Ratepayers stand ground under threat

By Mike Barrington

Defiant Kaipara ratepayers are not wilting under the threat of banks taking unpaid rates from their accounts.

About 1100 residents are refusing to pay an estimated $2.2 million of rates to the Kaipara District Council in protest at the council's $80 million debt, which they say was run up without their consent.

Under a 2002 law change, the council can claim unpaid rates from banks which hold mortgages over rated properties, and the banks can take this money from their customers' accounts.

The BNZ is expected to start charging a $35 penalty fee to home owners who refuse to pay rates from this week, following the example of the ASB which charges $110.

However, Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association chairman Bruce Rogan said yesterday the council could not use this mechanism before November next year to collect rates set for the current rating year.

"And we have warned banks they have no right to remove unpaid rates from people's accounts unless they are satisfied the rates demand is lawful."

Mr Rogan said the council had admitted its Ecocare and forestry rates were illegal and his association was getting a legal opinion about the legality of other rates.

He was proud of the way Mangawhai people were showing "no quavering or loss of resolve" in their opposition to paying rates, some of them increased by up to 50 per cent on last year.

Meanwhile, the Kaipara Citizens and Ratepayers' Association is demanding the district's four commissioners prove their rates are legal and limit maximum increases before rates will be paid.

A special meeting of the KCRA has resolved to promote a district-wide rates strike if commissioners won't investigate the past three terms of council, withdraw and replace the long-term plan and arrange a judicial review of the long-term plan and proposed district plan.

A KCRA statement this week said even financially secure people were happy to strike and incur penalties to show their disapproval of authorities blatantly disrespecting the law.

- Northern Advocate

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