Council says case will cost $500,000

By Annette Lambly of the Northern Advocate -
Steve Ruru. Photo / Supplied
Steve Ruru. Photo / Supplied

Kaipara District Council is being accused of scaremongering after warning that defending a High Court judicial review by ratepayers could cost the organisation an unbudgeted $500,000 in legal costs

The review, filed in March by the Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association, relates to the council's handling of the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme, historical rating issues and council's development contributions policy.

Last Friday chief executive Steve Ruru said the council's legal costs could be as high as $500,000, based on the scope of the proceedings and could potentially cost ratepayers further rate increases or reduced roading maintenance in order meet the cost of legal fees.

"We would hope it's [the cost] nothing like that ... but at the moment, we simply don't have that money budgeted.

"Absolutely no one wins out of this one. It's a double whammy for all ratepayers," he said.

Chair of Commissioners John Robertson said he was hugely disappointed the MRRA had taken legal action when commissioners, staff and many others throughout Kaipara were doing all they could to move the district forward.

"We understand the need for accountability and we are just as determined as anybody else to hold those responsible accountable for what has happened.

"What we don't understand is why a small group of ratepayers is so determined to impose huge additional costs on their own community," said Mr Robertson.

Yesterday in a press statement, the MRRA accused the Kaipara District Council of "overstated scaremongering" and of not consulting with ratepayers on whether they should spend vast sums of ratepayers' money on "defending itself against the indefensible".

The group says hundreds of submissions to the draft Annual Plan (which closed on Friday) have been lodged by the Mangawhai community. About 285 people attended a meeting on April 14 to hear from Kitt Littlejohn, one of the barristers working on the legal action, and to discuss submissions against the draft proposals.

Issues relating to the High Court review will be discussed at today's council meeting.

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