It is four years almost to the day that Commissioners were appointed to govern the Kaipara District Council. We are close to the end of this chapter.
As you consider voting for members to govern the Council from October this year, it is worth reflecting on 2012.
In 2012, the Council was in a mess.
Rates had not been set by elected members in accordance with the law for many years. Steps needed to be taken to address this matter. Commissioners turned to Parliament for assistance, resulting in the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Act being passed in December 2013 with the support of most Members of Parliament.
Annual Reports and Plans were outstanding. Elected members had failed to maintain a Council that ran a balanced budget. The Council’s accounting systems were inadequate, and monthly management accounts were missing. All this has been corrected. Kaipara’s Annual reports are now some of the earliest published of all Councils in New Zealand, budgets are balanced, and monthly reporting is just normal practice.
Debt had increased dramatically, substantially due to the abysmal project management of the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme. Elected members appeared poorly informed on Council debt issues. This has been corrected, with the debt in 2012 of $80 million being brought down to $65 million this year, a figure quite manageable by Kaipara Council’s to come.
Council community engagement was in bad shape. Community discomfort at the Council’s performance was at an all time high. Around a thousand property owners withheld rates as a means of protest in the 2012/13 period. That has come to an end, with Council community engagement now in good shape. Only a handful of property owners and the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association are continuing to protest, this time by seeking remedies for themselves through the Courts.
Council governance structures, practices, and policy settings were in some cases missing and in many cases poor. Elected members were making poor decisions because there was not a sound framework to consider matters on. The structures that assist prudent decision-making are now in place.
In addition to this, poor audit practice by Audit New Zealand was highlighted in the Cherry Report contained in the 2013 Report of the Inquiry by the Auditor General of the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme.
Bringing those responsible for the state of the Council to account was important for Kaipara ratepayers. Commissioners filed proceedings in the Courts against the former Chief Executive Jack McKerchar and the Auditor General for their shortcomings. The latter has been settled. The former is before the Employment Court.
The Commissioners chose not to file proceedings against consultants to the Council or against former elected members.
Elected members are responsible for the good governance of the Council. Such responsibility cannot be delegated. The newly elected members need to accept the role of office and carry out their duties professionally and in accordance with the law.
Postal voting is about to take place for this election. Voting papers are being distributed from 16 September. Profiles of each candidate, as written by the candidate, are on the Council website.
Commissioners look forward to handing over the governance of the Council to elected members, believing that the Council organisation is capably managed and well prepared for the future.