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A plea for help

 

A Plea for Help

A dispute has raged for about seven years between the Kaipara District Council and its ratepayers. The council blazed away sixty million dollars on a sewage scheme that it told its ratepayers would cost $17 Million.  Some people stopped paying rates until an investigation took place . Rather than look for culprits, the council has spent over $3 million dollars of ratepayer money to achieve a judgement for arrears and penalties and costs against the one couple who agreed to be a guinea pig case.  So those guineas pigs will, unless we all rise up and ask for justice, pay something over $100,000 for having principles.

Several disgraceful things have happened. They are:

  1. The New Zealand Government passed retrospective legislation to cancel out illegal behaviour of the Kaipara Council.  This has happened before, but never on this scale, and never at a time when the residents had already asked the court to investigate what had happened.

  2. The Court of Appeal overturned a High Court judgment in favour of the residents using a provision in the law that the High Court itself had investigated and thrown out.

  3. The two councils (KDC & NRC) joined forces to sue over a hundred law-abiding residents for non-payment of rates, even though the entire amount was offered to them to settle the matter.

  4. The District Court refused to consider defences put forward by the defendants.

  5. The High Court refused to ask the District Court to reconsider its reasons for disallowing the defence arguments.

When we reached that point we thought it important to ask the High Court for permission (!) to ask the Court of Appeal to declare what it believed to be the correct interpretation of Section 60 of the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002.  The District Court had hidden behind its own view of S60 to prevent any defence being raised.

The leave to appeal this one narrow specific point was granted.  The lawyer for the defendants, Jeremy Browne, went to Wellington and argued this point, and only this point.

The Court of Appeal handed down a judgment that completely vindicated the ratepayer  view of the meaning of S60. It then proceeded, without the knowledge of anyone (certainly as far as we know) to pass judgment on other points that were never before it.

The Appeal Court can do this (widen the scope of an appeal), but there is a very important principle that must be followed: natural justice.  That is, the parties must have notice that a new point is going to be considered and have the opportunity to make submissions on that point. Often this will involve filing a further written submission.  Here that did not occur. Natural justice was denied. The CA decided a new point without any argument on it and entered judgment for the councils.

We applied to recall the judgment due to this breach of natural justice.  And here is the clincher: In its judgment on the recall application, the Court of Appeal said that it had heard “full argument” from the parties on all these points.  It had not. That was incorrect. That is either a lie or an error.

We then asked it to re-open the case (which it can do) and then hear the additional issues correctly. It refused, and told us we had to go to the Supreme Court.

We wrote to the Chief Justice and were told that she could not interfere in the doings of the CA and if we were troubled we had to apply for leave of the Supreme Court to Appeal the ruling of the CA.

We do not know to this day if the Chief Justice ever saw a word we had submitted. Despite directly asking, the registrar refused to answer the question.

At the heart of all this is the error in the CA recall judgment.  We are faced with no alternative but to seek leave of the SC to appeal the CA decision and recall decision.

We have formally submitted a request of the CA for a transcript of the hearing.  There should be no problem with this, but if there is, there are problems in the New Zealand justice system that every living breathing person should be very concerned about.

If the transcript shows we are wrong, that is the end of the matter.  If it shows otherwise, something has to be done to fix it.

In some countries, the fix would be to poison the appellants.  Let’s hope (well, the appellants hope) we are still short of that kind of management strategy.

Now, we need some money to take this application for leave to the SC.  Be very clear. The money allegedly owed to the councils by the appellants is the appellants’  problem. Apart from what they have already paid to KDC the balance has been put in trust with the lawyers pending the outcome.  If you will help with this fight it is NOT for bailing out the people who went to court. It is for Bailing out you, your children, your grandchildren and all those to come, who thought New Zealand operated under the Rule of Law.

About $10,000  is needed and urgently.  If for whatever reason it is not used for this specific purpose it will be returned, and every cent is being independently  audited so that there is no dispute about that.

The account number is 38 9012 0318164 00, and please put SC Appeal in the Reference, plus your name plus a phone number.  If you prefer to send a cheque send it to Box 225 Mangawhai 0540 and make it payable to MRRA. Put SC Appeal on the back, and your name and phone number..


Please help if you can, and please ask others (anywhere) to help too. It affects them just as much.  This is important stuff, because it goes to the heart of what kind of country we live in. If you want to talk to someone about this before committing to help out call Bruce on 02108180162.

Thanks,

The ratepayers of Kaipara.