Fact and fiction regarding recent KDC story
1. The government-appointed KDC commissioner John Robertson puts out his PR spin on the passage through Parliament of his now infamous retroactive legislation Bill – the Bill that attempts to right the illegal wrongs of the past that were inflicted on ratepayers in the district. He also spins erroneously on the Auditor General’s self-damning report.
2. Mr Robertson seems to imply that we should be grateful that the NZ taxpayer has put some money towards the huge expense of bringing his appalling Bill through to law, and also for the cost of the Auditor General’s report. The truth is that the Auditor General’s report was an investigation into her own shortcomings. In reality, Kaipara ratepayers should pay nothing towards these costs, and they certainly have nothing to be grateful for.
3. Commissioner Robertson misconstrues history under the heading “Who is taking whom to court?”
The facts are: The MRRA pointed out in 2012 that many rates were invalid and unenforceable. Council CEO Steve Ruru agreed. We asked what were they going to do about it? Mr Ruru, in the company of councillor Julie Geange, said that basically he would do nothing but pretend validity until someone took them to court. We said that left us no option but to take legal action to resolve the matter. Mr Ruru and Ms Geange immediately asked us not to do that. We asked what were they offering instead. They said “Let’s negotiate”.
We felt that Mr Ruru was being sincere and we agreed to try that approach. However, within hours, the council was sacked and the government’s commissioners were dumped on us. That was the last meeting the MRRA had with Mr Ruru. The commissioners apparently forbade future meetings and unravelled all the progress that we had made.
4. Mr Robertson is scaremongering about the council’s illegal debt. Some say the debt is now upwards of $115 million! They are borrowing money to pay the interest – loan shark territory! Mr Robertson implies that if we keep expanding the strike action, if we don’t pay these illegal rates, and if ratepayers don’t pay the 100% rate rises that are predicted in the next year or two, then the council will fold and receivers will be appointed.
Why receivers? Receivership is not inevitable. A major outcome from our court case might determine that the illegal debt prior to the Retroactive Bill is not a ratepayer problem. It might not even be a council problem if the loans are not “protected”! But even if nobody comes to the rescue, the Mr Robertson’s “apocalypse” would only come about if somebody (ie a bank) called in the loans and the council defaulted.
5. Imagine you were a bank making a fortune from Local Government spending and loans. You would want to protect that lucrative business would you not? Imagine if you had loaned money willingly and haphazardly to a certain council that couldn’t pay back their overwhelming debt without doubling and trebling rates? Imagine if the council’s source of income, the hapless and innocent ratepayers, simply couldn’t afford the exorbitant hikes now needed to pay for the illegal loans and debts.
You know something? If we were a bank we would write down the bad debts and get on with looking after our very best customers – the ratepayers. We’d take a bit of a ‘financial haircut’ in order to keep this enormous flow of money alive and well.
6. Here is something that Mr Robertson may not know. If a council is put into receivership while under his control, no receiver can take action to recover anything or sell any assets without the permission of the High Court! The High Court is required by law to ensure that nothing is done to harm the infrastructure and functioning of council, and the well-being of the people living in the district. According to the Receiverships Act the law provides for protection of communities from when the illegalities commenced. And to protect us, no doubt, from the political manoeuvring that might occur if the commissioners get it wrong.
Bruce Rogan (MRRA Chair)
No closure or clarity
Commissioner Robertson claims that “the story of the rating errors has been told” and that there is now “absolute clarity… particularly on the issue of rates”. This, of course, is twaddle. Those who take the trouble to read the OAG report will search in vain for a discussion of rates, as per the terms of reference.
Perhaps Mr Robertson might like to explain, for example, how the EcoCare capital charge rates were randomly charged in my street in 2008/9. Some households were billed, some weren’t. Why? Many didn’t pay at all until 2009/10 and some not until 20010/11. Why? It was such inequities that prompted my original complaint in 2009. In what way does the AOG report address these issues at all, let alone tell the story, or provide “absolute clarity”. Furthermore, how was the Parliamentary Select Committee assured that these were “technical” irregularities which would all have been legal if the right process was followed?
The February 2012 Salter report was a simple surface skim of council documents. He found that the rates were invalid, but did not explore the multiple layers of illegality. There has never been any review of the rates themselves, or conversations with ratepayers about database factors, or the timing of services, that would have enabled clarity about the efficacy of the council rating process.
So, far from providing closure, or clarity, the Validation Bill and the OAG report have left a very nasty taste. And there is the matter of the impropriety of the Auditor General’s office investigating their own short-comings. It is time for the community to demand a Commission of Inquiry.
Invalidate the Validation Bill
With the passing of the Kaipara District Council Validation of Rates (and other matters) Bill, New Zealand has entered into uncharted political waters – where the pirates who manipulate the system to facilitate their plundering of our community treasures use legislation to dictate their vindication and the terms of their escape.
Seventy-four years ago we sent our young men out to fight the fascist Axis powers, now we are fighting a new kind of fascism as it insidiously infiltrates the organs of our democratic state, audaciously raiding our coffers to fund their plundering and having the cheek to threaten us for standing up against their insidious machinations.
Fascism never needed tanks with jack booted soldiers. A distracted, disinformed , disunited, divided and dysfunctional population is all they need. You won't see this new fascism discussed in 'our media' – they already have them well under their control. Their greatest ally is our belief that fascism could never happen here.
We good people of Mangawhai – and of New Zealand – must see past their deliberately confusing and complex propaganda and must remain resolutely steadfast in our pursuit of natural justice and the reinstatement of a functioning representative local government that works according to the principles of good governance. The Kaipara District Council Validation of Rates (and other matters) Bill does not serve to achieve either of these outcomes. It is a fascist piece of legislation and must be rescinded.
At the Auditor General’s meeting in Mangawhai a ratepayer asked me why council was taking the MRRA to court. I explained that it is the MRRA that is taking the council to court, not the other way around.
I was the rate payer that asked the question although Mr Roberston has twisted it and misinformed you all in this statement. The question I asked was "Why are you fighting against the ratepayers and spending money on fighting against the very people that have been kicked in the guts one too many times by a shoddily run, mismanaged council? Why did you go to parliament while there were proceedings already in place in the court system?”
The answer he gave me about receivers I perceive as one of blackmail. Do what we want or else. Receivers would have very little to sell off in Mangawhai as the council never invested money here anyway. But they would be welcome to a very second hand sewerage system that still needs a lot of money spent on it to make it work to its capacity.