up the results of the survey and declare that everyone in the district thinks that they are good chaps.
All very cosy.
ROD EMMERSON'S CARTOON IN TODAY'S NZ HERALD (04.02.15)
WILL MIKE SABIN SPILL THE BEANS? 04.02.15 Mike Sabin may be gone from politics but he has left John Key's integrity hanging by a thread.
The PM has huffed and puffed and ducked and dived about what he knew about Mike Sabin, and when he was told, and his opponents are doing all they can to find the silver bullet that nails him to his cross.
Mike Sabin is holding that bullet. He knows exactly what John Key knew and when he knew it.
Mike Sabin is going down in a big way. Will he go quietly or will he choose to take John Key with him?
The hierarchy of the National Party may be "ethically challenged" (Whale Oil) but how far does loyalty stretch?
PROMINENT NEW ZEALANDER IN COURT 04.02.2015 From Stuff: 11:26 am, January 30 2015
A prominent New Zealander has appeared in court facing multiple charges, but all details of the case have been made secret. The man appeared this morning in a district court and was granted name suppression, along with sweeping other suppressions covering details and facts of the case. He was remanded at large to reappear in court for a disputed-facts hearing next month.
THE DAILY BLOG 04.02.2015 The incredible disappearing news story of John Key caught lying over Mike Sabin (here)
WHALE OIL 04.02.2015
The story itself, which National have sat on for weeks, is almost too horrible for words, and there is little doubt that there will be a by-election in Northland. This is the problem you get when you have an ethically challenged party hierarchy.
Key has accepted assurances that it will all be handled quietly. But I’m not sure if that’s OK.
At some point this is going to get into the public, and Key will be standing there with a severe amount of backsplash over him for trying to keep everything quiet.
What astonishes me is that National did almost nothing about this issue for months…despite knowing about it, all the way to the top.
When full details of what has transpired are revealed then there are going to be some serious questions asked of the leadership.
PAULA BENNETT DUMPS KAIPARA 04.02.15 After a succession of inept Ministers of Local Government who collectively turned a blind eye to the pillaging and plundering of Kaipara by its Council, and then arranged to have the incompetence and illegalities sanitised by Parliament, there was some slight hope that "Westie" turned Minister, Paula Bennett, might show some basic decency and integrity and respect for the rule of law, and tackle the Kaipara problem once and for all.
No such luck. Paula is a smart cookie. She knows that John Key is on the way out - and perhaps sooner rather than later - and if she wants the top job then she had to keep local government, the banks and big business on her side.
Kaipara and its problems do not get a look in.
She has dumped Kaipara on her Associate Minister Louise Upston, who presumably will cop all the flack when Kaipara eventually explodes.
"No, John, anything but Kaipara!"
LOUISE UPSTON - KAIPARA'S DESTINY IS IN HER HANDS 04.02.15 Louise Upston has an MBA from Waikato University, has three children and lives in Karapiro, south of Cambridge, Prior to entering Parliament in 2008 as Member for Taupo she was a project management consultant.
Little has been heard from the Associate Minister on the Kaipara issue. If her latest undertaking is anything to go by, she operates beneath the surface.
Readers will know that D'Arcy Quinn, Chair of the panel to implement EcoCare Mark 2, and about 50 others petitioned the Minister to stop democracy returning to Kaipara.
Nothing further has been heard.
But the wheels of the government and the DIA are turning.
This is a letter recently sent to selected individuals by the Louise Upston's Private Secretary.
Ladies and Gentlemen
As you are aware the Kaipara District is currently governed by Commissioners with their authority established under the Local Government Act. Hon Louise Upston, Associate Minister of Local Government, has delegated responsibility for issues relating to Kaipara governance and is currently considering options for the transition to full local democracy.
She has received a large number of submissions from affected parties but wishes to obtain the views of a wider cross section of Kaipara individuals who have not had the opportunity to comment so far. She will be in Northland on Wednesday 4th February and would value a meeting with you to hear your views on this important matter. The Minister wishes particularly to concentrate on the following:
• keeping the “local” in Local Government;
• ensuring that Kaipara District is successful in the long term and to be assured that the same issues do not arise again;
• recognise there have been some challenges;
• recognise that what the commissioners are doing is important;
• that the future for Kaipara is strong and stable, as ratepayers would expect.
Request to meet you
Would you as members of the xxxxxxx community be available to meet the Minister at collectively or individually at either of the following times:
Date: Wednesday 4 February 2015;
Time 1: 10.30am - 11.00am OR
Time 2: 11.00am - 11.30am
Venue: Whangarei District Council Offices, Rust Avenue, Whangarei
As the district is large and the logistics of getting around are difficult the Minister will be holding meetings in Whangarei and Dargaville only. There is not any opportunity to physically get to other communities.
Note that the Minister is not intending to meet the Kaipara Commissioners, Council Officials, nor residents/ratepayers associations as their views are well known to the Minister.
I’d be grateful if you would email me or phone me with your response be Monday afternoon so I may confirm arrangements.
Senior Private Secretary to Hon Louise UpstonMinister for Land Information; Minister for Women Associate Minister of Local Government; Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment MP for Taupo
Interesting. For the following reasons:
• The meeting with ratepayers is today, 4 February. Pity you didn't know about it.
