Archive | Kaipara

Mangawhai campaigner explains what Government wouldn’t: Crown manager appointment was unlawful

While the Government was incapable this week of explaining the “technical uncertainties” that caused the “withdrawal” of Kaipara District Council Crown manager Peter Winder, the retired lawyer who has been the backbone of Mangawhai residents’ campaign against the council & Government over troubles arising from the cost blowout of their sewerage scheme had no difficulty at all.

Clive Boonham, who writes under the nom de plume Legal Eagle on the Kaipara Concerns website, said Associate Local Government Minister Jacqui Dean couldn’t say Mr Winder’s role had been terminated – “because in fact Peter Winder was never legally appointed. You can’t legally terminate something that never legally happened.”

Mr Boonham posted that charge on the website in November, along with an outline that Mr Winder’s terms of reference were also unlawful.

Mr Boonham kept pestering the Government for an answer, and when he got it on Wednesday he described the minister’s media statement as “a fine example of political duplicity”.

Mr Winder was one of 4 commissioners appointed to run the Kaipara council in 2012, taking over when the mayor & councillors resigned. An elected council was returned last October, and Mr Winder was appointed as Crown manager in July – for 3 years – to “support council members by taking responsibility for legal actions relating to past issues on their behalf”.

Mr Boonham explained the Government’s sudden withdrawal of Mr Winder:The Ministry of Local Government and the Department of Internal Affairs, which runs local government in New Zealand, would have obtained a legal opinion to examine the allegations that I had made. That opinion would have confirmed my submissions to be correct because the terms of reference were so blatantly in breach of the minister’s powers under the Local Government Act.

“The problem facing the ministry & the department was that, because of his ultra vires terms of reference, Peter Winder had acted unlawfully as Crown manager and made unlawful decisions, and taken unlawful actions on behalf of the Kaipara District Council. These relate to instructing legal counsel in respect of the judicial review proceedings in the high court and in respect of the appeal to the high court in respect of the district court claim by the Kaipara District Council against Bruce & Heather Rogan for arrears of Kaipara & Northland Regional Council rates.”

Mr Rogan chairs the Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association, and put his own rates bill forward as a test case over the legality of rates claims.

Mr Boonham continued: “The consequence of the unlawful appointment is that legal counsel were not lawfully instructed by the Kaipara District Council and they have been acting, effectively, without any authority from the Kaipara District Council. The ramifications of this abuse of legal process has yet to be worked out.

“The only way that the unlawful decisions and acts of the Crown manager could be legalised retrospectively is through Parliament enacting validating legislation. But in an election year, with Winston [NZ First leader & MP for Northland Winston Peters] hovering with his axe in hand, that is unlikely to happen.

“The only way out of the mess is for the Government to try & bluff its way out of it by minimising what has happened. And that is what it has done.”

Mangawhai ratepayers protested, first, about the undisclosed cost blowout of their town’s new sewerage scheme, then at its poor performance. The Government pushed through a validation bill supporting past Kaipara council actions, but since then Mr Rogan, Mr Boonham & other ratepayers have rallied against the legality of rates being charged, including Kaipara’s collection of rates for the regional council.

Justice Ailsa Duffy is due to give her final ruling on the Rogan rates case in the Whangarei High Court on 30 May. But so far, Mr Boonham said, shehas held that the rates of the Northland Regional Council were unlawful and that the Kaipara District Council acted unlawfully in setting the rates of the Northland Regional Council, in adding penalties to the unpaid rates of the Northland Regional Council, and in taking steps to recover the rates of the unpaid rates of the Northland Regional Council.”

The Kaipara council would now have to instruct counsel to act for it in the court case, instead of Mr Winder handling it.

Link:
Kaipara Concerns, 20 April 2017: Crown manager terminated
https://www.kaiparaconcerns.co.nz/

Earlier stories:
20 April 2017: Winder loses Kaipara role over “technical uncertainties”
8 July 2016: Winder to stay on at Kaipara council as Crown manager
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Kaipara Concerns, ministerial release.

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Winder loses Kaipara role over “technical uncertainties”

Peter Winder.

