The Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court ruling that invalidated five years worth of the Northland Regional Council rates in Kaipara worth more than $14 million.
In August last year, the High Court in Whangarei ruled in a judicial review proceeding that NRC rates collected in Kaipara between 2011 and 2016 were invalid but did not order a refund.
The application for judicial review was filed by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association, its chairman, Bruce Rogan, and his wife, Heather.
NRC were granted an urgent hearing in the Court of Appeal to challenge the High Court ruling that the Kaipara rates were invalid.
The Rogans challenged how NRC set due dates for the payment of rates and objected to the Kaipara District Council collecting NRC's portion of rates in Kaipara.
The Court of Appeal ruled the NRC's failure in the rates bill to state the due date for payment was a technical irregularity that did not disadvantage ratepayers.
The Court of Appeal ruling means those who refused to pay the NRC rates in Kaipara will have to pay them now.
NRC chairman Bill Shepherd said while the cost of the appeal – estimated to be between $170,000 and $190,000 – was not cheap, the council felt the issues at stake had been too important not to appeal and felt that position had been vindicated by the recent judgment.
"The collection of rates by the district councils in the region on behalf of the regional council provides significant cost savings which benefit the region's ratepayers; the cost of setting up our own, stand-alone rates collection agency would be many times the legal costs incurred in this action."
He said while confirming some technical breaches by NRC, the Court of Appeal decision provided much-needed clarity for ratepayers and councils all over New Zealand.
Bruce Rogan described the Court of Appeal judgment as an "absolute disgrace" to the ratepayers and a huge slap to civil rights.
"Councils will never have to get validating legislation through Parliament because they know courts can use the Judicature Amendment Act 1972 to validate them."
He has ruled out an appeal to the Supreme Court.