Controversial Mangawhai EcoCare wastewater hearing

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An application for a judicial review into the controversial Mangawhai sewage scheme should be struck out because senior managers involved in the decision have been replaced, the Kaipara District Council has argued.

In his submissions filed today in the High Court at Whangarei, council lawyer David Goddard QC said the change of guard at KDC from the one involved in the decision to establish the EcoCare wastewater treatment scheme from 2005 to 2007 meant the review sought by the Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers' Association could not succeed.

The association want Justice Paul Heath to rule that the KDC's interpretation of the law relating to debt is wrong.

It also want him to rule the KDC, in supporting the Kaipara Validation Act - a law passed by Parliament validating irregularities in the setting and assessing of Kaipara District rates from the 2006-07 financial year to 2011-12 - was acting against the Local Government Act and its responsibilities to ratepayers.

Mr Goddard said the decision to legislate was Parliament's, not KDC's, therefore it made no sense for the association to suggest that the enactment of the legislation was a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights' Act or any other law by the council.

He said it would be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights for the court to impose civil liability on KDC as a result of participating in Parliamentary proceedings.

Yesterday the court heard from association lawyer Matthew Palmer, who said ratepayers were initially told the final scheme would cost no more than $10.8 million in 2003, then $37 million in 2009 while at the same time the council had taken out a loan for $57.978 million for the scheme.

Mr Palmer said this was not done with public consultation as required by law. The spending was also not included in the council's long-term plan, as required. He said the group wanted the court to rule that the council doesn't have and didn't have the power to set rates to cover the loans taken out for the scheme that had been ruled illegal.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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