The Government has withdrawn Crown manager Peter Winder from the Kaipara District Council because of “technical uncertainties” about his appointment.

Mr Winder was one of the commissioners the Government appointed to replace the mayor & councillors in 2012, following the blowout in cost of the new Mangawhai sewage scheme. The council returned to democratic rule with the election of a new council last October.

Last July, then-Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said: “Mr Winder will support council members by taking responsibility for legal actions relating to past issues on their behalf. This will allow council members to focus on the district’s future.” The Crown manager role was to be for 3 years.

The present associate local government minister, Jacqui Dean, said yesterday: “The Kaipara District Council is transitioning well back to local governance, led by the strong leadership of the locally elected mayor & councillors. It is unfortunate I have to withdraw Peter Winder from his appointment as Crown manager to the council.

“Withdrawing Peter Winder as Crown manager is not a reflection of his actions but is due to technical uncertainties.

“Following an evaluation of assistance to the council, there are concerns about potential technical flaws with the Crown manager’s appointment & terms of reference. This does not bring into question prior actions of the Crown manager, but if the role continued there would be uncertainty about the legality of future actions.

“The withdrawal of the Crown manager is not a reflection on the performance of the council, nor was this issue created by the council. The council is performing well and in an effective manner. However, there is still a need for ongoing support to address the issues of the past.

“I want to assure the Kaipara community that the Government is committed to supporting the council. My officials are working with the council to explore options for providing ongoing support.

“The Crown observer (Barry Harris), who was appointed in October 2016, will continue to support the council by providing governance advice & guidance.”

Earlier stories:
8 July 2016: Winder to stay on at Kaipara council as Crown manager
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Winder to stay on at Kaipara council as Crown manager

Peter Winder.

Peter Winder.

One of the 3 commissioners who’ve been in charge of the Kaipara District Council since 2012, Peter Winder, will stay on as Crown manager after the local body elections on 8 October.

The Government appointed 4 commissioners to replace the elected council in August 2012 – John Robertson (chair), Richard Booth, Colin Dale & Peter Winder. Mr Dale, former chief executive of the Manukau City Council, left his Kaipara role in February 2014 to become acting chief executive of the Far North District Council.

The primary cause of the decision to appoint commissioners was the blowout in cost of the new Mangawhai sewage scheme.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said yesterday Mr Winder would bring with him his extensive experience & in-depth knowledge: “Mr Winder will support council members by taking responsibility for legal actions relating to past issues on their behalf. This will allow council members to focus on the district’s future.”

The Crown manager role is for 3 years.

Mr Winder was chief executive of the Auckland Regional Council for the 5 years until it became part of the new Auckland Council, and set up a private firm, McGredy Winder & Co Ltd, in 2010 to work on advice & strategies for public organisations.

He was previously the regional council’s transport director for a year, chief executive of Local Government NZ for 2 years and spent 5 years at Tourism NZ as industry strategy general manager. He’s chaired the Manukau Institute of Technology since December 2013.

Earlier stories:
6 June 2016: Kaipara to get elected council in October
26 April 2015: Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016
30 August 2012: 
Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Kaipara to get elected council in October

The Kaipara District will return to having a fully elected council at this year’s local body elections, supported by a Crown manager & a Crown observer. The previous elected council resigned in 2012 and was replaced by commissioners.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said last week: “The Kaipara commissioners have made significant progress in getting the council into a stable financial position. It is time the council returns to a fully elected council. I have called an election of the council to coincide with the local body elections in October.”

Ms Upston said she would also appoint a Crown manager and a Crown observer to support the newly elected council as it settles in: “I will appoint a Crown manager to take responsibility for certain outstanding legal actions on behalf of the newly elected council. Newly elected council members will then be able to focus on providing effective governance and on the district’s future, rather than being distracted by past issues.

“It is important that newly elected council members have the right support to be successful in their demanding & complex role. With this in mind, I will also appoint a Crown observer to help ensure newly elected council members are well supported. The Crown observer will not be involved in decision-making and will only offer advice or guidance.

“It is crucial that the Kaipara District is able to look to the future. The return to a fully elected council, together with a Crown Manager and Crown Observer supporting the Council, will provide the District with a fresh start.”

