Vandals target rate strikers

By Annette Lambly

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Mangawhai rate strikers are incensed their properties have been trespassed on by unknown offenders who have vandalised the signs advertising their protest action.

Last Thursday night custom-made black vinyl stickers with BLUDGER in large white letters was stuck over the majority of around 200 protest signs so the signs now read - "Another Bludger Mangawhai Property" rather than the original "Another Striking Mangawhai Property".

Many Mangawhai property owners are refusing to pay rates in protest over the Kaipara District Council's $80 million debt, most of it over Mangawhai's sewerage system.

The sign defacers had to climb over fences to gain access to the signs on some properties.

Spokesman for the affected residents, retired barrister Clive Boonham, said many older residents were frightened "someone has came in the dead of night and trespassed on their property to commit a crime ... the younger ones are incensed - all are concerned that this type of attack could escalate."

Mr Boonham said while most of the affected property owners suspect private individuals were responsible, "some do not dispel the council having a hand in it".

The allegations of council or commissioners' involvement has been rebutted by commissioner chair John Robertson.

"We have had absolutely no involvement or knowledge of this incident," he said.

"The non-payment of rates has become a divisive issue and while we don't condone the "bludger" stickers, the commissioners also don't condone the non payment of rates.

"It is time cool heads prevailed. Extreme messages such as this has to stop ... the thought of the council being involved in this type of activity is over the top."

Mangawhai police have also expressed concern at the extent of the campaign which has targeted properties at the heads and the village as well as rural areas.

Senior Constable Graham Gough has received a large number of complaints, mostly over privacy and personal security concerns rather that the damage to the signs. Those responsible could face trespass and wilful damage charges.

Police believe more than one vehicle was involved in the latest vandalism and would like to hear from anybody who may have seen suspicious vehicles or activity in the area to contact then on 09 423 1060.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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