Bill to remedy illegal district rates

By Mike Barrington

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Kaipara commissioners expect a local bill to sort out illegal district rates will be introduced to Parliament in March or April.

Chairman of commissioners John Robertson told the Advocate the legislation now being drafted would address errors in rates struck since 2006.

The commissioners were keen to deal with the errors through a transparent process.

"The local bill will go to a select committee which, we expect, will hold hearings in the Kaipara district which would allow people to have their say," Mr Robertson said.

Legal costs for drafting the bill had been estimated as up to $150,000, which would be absorbed within the Kaipara District Council's current budget.

"Given the assistance the commissioners and staff are providing toward drafting the bill, I expect the actual costs to be lower."

He did not agree with claims by retired lawyer and Mangawhai ratepayer Clive Boonham, who wrote to Local Government Minister David Carter on January 20 alleging the commissioners were seeking validation of the illegal rates without consulting ratepayers as per council's commitment, and in breach of the commissioners' terms of reference.

Mr Robertson said the options were made public before the commissioners were appointed.

"We have examined these options in depth, including with members of the community and representatives of ratepayer groups."

The Local Government Act did not require the commissioners to begin a formal consultation process over deciding to pursue a local bill, Mr Robertson said.

"Our gazette terms of reference ask that we work with the Kaipara community and ratepayers and the Department of Internal Affairs to identify options for dealing with invalidly set rates and other legal compliance matters. We have done, and we continue to do this."

Mr Robertson said the previous council had set up community focus groups but this had been rescinded because commissioners did not believe it would add value to the governance process.

Meanwhile, Colin Dale is becoming known as a "community champion" by his commissioner colleagues through his work in recreation, sports, parks, culture and other community issues.

Iwi representatives would be invited to a second hui in Dargaville on February 12 to discuss Maori engagement.

- Northern Advocate

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