Crown Manager and Crown Observer appointees will be announced in the coming months.

Earlier stories:
27 April 2016: Kaipara commissioners seek input on annual plan
26 April 2015: Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Supreme Court rejects Mangawhai Ecocare case

The Supreme Court has declined the Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association’s application for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of its claim against the Kaipara District Council, and awarded the standard $2500 costs against the association.

The ratepayers association lost its case in the High Court primarily because of the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates & Other Matters) Act, passed in December 2013. The association’s case was heard in February 2014 and was unable to overcome the validation act.

In the High Court, Justice Paul Heath said he was satisfied that, had the validation act not been passed, the association would have succeeded in obtaining the relief it originally sought in relation to the council rating decisions over the Mangawhai Ecocare wastewater system.

But the validating law was passed, the illegal borrowings were deemed to be protected transactions under the Local Government Act, and neither Justice Heath nor the 3 Court of Appeal judges could see their way past those barriers.

The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias & Justices Terence Arnold & Mark O’Regan said the association sought to argue that the operation of the protected transactions provisions didn’t affect the lawfulness of rates set by the council. The association said those provisions affected only the contractual relationship between the council & the creditor, and had no effect on the statutory relationship between the council & the ratepayer. “That then provides the foundation for an argument that rates that have been set by the council for the purposes of meeting its obligations in respect of the protected transactions are unlawful because the purpose for which they are set is, itself, unlawful. The association wishes to argue that its interpretation becomes clearer when the protected transactions provisions are interpreted in a manner that gives effect to the right of review in section 27(2) of the NZ Bill of Rights Act.”

From there, the Supreme Court gave its answers on the 3 points the association raised:

“The question as to whether a local authority can set rates to service the performance of obligations under a protected transaction is a question of general or public importance, as the council accepts. But, in the face of the clear wording of section 118, the association’s argument cannot succeed. There is no scope for a narrower interpretation. We do not therefore see this case as an appropriate one to address the proposed question. Nor do we see any risk of a miscarriage if leave is not given on this point.

“The second point relates to the 2013 act. The association wishes to argue that the validation of rates effected under section 5 of that act, which declares that the rates ‘are valid & declared to have been lawfully set by the council’, has a narrower meaning than appears on its face, particularly if the provision is interpreted in a manner which is consistent with the right of judicial review under section 27(2) of the Bill of Rights.

“The association says that the effect of the 2013 act is to validate only the irregularities listed in the preamble to the 2013 act, and the fact that the rates were assessed in relation to illegal borrowings and that the council failed to consult with ratepayers were not specifically referred to in that preamble. The association wishes to argue that its narrow interpretation is more consistent with the Bill of Rights.

“Legislation validating illegally struck rates is not uncommon, and therefore the interpretation of the 2013 act could be a matter of general importance. However, we see the 2013 act as unique, and the arguments relating to its interpretation as specific to the present facts.

“Nor do we see any risk of miscarriage in the event that leave is not granted on this point. We are not persuaded that it is arguable that the 2013 act can be interpreted other than as a validation of all irregularities, not just those recited in the preamble. We are not persuaded there is room for a narrower Bill of Rights-compliant interpretation.

“The third matter concerns the costs award made in the Court of Appeal. The association submitted in that court that costs should lie where they fell because the litigation was public interest litigation. The Court of Appeal did not consider that there was any proper basis to depart from the normal rule that costs follow the result. It said that, although the association was motivated by considerations of principle, its members had a private interest in the outcome it pursued in the Court of Appeal.

“The association wishes to argue that the fact that, as ratepayers, members of the association would benefit from a favourable outcome should not have led to a conclusion that a concessionary approach to costs should be applied because the litigation was public interest litigation. We see this as a facts-specific inquiry and not a matter that can be classed as of public significance. We also see no risk of a miscarriage of justice if leave is not granted on this point.”

Rogan reaction

Association chair Bruce Rogan commented on the Kaipara Concerns website: “The champagne corks will be popping in every council office in New Zealand because it now means that when a council borrows money it no longer has to comply with the Local Government Act or the Local Government (Rating) Act. Even monies raised for an unlawful purpose become the responsibility of ratepayers.

