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The following should be of interest to everyone in New Zealand who pays rates...

" Please, please forward this newsletter as far and wide as you possibly can as it’s a fight that should be underwritten by every ratepayer in the country." 

For further information or comment, please contact Mangawhai Ratepayers Chairman, Bruce Rogan on 02108180162

The Court of Appeal

On Thursday 23 November the Court of Appeal in Wellington heard Northland Regional Council (NRC) and Kaipara District Council’s (KDC) appeal against a ruling of Justice Duffy in the High Court.

History

The Duffy judgment found that NRC had not validly set their rates for several years, and they had delegated the assessment of rates to another party (KDC).  The law requires a council to do only two things when it sets rates:

  1. They must state the year to which the rates apply, and

  2. They must state the date on which the rates will be payable, or if using instalments, the dates. Doing such a thing when you only have access to the country’s most prestigious law firms for guidance is a challenge, but it is one that quite a few councils have managed to overcome.  Not so NRC.  They effectively set their payment dates to be the birthday of someone who at that time was still unborn.  Many people are aware of the notorious unreliability of women when giving birth.  Some of them enjoy the pregnancy experience so much they simply hang on and refuse to go into labour, whereas others, bored with the whole business go into labour days or even weeks before they should.   In NRC’s case, instead of saying that their rates must be paid by 20 August, 20 November, etc, they said they must be paid on whatever dates Kaipara’s rates must be paid.  This means that the NRC is effectively relying on the correct legal behaviour of the worst and most incompetent organisation in New Zealand.  In every case examined by the court, KDC had not set its payment dates when the NRC decided to rely on them for their own.  In one spectacular case KDC actually never got round to setting its own payment dates until 29 August!  

So, understandably, the High Court said that NRC had not set its dates lawfully, and that therefore, its rates were invalid.

Spin Meister Goddard Rides in

David Goddard QC, representing KDC and NRC, admitted that NRC had not set its dates according to the law, but it was the duty of the court in his view to overlook the law when assessing the actions of councils.  He used exactly the same argument when challenging the invalid (unlawful) delegation of rates assessment. His argument was that assessment is something that is done by a computer, so what could it possibly matter whose computer was used to do it?

Rates assessment is a process whereby the amount of money each ratepayer must pay is calculated.  Theoretically, it is a process that uses a formula that is worked out in advance and which is applied to each property in turn.  

Would YOU entrust Assessment (or anything else) to KDC?

That is the theory, but what happens in practice?  By giving the job to someone else (KDC in this case, the least competent and arguably most corrupt Local Body in the country),  NRC did not have the faintest idea if their rates were assessed correctly.  For example, did the KDC set all the factors for particular ratepayers to zero, so that they didn’t have to pay any rates at all?  Who knows?  Did Greg Gent, the Mayor who quit after a year in the job, pay the correct amount of rates?  Who knows?  Certainly not NRC.

Very similar arguments were used over the delegation of addition of penalties to unpaid rates.  Councils are not allowed to delegate this because of the risk of fraud.   Goddard said,  “It’s a computer that adds the penalties, so what can it possibly matter whose computer is used?”.  Well, we know for certain that when it suited them  KDC let some people off paying penalties.  Goddard says there is no prejudice to anyone if that happens.  So those who get away without paying their share are not prejudiced (disadvantaged). But that must mean that everyone else is.  Goddard’s view is always that prejudice to the masses is not prejudice, it is merely fate.

No Victim, Therefore no Crime

Goddard’s argument is this:  The law is broken, but unless there is some evidence of harm (prejudice) there can be no penalty against the person who committed the offence.  I drive along the road at 200Km/Hr in a 50Km/Hr zone.  I am recorded doing so by a camera.  I get a ticket in the mail saying I have broken the law and must pay a $2,000 fine and surrender my licence for five years.  I phone David Goddard QC who goes to the court on my behalf and demands to know who was prejudiced.  Did my client hit anyone?  Did my client damage any property?  He would probably argue that by spending only a quarter of the time on the road that someone travelling at the speed limit would have spent, I significantly reduced the opportunities for collisions, so I should get a reward instead of being punished!

If the car was owned by the council and was carrying the mayor, based on what has happened to date, the charge would be dismissed.  If it was actually me, or any other ratepayer, we’d be in jail.  That is how it works, people.

Observations by the Senior Judge

At the beginning of this hearing the presiding judge (Justice Kos) asked Goddard to explain to the court why we were there at all.  In effect he said, ”NRC stuffed up setting its rates, and Section 120 gives it all the power it needs to start over and do them correctly, so why are we here?”.  Goddard replied that Section 120 had never been used to do that in the past, and he would much prefer it if the court simply validated all the illegalities and made a huge award of costs against the ratepayers to discourage them from putting their heads up ever again.  Goddard went on to say that NRC would reset its rates if ordered to do so by the court.  But since the court had never been asked for such an order, the court was not going to take the law into its own hands.  It was up to the council to sort out its own problems.

At the end of the hearing Justice Kos returned to the question of why NRC had been in such a panic to get this matter heard under urgency.  Goddard said that it was because the way things stood NRC had all this money they might not be entitled to and they needed the Court of Appeal to confirm they could keep it.  The judge then said, “And is there anybody asking for their money back Mr Goddard?”.  “Well, no, Your Honour”.  “And given that we have established here in this court that if anyone wanted their money back ($1,000 at the most), they would have to find at least $30,000 to bring a High Court Action to get it, is it likely that anyone is going to be asking for their money back?”.  “Well, no Your Honour”.  “So it is safe to say that there is no sign of an express train coming towards us through the tunnel?”.  “Well, Yes, Your Honour”.  “So we will take our time to give careful consideration to everything we have heard here, and to all the matters that touch upon this case, and we will give our considered opinion in due course”.


This started in 2011, and it won’t end until 2018 at the earliest

Once again, we hurry up and wait.



Council now into Extortion

We returned from Wellington to find a rates demand in the mail.  It was several weeks late.   The invoice date was 24 November, and the last date for payment was 20 November!  Enclosed with it was an invoice and a threatening letter.  The letter, such as it was, claimed that KC has obtained judgment against us.  It has not, and it has not obtained judgment against anyone else either.  This claim is not only wrong, it is defamatory, in that it alleges that a court has found against people when it has not.   Anyone who has received such a letter should take absolutely no action of any kind to comply with any demand contained in it.  The documents delivered may well qualify as extortion, which is a criminal offence.

Latest News

Go to our website to review the court papers, if you have an interest in such things.  www.mrrainc.weebly.com


Fund Raising

Thank you very much to the many people who have assisted us with funding this litigation.  While we are very hopeful we will never darken the door of a court again, we still have to meet the significant costs of what has just happened.  If you are able to do so, please help out.

For direct donations the MRRA account number is 38 9012 0318164 00.  

Please put your name and phone number in the reference, or post a cheque to Box 225 Mangawhai 0540.  Every contribution will be acknowledged.

Please, please forward this newsletter as far and wide as you possibly can as it’s a fight that should be underwritten by every ratepayer in the country.

Ask your friends and colleagues to go to our givealittle page and help out https://givealittle.co.nz/org/mangawhairatepayers.

Direct donations to MRRA’s account are preferred because we don’t have to pay commission on your contribution.

Thank you for your help and for forwarding this letter. Join our fight for the rights of all Kiwi ratepayers!

Kind regards,

Bruce Rogan, Chair, MRRA.

29 Alamar Crescent , Mangawhai Heads 0505

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