Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

MPs validate Kaipara rates

Lyn Provost.
Lyn Provost.

Parliament last night passed a law without dissent validating irregularities in the setting and assessing of rates by the Kaipara District Council from the 2006-07 financial year to 2011-12.

The council made a series of decisions and rating resolutions relating to the Mangawhai waste water scheme that were found not to comply with the Local Government Act 2002.

The council allowed the scheme to double in cost from $35 million to $63.5 million in 2006 without any consultation with ratepayers.

Northland MP Mike Sabin reluctantly sponsored the bill, the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Bill, at the request of commissioners who were installed to replace the council in September after community pressure about the financial mismanagement of the council.

He agreed to sponsor it on the proviso that it did not validate criminal behaviour and that it did not prevent legal proceedings being taken against anyone held responsible for the debacle.

Some ratepayers have been refusing to pay rates on the basis that the rates were unlawful but the council still has an $80 million debt to service.

The bill validates the rates as well as the penalties on the rates that the bill validates - but if the rates are paid by June 30, 2014, the penalties will be waived.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost released a report into the waste water scheme this week which pointed to poor decision-making processes by the council, bad record-keeping, and the use of workshops to make decisions instead of council meetings.

The report included an independent review of the work of the auditor used by Audit New Zealand between 2006 and 2009 and found it to be ''substandard."

Lyn Provost apologised to a residents meeting for mistakes but said her office did not accept liability.

- NZ Herald

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