The review of the procedures used by Kaipara District Council to set rates for the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme has found that Council has not met its legal requirements.
The review, which was completed by Jonathan Salter from the legal firm Simpson Grierson looked at the statutory documents relating to rate setting by the Council in the period from 2008/09 to the present. The review has identified a series of issues. Many of these are of a technical nature however some have been identified as serious statutory breaches. The effect of this is that whilst the amount of rates collected was correct the process around setting the rates was not. In total some $9.5 million of rates is involved in the process errors.
Mayor Neil Tiller said “This is very disappointing. My understanding, and that of my Council, has always been that the way in which Council had set its rates was substantially correct. We have now been told this is not the case and that the concerns expressed by several members of the Mangawhai community were real.”
He went on to say “I apologise to the community of Mangawhai – Council clearly got it wrong and it is simply not good enough. We need to get these things right. We also need to look at how we move forward with the Mangawhai community and begin to repair relationships.”
Chief Executive, Steve Ruru said “It is important to learn from the mistakes that have been made. Council cannot change what has happened but we can make sure that we address the consequences and get it right in the future. An issue of this size and importance will have dented the community’s confidence in Council. We simply have to do better and I am committed to changing the way this Council operates and the way it interacts with its communities” he said. “We need to work closely with our communities and address issues of concern to them before they escalate”.
Mr Ruru also indicated that from the time he started in the role as Chief Executive in December he had been meeting with a number of people from Mangawhai in an attempt to understand their concerns and start the process of building a constructive working relationship with them. “We will continue to move forward by looking at the options available to remedy this issue and a number of others that are of concern. We will also be reviewing the way in which we have set other rates in recent years to ensure that they are correct.”
The Simpson Grierson review sets out a number of remedial options. However, given the scale of the issues it has recommended that Council proceed with a local bill to validate the range of irregularities. Mayor Tiller said that Council will be looking to assess the options to correct the process and working out a pathway forward to address the issues. This will be done in consultation with the Mangawhai community.”