Your Questions Answered - Issues need to be clarified
Kaipara Commisioner John Robertson
Commissioners and acting Council Chief Executive, Dr Jill McPherson, and her staff wound up three days of hearing submissions on the Council Draft Annual Plan at the end of April. The meetings were held in Dargaville, Maungaturoto and Mangawhai.
As happens during such submissions processes, there are a wide range of views provided, often from one side of an issue to the other. There are those who support the sale of non-strategic land, and those who do not. There are those who want the Council to create a community development fund, and those who do not. There are those who support rating for a depreciation charge to cover the replacement cost of assets like wastewater systems, and there are those who do not.
While there are matters that people submit on that have implications district wide, there are also matters that are brought to the attention of Commissioners that are more local, or impact specific groups. For instance, two submitters proposed that dog registration fees should be scaled to reflect the fact that farmers, and certainly dog trialists, have well behaved dogs that do not impose costs on the district to the extent that dogs owned by “irresponsible” owners do.
The Commissioners will consider the points made by all submitters and finalise the Plan by the end of June.
In the course of the hearings it became clear that the Commissioners needed to clarify certain matters. I want to respond to these matters below.
Council property holdings:
Many submitters in Mangawhai had been led to believe that Commissioners were about to begin a wholesale sell off of Kaipara’s land. That is not true.
What we are doing is testing, through the Draft Annual Plan consultation process, the proposition that Council should sell property that has no public interest or strategic value.
Council has completed an exercise to identify all properties owned by Council. We have found that these total over 380. We have now begun an exercise to understand the historic background and use of these properties, and to identify the properties that are not used for public benefit and that appear non-strategic.
Accountability over the Mangawhai Wastewater Scheme:
Some submitters had been led to believe that Commissioners were no longer interested in seeking accountability or the recovery of costs relating to the wastewater scheme. That is not true.
Drawing upon the information contained in the report of the Auditor General, we are investing considerable time and resource into determining culpability, including analysing records and preparing evidence that will be required to support any claim against individuals or organisations. We expect to make some announcements around this work within three months. We cannot reveal details until we have our cases complete, for to do so risks prejudicing Council’s position.
The Auditor General is aware that some of our focus is on the poor performance of Audit New Zealand.
High Court proceedings:
There were questions over why the Council is defending the case that has been taken against it by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association (MRRA) in Judicial Review proceedings. The short answer is that Commissioners believe that the remedies being sought by MRRA are not in the interests of the Council and its almost 14,000 property owners. Out of respect for the Court, which is in the process of making a determination, I do not want to delve further into the detail of this case.