“It is also a sad reflection on the attitudes of our courts that the High Court, the Court of Appeal & the Supreme Court adopted with some gusto the meaning of 2 enactments – the Mangawhai Validation Act & the protected transaction provisions in the Local Government Act – that endorsed the approach of local government, but which could not be justified on the plain meaning of the words or on the basis of the legislative history.

“In spite of the Supreme Court stating that there has been no miscarriage of justice, a great injustice has been perpetrated on the people of Kaipara. That also applies to the people of New Zealand, but they remain in ignorance of the true significance of the decisions that have been made. It is also a very sad day for the rule of law in New Zealand.”

I began covering this case, including the High Court hearing in Whangarei, because clear injustice was overruled by the validation act, and I was curious to see if any other approach might see the ratepayers recover any of the $58 million of Ecocare debt that was mostly raised on their behalf but in their ignorance.

The only avenues appeared to be to argue that lenders hadn’t undertaken adequate due diligence and that the office of the Auditor-general was negligent in its auditing.

In March, the council, run by commissioners since 2012, reached a settlement with the office of the Auditor-general for a payment of $5.375 million.

Link:
Kaipara Concerns

Earlier stories:
31 March 2016: Auditor-general settles with $5.375 million payment to Kaipara council
18 December 2015: Resounding Appeal Court defeat for Mangawhai ratepayers
27 August 2014: Kaipara council to sue ex-ceo & Audit NZ, looking at ex-mayors, councillors & consultants
28 July 2014: Judge tells Mangawhai ratepayers to pay up, also awards them indemnity costs in more elaborate decision
28 May 2014: Judge to issue hamstrung Mangawhai ratepayer group indemnity costs, accepts new validation law, wants more debt options considered
23 June 2014: Kaipara commissioners get debt report, obliged to adopt annual plan, and Mangawhai group says it will appeal case
30 May 2014: Commissioner says Mangawhai rates liability now “crystal clear”

Attribution: Court decision, Kaipara Concerns.

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Kaipara commissioners seek input on annual plan

Kaipara District Council, still run by commissioners, is seeking feedback on its annual plan, which includes a $10.1 million reduction in debt.

Commissioner John Robertson, who chairs the council, said yesterday there were no significant changes from the long-term plan but the commissioners wanted feedback because the council had a number of projects actively involving members of the community.

“One project which is of great interest in Dargaville is the library redesign. The concept plans for this will be on display for comment. In Mangawhai, the early work on the town plan is also progressing, as are the ‘placemaking’ concepts for Kaiwaka & Dargaville.”

Mr Robertson said the round-table consultation sessions would also provide opportunities to discuss roading, water & wastewater – the last of these, in the form of the blowout in debt on the former council’s Mangawhai Ecocare scheme, resulted in the replacement of councillors & mayor by commissioners in 2012.

The commissioners will conduct “Let’s Connect” sessions from 2-10 May in Maungaturoto, Dargaville, Mangawhai, Kaiwaka & Paparoa.

The Government reappointed the commissioners in April last year until the local body elections this October.

Link:
Kaipara District Council

Earlier story:
26 April 2015: Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016

Attribution: Council release.

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Auditor-general settles with $5.375 million payment to Kaipara council

Auditor-general Lyn Provost at Mangawhai in 2013.

Auditor-general Lyn Provost at Mangawhai in 2013.

The Auditor-general, Lyn Provost, has agreed to pay Kaipara District Council $5.375 million to settle their dispute over audit issues concerning the Mangawhai EcoCare community wastewater scheme.

The agreement to pay comes without any admission of liability. The council & government office will bear their own costs for the litigation to date.

$58 million of the Kaipara District Council’s $80 million of projected 2015 debt was attributable to the Mangawhai scheme & debt loaded against installing it. The blowout resulted in resignation of the councillors in 2012 and their replacement with Government-appointed commissioners, an ongoing court case and an act of Parliament legitimising transgression.

The Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association went to court against the council over liability for the escalating bill, but its case reached the courtroom in February 2014, 2 months after Parliament had passed the local bill validating illegal action, which greatly reduced the association’s prospects of winning. The association’s case is now before the Supreme Court.

