Kaipara commissioners have approved the remission of some rates penalties but not others, saying they believe the Kaipara District Council rates remission policy allows them to make their decision without community input or analysis of other options.
But retired Mangawhai lawyer Clive Boonham has lodged a complaint with Local Government Minister Chris Tremain and Auditor-General Lyn Provost claiming the commissioners are acting illegally.
He says the current remissions policy doesn't allow backdating of remissions as the commissioners have done.
An explanation in the agenda for a council meeting on the Otamatea Marae at Batley on Tuesday says: "The policy indicates remissions 'may not' be backdated. Normally remissions will not be backdated but this policy allows for backdating (ie the default is not to allow backdating but discretion is permitted)."
Mr Boonham said this was mumbo-jumbo, there was no such discretion and the commissioners should have developed a new policy, which would require consultation with ratepayers.
The commissioners resolved on Tuesday to
Approve the remission of penalties on 2011/12 arrears totalling $266,646 applied in March this year and penalties on 2012/13 arrears totalling $591,704 applied in July.
Approve the remission of penalties - forecast to total $480,000 - to be applied next month on rates outstanding in June provided all rates owing are paid in full by June 30 next year.
Penalties imposed when instalments on current rates were not paid by the due date were not considered for remission.
Mr Boonham says on his Legal Eagle website that to go down the new remission policy track would involve consultation with ratepayers and it was almost certain most ratepayers would insist all penalties must be remitted.
"The time scale is the other problem. If the current policy is used the commissioners can deal to the ratepayers immediately. If a new policy is required then no decision can be made until June."
Mr Boonham said a solution would be for the commissioners to include an amended policy in the draft annual plan that is about to be launched and ensure any decision made was in accordance with the law.
"This is a big test for the Minister and the Auditor-General. How they respond will tell us whether they will allow the Kaipara council to continue to flout the law and its own policies with impunity."