• Why hand-picked people? The Associate Minister expressed the wish" to obtain the views of a wider cross section of Kaipara individuals". Would it not be democratic to ask the people of Kaipara as a whole, openly and honestly whether they want democracy?
• Why not consult with the MRRA and other ratepayer groups? Does she not want to hear both sides?
• The Minister states that she wants to hear the views of the selected few on this important matter but she then goes on to set what amounts to terms of reference for those views. One is
recognise that what the commissioners are doing is important;
One gets the distinct impression that any adverse views will be treated by the Associate Minister in the same way that Basil Morrison treats opponents of his Unitary fantasies.
This is consultation National style: secret, selective and biased, with an predetermined outcome.
Expect the announcement soon: "After extensive consultation with ratepayers in Kaipara ... the associate Minister... has recommended that the regime of the commissioners be extended....."
John Key is determined to sweep Kaipara under his magic carpet with all of his other problems, such as Mike Sabin.
The ratepayers of Kaipara have to make sure that he doesn't succeed.
The Kaipara Lifestyler of 3 February reports on the Parliamentary Visitor in the form of the Associate Minister of Local Government. It states that she has arranged several meetings with farming and business leaders. They are to be held in Dargaville and Whangarei.
No sign of simple ratepayers being consulted and no meetings in Mangawhai.
ANOTHER WHOOPSIE 03.02.2015 They're at it again. The Commissioners' faces have been splattered with another significant amount of egg.
They have already been forced to rescind the "oldest debt first" policy for rate payments. That so-called policy was illegal and in breach of the Rating Act (LGRA) and for years this illegal policy has denied ratepayers their legal right to repay an instalment only without incurring a penalty.
The Commissioners have just acknowledged (see ADJUSTMENTS ADJUSTED below) that the inclusion of "Adjustments" in some rates invoices was a "mistake", and are now sending out amended invoices.*
Whether it was a mistake or not is moot, but it was certainly illegal.
The latest whoopsie is the acknowledgement of receipt of submissions on the proposal to amend the Fire Service rules in the district plan. The acknowledgment actually relates to receipt of submissions for the 2013/14 annual plan and advises of hearings in 2013.
Less than nine months to go and the carefully crafted image of Honest John and Co as competent administrators is, little by little, being shown for what it is. All smoke and mirrors. All facade and no substance.
* It seems that the KDC may be only issuing new invoices for those who complain. The KDC is obliged to issue a new rates invoice to each ratepayer who was billed for adjustments. If you have paid then they are obliged to refund the adjustments immediately. If you have any problem in this regard then please contact Legal Eagle.(contactus@kaiparaconcerns,co,nz)
LARRY MITCHELL OBJECTS 03.02.2015 Larry Mitchell has objected strongly to my comments in the post below about Mike Sabin Quits. This is what he had to say:
Your recent posting says ...
"Mike Sabin was also well known for his resolve to "leave no stone unturned" to obtain compensation from the Office of the Auditor General for that Office's responsibility for the Kaipara fiasco. That is a matter that is now before the court but there is little doubt that John Key's government will have reached some arrangement in respect of agreed compensation with the OAG's insurers and the KDC. Like all things in local government, it will be a jack-up".
I make no comment relating to your opinion as to how this case will run. Time will tell if you are correct. But what I strongly object to are, over time your many gratuitous arrogant (possibly intemperate?) remarks denigrating Mike's efforts. (sic)
To publicly post these views, ( I can only think they are "personal") ... these so obviously vindictive observations amounts to kicking a man when he is down. They are an affront to our Kiwi general good natures and fair mindedness.
Mike has at all times acted with principle to see that the OAG is properly called to account and pays up for ratepayer losses. Fair to say that to date he has made much more progress than your ill conceived myopic expensive and as proven ultimately legally flawed adventures.
So I issue a challenge. Print this letter on the site and withdraw and apologize for your many obnoxious comments. At least that would show some sensitivity and empathy long absent in most of what you and your group have done to date.
"Gratuitous, arrogant (possible intemperate?)". I am sorry, Larry, but everything that I said is factual.
As for kicking a man when he is down, I have long lambasted Mike Sabin when he was "up" and very cocky, and taken him to task for his obsequious aquiescence in the Commmissioners' inept Validation Bill, when he kicked the butts of the whistleblowers who valiantly revealed what HIS GOVERNMENT AND ITS TAME WATCHDOGS chose to ignore, by agreeing to the inclusion in the Bill of some of the legal atrocities of Jack McKerchar, and by endorsing the charging of vindictive penalties on rates arrears.
As for his his grandstanding on the OAG compensation, I suggest that it was the rate strike and the MRRA's refusal to buckle under the threats and blandishments of Honest John that has forced the DIA (the power behind the scenes, directed by the government) to instruct the Commissioners in that direction. It is merely a sop to the plebs.
Do you hear any mention of the KDC pursuing the Councillors? And what happened to Honest John's promise to investigate pursuing Beca and Bell Gully?
1. Larry Mitchell was a consultant to the KDC employed by Jack McKerchar and advised on classifying the EcoCare debt as a "Segmented Debt"
2. Larry Mitchell is the father of Mark Mitchell, National MP for Rodney, ex cop and good "mate" of Mike Sabin.