Judge's workload delays Mangawhai ruling

By Mike Barrington

Bruce Rogan
Bruce Rogan

A High Court ruling on a Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association (MRRA) application for a judicial review of controversial Kaipara District Council (KDC) rates could be handed down later this month.

But if it is released in the next three weeks the decision will contain no reasons for its findings. The judge who heard the MRRA application in the High Court at Whangarei in February, Justice Paul Heath, last week advised the association and the government-appointed commissioners representing the KDC opposing the application that he was pushed for time to produce his decision.

"I am presiding over a lengthy [South Canterbury Finance] fraud trial in the South Island. For a variety of reasons, it has not proved possible for me to devote as much time to writing a judgment in this case, while that trial progresses," he said. "I am unlikely to be able to give a reasoned decision on the association's application before mid to late July."

He said if an earlier decision was required he would provide a judgment with reasons to follow by the end of May.

He invited the MRRA and KDC lawyers to confer and let him know what they wanted him to do.

MRRA chairman Bruce Rogan said the association wanted the decision released by the end of May so it was out before the end of the financial year on June 30.

"If the judgment goes the association's way it would be better to rethink the annual plan before it is passed than to try to unravel it afterwards," he said.

The chairman of the Kaipara commissioners, John Robertson, declined to discuss Justice Heath's advice, regarding it as a privileged communication.

"The judge will make his decision in due course," he said.

Retired lawyer Clive Boonham, of Mangawhai, said on his Kaipara Concerns website that a decision without reasons was rare and made it difficult for either party to decide on any subsequent action.

"Not only that, there is a time limit for an appeal which runs from the date when the decision is given. It is almost impossible to appeal if the reasons for the decision are not given," he said.

The decision might not be clear cut. "It is possible his decision could require a further hearing," Mr Boonham said.

- Northern Advocate

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