The commissioners appointed in 2012 to run the district council in place of elected councillors accepted a staff recommendation in 2014 that there were sufficient grounds to mount a legal case against Audit NZ for negligence in the 3 years from 2006-09. Mrs Provost became auditor-general in October 2009.

John Robertson.

John Robertson.

John Robertson, who chairs the commissioners, said in a release last year: “In December 2013, the current Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, admitted that work undertaken for Kaipara prior to 2010 did not meet professional audit standards or the standards she herself expected. At community meetings, she apologised unreservedly to the people of Kaipara.”

Mr Robertson said the council had accepted her apology, but that was not enough: “The fact is, Kaipara District Council engaged Audit NZ to carry out a professional service for which Audit NZ was paid. The service the council received was extremely poor and there have been far-reaching consequences for this district.

“As a result of Audit NZ’s negligence, huge costs have been imposed on the Kaipara District Council & its ratepayers. The simple fact is that Audit NZ did not identify the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme project as a key audit risk, or even an area of focus. It should have done so, and that was made very clear in the report released by the current auditor-general last year [2013].”

The settlement (including gst, if any) announced yesterday has been reached through mediation conducted by retired High Court judge Rod Hansen QC. In a joint statement on the settlement, the council & auditor-general said: “As that inquiry [in 2013] established, the council failed to adequately perform its responsibilities to the community in connection with the wastewater scheme.

“The council’s claim alleged that the auditor-general failed to identify these failings in a timely manner and take appropriate steps to bring them to the attention of the council. The council alleged that some of the poor decisions made by the council in this period could have been averted if the auditor-general’s office had performed its responsibilities appropriately.

“In the inquiry report, the auditor-general offered an unreserved apology to the Kaipara District community for the failings in some audit work carried out by her office. However, the auditor-general disputed the council’s claim for damages arising out of those failings. In particular, the auditor-general considered that it was the council that had the responsibility to comply with its statutory obligations, and its failure to do so is not attributable to the auditor-general’s office.”

Earlier stories:
27 August 2014: Kaipara council to sue ex-ceo & Audit NZ, looking at ex-mayors, councillors & consultants
4 December 2013: Auditor-general releases Mangawhai report – and audience as disbelieving as ever

Attribution: Joint release.

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Resounding Appeal Court defeat for Mangawhai ratepayers

The Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association has been resoundingly defeated in its Appeal Court attempt to overcome the effect of validating legislation on illegal acts by the Kaipara District Council.

The rising cost of the Mangawhai EcoCare sewerage scheme over the period 2006-12 wasn’t fully revealed at the time. When it was finally out in the open, the mayor & councillors were replaced by commissioners and, at the end of 2013, Parliament passed the law validating past illegal acts – shortly before the ratepayer group’s case was due to start in the Whangarei High Court.

In August 2014, $58 million of the council’s $80 million of projected 2015 debt was attributable to the Mangawhai scheme & debt loaded against installing it.

In the High Court, Justice Heath said he was satisfied that, had the Validation Act not been passed, the association would have succeeded in obtaining the relief it originally sought in relation to the council rating decisions over the wastewater system.

But the validating law was passed, the illegal borrowings were deemed to be protected transactions under the Local Government Act, and neither Justice Heath nor the 3 Court of Appeal judges who issued their ruling yesterday – Justices Forrest Miller, Rhys Harrison & Mark Cooper – could see their way past those barriers.

Justice Miller wrote the appeal judgment, with some additions by the other 2 judges.

Justice Miller said the local government protected transactions regime was designed only to shield creditors from invalidity arguments that councils might advance to exploit defects in their own processes. It reduced councils’ costs of borrowing by relieving creditors of the burden & associated risk of inquiring into local authorities’ internal management to ensure that all Local Government Act requirements had been complied with.

One of the Mangawhai group’s claims was that the validation law didn’t validate future rates-setting to repay the EcoCare borrowings, but Justice Miller asked who the association meant to hold to account by contesting the council’s authority to set rates, and how: “There are 2 candidates, the council & the lender. I look first to the council, which the association wants to hold to account by establishing that its members need not pay rates set to fund EcoCare borrowings. But that form of accountability is foreclosed by section 115 of the Local Government Act.

