Rates strikes still loom: Groups

By Annette Lambly

The commissioners governing the Kaipara District Council are still facing impending rates strikes from residents.

Although the two ratepayers' action groups have met the commissioners, there has been no decision to call off threatened rates strikes.

The Mangawhai resident and Ratepayers Association and the Kaipara Citizens and Ratepayers Association talked with commissioners John Robertson (chairman), Richard Booth, Colin Dale and Peter Winder last week.

The meetings kick-started plans by the commissioners to meet community groups with the intention of finding ways to address the complex issues facing the district, which has debts of more than $80 million.

After the meeting, the Kaipara group's Ron Manderson said the commissioners appeared to recognise the importance of working to rebuild the confidence and trust that had been lost under the old administration.

But "there is seemingly no priority to delve into the past and establish accountability at this point in time. The chairman [Mr Robertson] said any action of that nature could be 'down the track a year or two'," Mr Manderson said.

Both ratepayers groups said while happy to continue meeting the commissioners, they still questioned legalities surrounding the council's Long Term Plan, the striking of rates and the $80 million debt the district faced, and were not yet ready to change their stance on a rates strike.

"In their terms of reference, the commissioners are required to comply with legal obligations, but are nevertheless asked to enforce payment of 2012/2013 rates that have been illegally struck," Mr Manderson said. "How will they comply with this inconsistency?

"Such action [to enforce payment] would likely lead to widespread disruption, including possible civil disobedience ... action along these lines would make it much more difficult for them to carry out their duties."

The Mangawhai group's spokesperson, Bruce Rogan, has since told members: "Please hold your rates payments back until we advise to the contrary."

Ratepayers have been advised invoices are now being sent for the 2012-13 rates. The council's rating indicator is available on www.Kaipara.govt.nz. The commissioners will conduct their first public meeting in the council chambers on October 8.

- Northern Advocate

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