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Urgent hearing sought for appeals against Mangawhai rates rulings

 

 

The Northland Regional Council (NRC) is to file an appeal against a recent High Court decision quashing several years of its rates in the Kaipara district. It seeks to appeal an earlier decision made by the court which found two issues with the council's rating practices.

These issues were how council set due dates for the payment of rates and its arrangements for rate collection within the Kaipara district. The council is also seeking an urgent hearing for the appeals.

In August the High Court made an order setting aside the NRC’s rates for the Kaipara district for the five rating years 2011-2012 to 2015-2016 inclusive and any penalties imposed by – or on behalf of – NRC over that same period.

However, the High Court was clear that there was to be no order requiring the council to refund the rates and penalties involved, despite finding for the plaintiffs (the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association, and Richard Bruce Rogan and Heather Elizabeth Rogan) on the legal status of the rates.

Soon after the release of the most recent High Court decision, NRC Chairman Bill Shepherd said at the heart of the case – which had implications for local authorities nationally – was the council’s use of its Kaipara district counterpart to collect rates on its behalf.

Chairman Shepherd has confirmed that appeal documents will be filed with the Court of Appeal.

He says in its decision, the High Court had noted the NRC had acted in good faith with the judge commenting the council “may have fallen victim to legislation that was less precise than it needed to be”.

With that in mind, in addition to the appeal, Chairman Shepherd says the council will also approach the Department of Internal Affairs asking it for a law change clarifying the section of the Rating Act covering rates collection arrangements.

Chairman Shepherd says that if an urgent hearing is granted, the council's appeals could potentially be heard before a three-member bench of the Court of Appeal within three to five months; much less than the nine to 12 months likely under a standard appeal.

Initial estimates were that the appeal could cost the NRC in the order of $170,000 to $190,000. While appealing will be costly, the council feels the issues at stake are too important not to appeal.

Chairman Shepherd says it’s important to remember that all the rates collected during the years covered by the court case had been spent in good faith on a wide range of projects and work programmes that had been clearly outlined in the relevant Annual and/or Long Term Plans at the time.

“These plans are widely consulted on and outline how we fulfil our purpose for our communities; including outlining how much we will collect in rates and how and where we will spend them.”

The judge’s decisions do not relate to the rates for the current or 2016-2017 financial years.


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