“Rates will be set & recovered to repay the EcoCare borrowings, by a receiver if not the council. The appointment of a receiver would ordinarily be a public humiliation for council officials, but this council is already in the hands of commissioners. Accountability of those responsible for the council’s past failings can be exacted in other ways, as has happened here with the issue of proceedings against some of those involved. In such circumstances, little is achieved by denying the council the ability to set rates itself.

“I look next to the lender. It may compromise, the association suggests, rather than appoint a receiver whose activities will affect the lender’s reputation and likely cause hardship for the district through loss of non-essential services. I have recorded my understanding that section 115 rates must be set on a uniform basis, which would shift much of the burden to non-Mangawhai ratepayers.

“However, this is a commercial or reputational consideration and it must be considered a weak & speculative form of accountability. After all, the receiver has express statutory authorisation to rate. And there is, so far as I know, no suggestion that the lender transacted with the council in bad faith so as to justify being held to account in the first place…..

“In my view, the decisive consideration is that the legislation recognises that a lender may need access to rates to secure repayment of a loan made as a protected transaction. Put another way, the ultimate legislative objective of reducing borrowing costs by protecting lenders may require that ratepayers be forced to pay, notwithstanding the transaction’s original unlawfulness. Loss of the right to challenge council-set rates for illegality is a necessary consequence, and the loss must be set against costs that a receiver’s appointment would impose on the community.

“The strategic considerations that appear to motivate the Mangawhai association derive from the unacceptable impact of some of these costs, which may include loss of democratic participation in rate-setting decisions. Finally, I accept Mr Goddard’s submission [David Goddard QC, counsel for the council] that if a lender may recover only by appointing a receiver, the legislative objective will be defeated to the extent that it reintroduces transaction costs that the legislature wanted to eliminate.

“For these reasons, I conclude that the limitation to which the protected transactions regime subjects the Bill of Rights Act right to judicial review is proportional to the legislative objective.”

On the question of writing a law to override a claim in court, Justice Miller said Parliament could have waited for the Mangawhai association’s case to be decided first, but there was urgency: the council needed to put its finances in order.

“The scheme’s costs had been incurred and nothing could be done about that. They now had to be paid somehow and, given the rates strike & pending litigation, which might result in the council having to disgorge specified rates paid since 2006, there was a degree of urgency about it.

“There was not, so far as I know, any suggestion that the lender who advanced the capital cost of the scheme had transacted with the council in bad faith, but if it did the act left the courts free to decide what should happen. Others, including the auditor-general, might be liable to make compensation, but that too could be left to the courts.

“The justification for subjecting Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association members to the legislation despite their pending litigation is that the Validation Act affects all district ratepayers and especially those at Mangawhai. Non-Mangawhai ratepayers are affected not because they were subject to the specified rates, which… were targeted at Mangawhai ratepayers, but because they would likely be called upon to pay more if the Validation Act were not passed. The district as a whole is not well placed to absorb the cost if it were distributed on a uniform basis….

“I have accepted that the Validation Act limits judicial review in a very substantial way. It confronts not only ratepayers’ existing right to judicial review but also the presumption against retrospectivity and, because proceedings were already in train, the principle of comity. However, I am satisfied that the legislative objectives required that the Validation Act be enacted in that form and at that time, and specifically that it should include Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association members, who could not be excluded without undermining the legislative objectives.”

Justice Miller finished his judgment by awarding costs against the association as for a complex appeal on a band A basis with usual disbursements.

In the High Court, Justice Heath had awarded the association indemnity costs up to 16 January 2014, after it had secured some declarations of unlawfulness. Next, Justice Heath awarded the association scale costs from 16 January until delivery of his third judgment in May 2014 and held that costs should lie where they fell thereafter. The Court of Appeal agreed with that course.

