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20181014 Meeting Notes

Inaugural meeting of Northland Ratepayer Associations

14th October 2018, Kaikohe Memorial Hall, Kaikohe (3pm)

NOTES of proceedings

PURPOSE To discuss establishing an informal Northland Ratepayers Alliance and the initiative to establish a NZ wide Ratepayers Alliance, organisation or entity of some kind.

Attendees: Do we include these or leave out – given it is an informal gathering to see if like minded?

Apologies: Ditto – do we note those who had said they would attend, but then didn’t make it?

Opening: Maiki Marks (Chair, Paihia & Districts Residents & Ratepayers Asstn) welcomed all attendees and opened the meeting by introducing those present who had been working towards this alliance and establishing a NZ wide alliance of some kind.

Address: Bruce Rogan (Chair, Mangawhai R&R Astn) as a prompt for later discussion, delivered an address on the current status of the court case the Rogan’s have been embroiled in on, on behalf of all Mangawhai Ratepayers (some of whom had been on a rate strike) over their sewerage scheme.

Facilitated Discussion

Maiki introduced Jane Johnston (Kerikeri Ratepayers Asstn, and Paihia &DR&RA) – to facilitate a conversation.

Jane asked everyone present to introduce themselves by stating name and where from (which Ratepayer Asstn), and then broke for tea to be able to meet and greet, saying that when reconvene we will work through prompt questions.

Prompt questions were:

  1. What is it about the Mangawhai  experience that concerns us all as Ratepayers?

  2. Do other Ratepayer Asstns have any similar examples of bad practice?

  3. Are these tales of woe suggestive of systemic issues affecting the sector? And if yes, what are these issues?

  4. What are the solutions?

Following reconvening Jane asked Bruce to briefly highlight what had gone wrong in the Kaipara, that led to their $17m scheme escalating (unbeknownst to Ratepayers) to $80m and what followed. The forum was then asked to respond, in terms of have they observed similar concerns with their council or over specific projects.

Everyone without fail responded, YES – they have experienced similar problems.

The forum was asked to identify the concerns – which were captured as follows:


    • Secret meetings (public excluded) and workshops - not open or transparent

    • Negotiations with private companies

    • Apathy of ratepayers – level of misinformation and/or ill-informed ratepayers

    • Unlawfulness (by council actors), or non-compliance with requirements on local authorities

    • Sham consultation – a lack of willingness to engage with ratepayers

    • Blurring of what is “known” and of what might be expected

    • Lack of accountability – no means to hold those responsible to account (discussion about democracy and elections not being accountability to ratepayers)

    • Code of Conduct – lack of teeth – threats of a breach for speaking against council publicly

    • Lack of adequate complaints procedures for Ratepayers

    • Elected members and/or staff lying in public meetings

    • Councillors and Mayor apparently NOT in control of spending or of policy direction

    • Staff influence is not transparent – who decides what, preferences and collusion with contractors

    • Just who is in charge – what are the power structures

    • Who is liable (e.g. H&S in Employment, public indemnity)

    • Lack of technical expertise and impartiality brought to the process

    • Relationships between staff and contractors

    • The influence of some elected reps and difficulty tracking who is responsible for what

    • Gutless councillors

    • Bottomless pit of funds for councils to pursue litigation


Rather than identifying other examples of poor practice – we simply agreed these concerns are indicative of systemic failure, so the forum moved on to discussing any need for an alliance across Northland.

It was agreed that there would be benefit in trying to liaise across the region, and to identify what we might work on together.  However, there is also a concern that we not try to take on too much too soon.

Coming together for this meeting has already prompted liaison between Ratepayer Committees – so the two from the Whangarei area intend to follow up with each other, as do the two from Kaipara. KKRA and P&DR&RA have already been liaising (and pooling some resources) for a while. The Hokianga area also intends to collaborate now.

DECIDED – to establish a ‘steering group’ to continue a discussion about what a Northland Alliance might work on together, what it would look like and how it would operate. It was agreed that the Northland Alliance does not need a constitution (at this stage) – small steps…

A NZ Ratepayers Alliance

The forum was asked if it thought a NZ wide Alliance is a good idea.

There was general discussion about limited information being available on what is being proposed - and given some hadn’t received invites until a fortnight ago, they put it that there has been insufficient time to consider what is on the table.

Most have not seen the draft constitution being circulated within a ‘start-up’ group.

Some aspects of the model as suggested in the draft constitution – including about the “purpose statement” were discussed.

It was agreed that how the NZRA should be set up, should depend on what it is going to work on.

This forum agreed that preparing information and advice for Ratepayers and for Ratepayer Associations is an area of need.

A need to support or develop ‘case studies’ of poor practice – to be able to disseminate them to relevant audiences, and perhaps at the national convention (or otherwise) was agreed.

Would be great to be able to share resources, such as ‘expertise’ able to provide advice to Ratepayers Asstns, to develop ‘guides’ (or guidance materials), as well as funds to undertake research (to establish an evidential basis, or ‘informed’ debate) – as it is too easy to blow off ratepayers as just moaning about having to pay rates, or communications on behalf of Ratepayers.

The forum was asked if they could nominate ‘delegates’ to represent “Northland” at the national convention in November (Nelson) meeting. The response was no, it is too early – this alliance is not far enough progressed to enable some to make decisions in the national convention on behalf of Northland.  Those attending are, therefore, going only as representatives of their own associations.

However, the forum did think that having regional alliances supporting a national alliance is a good idea, and are keen to see that sort of structure promoted at the convention.

Similarly, this forum discussed that the delegates at the convention might wish to agree on a Constitution – as that is the purpose of gathering. Those attending already think a NZ wide Ratepayer body is a good idea, and are ready to discuss what, how, and get on with it.

The Northland forum suggested it is premature to move to adopting a Constitution at this convention at Nelson – rather they want to be allowed to participate by commenting on a draft and participating in drafting, and they also want to know more about those who would be appointed to manage this new Ratepayers body (i.e. a CV or candidate statement, rather than whomever turns up with enough supporters at this convention in November).

The risk was identified, that those at the convention might well chose to just get on with it, even if the participants from Northland suggest they slow this down.

It was suggested that what we need to do is develop an “OPTIONS” discussion paper – on the choices to be made, relevant to this new national ‘ratepayers’ body – to circulate within Northland and take to the Convention.

Jane Johnston is to start drafting that paper, so it can be circulated for comment prior to heading to the national convention.

The Meeting was closed at 5.35pm