Earlier stories:
28 July 2014: Judge tells Mangawhai ratepayers to pay up, also awards them indemnity costs in more elaborate decision
30 May 2014: Commissioner says Mangawhai rates liability now “crystal clear”
28 May 2014: Judge to issue hamstrung Mangawhai ratepayer group indemnity costs, accepts new validation law, wants more debt options considered
6 October 2013: Commissioners reject “unfair” Mangawhai ratepayer proposal, seek sewage options, adopt annual plan
25 September 2013: Kaipara commissioners seek help to fight ratepayers over illegal rate collection
20 September 2013: Kaipara commissioners try to sweet-talk ratepayer group as they appeal judicial review decision
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Judgment.

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Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016

Kaipara District Council’s 3 Government-appointed commissioners have been reappointed until October 2016. Meanwhile court action continues between the council and the Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association, which argued there was nothing to stop elections being held this year.

The Government appointed 4 commissioners to replace the elected council in August 2012 – John Robertson (chairman), Richard Booth, Colin Dale & Peter Winder. Mr Dale, former chief executive of the Manukau City Council, left his Kaipara role in February last year to become acting chief executive of the Far North District Council.

A return to an elected council was expected this year, but Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston announced on Friday the first election would be at the same time as all other local body elections around the country, in 2016.

She said: “The commissioners have made significant progress in addressing the council’s issues and improving its performance. When I visited the Kaipara district in February, it was clear to me there is widespread support for the commissioners in the district, and they have made substantial progress in rebuilding the relationship between the council & the communities of Kaipara.

“When an election is held, it is important that stable governance is achieved in Kaipara and the mistakes of the past do not happen again. I don’t consider that current circumstances lend themselves to achieving this if an election is held in October 2015. The reappointment of the commissioners until October 2016 gives the district the best chance of getting the stable governance it deserves.”

Ms Upston didn’t say what circumstances were militating against stability, but did say developing an exit plan to facilitate a successful transition to elected governance in 2016 would be a key part of the commissioners’ remaining work.

The primary cause of the decision to appoint commissioners – the blowout in cost of the new Mangawhai sewage scheme – resulted in a High Court application by the Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association for judicial review of the rating scheme proposed to pay for the blowout. That case is now headed to the Court of Appeal for hearing on 25 August.

Meanwhile, the council is seeking court orders to collect outstanding rates from a number of Mangawhai ratepayers. Association president Bruce Rogan said in a weekend newsletter the first of these cases was scheduled for hearing in the Whangarei District Court on 30 June.

Earlier stories:
28 July 2014: Judge tells Mangawhai ratepayers to pay up, also awards them indemnity costs in more elaborate decision
30 May 2014: Commissioner says Mangawhai rates liability now “crystal clear”
28 May 2014: Judge to issue hamstrung Mangawhai ratepayer group indemnity costs, accepts new validation law, wants more debt options considered
6 October 2013: Commissioners reject “unfair” Mangawhai ratepayer proposal, seek sewage options, adopt annual plan
25 September 2013: Kaipara commissioners seek help to fight ratepayers over illegal rate collection
20 September 2013: Kaipara commissioners try to sweet-talk ratepayer group as they appeal judicial review decision
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Ministerial release, association newsletter.

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Kaipara commissioners ditch claim against Beca

Kaipara District Council – run by Government-appointed commissioners since August 2012 – said today it would not take action against Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner Ltd over its involvement in the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme.

The council issued a brief statement today: “This concludes one aspect of the accountability workstream which the council has been undertaking since the release of the Auditor-general’s report on her inquiry into the scheme.

“At its meeting on 24 February, commissioners determined not to pursue a claim against Beca for its actions or those by members of its consortium. The decision was made because of the Limitation Act issues, limited chance of success and significant costs & risks that would be associated with initiating a dispute resolution process. The council received & considered legal advice before making its decision.”

The chairman of the commissioners, John Robertson, said the council had given the matter extensive consideration: “Having considered the matter, including taking technical & legal advice, the commissioners decided the cost of pursuing a claim with a limited chance of success was not a productive use of ratepayer funds and that it was reasonable to call time on this workstream.”

He said the council would make no further comment.

Earlier stories:
27 August 2014: Kaipara council to sue ex-ceo & Audit NZ, looking at ex-mayors, councillors & consultants
4 December 2013: Auditor-general releases Mangawhai report – and audience as disbelieving as ever
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Council release.

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