A judicial review into the controversial Mangawhai EcoCare wastewater treatment scheme that has left Kaipara ratepayers among the most indebted in the country has started in the High Court at Whangarei before Justice Paul Heath.

The action has been lodged by the Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers' Association.

Association lawyer Matthew Palmer said this was an important case not only for Kaipara ratepayers, the Mangawhai residents and the council, but also important for the constitution of New Zealand. It also affected the Bill of Rights Act and the Rule Of Law.

The group wanted, in effect, the judge to rule that the KDC's interpretation of the law relating to debt is wrong.


It also wanted to rule that 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.

``What we are dealing with is an extreme saga of incompetence in public decisions making. Ratepayers have persisted in pursuing and trying to hold their elected representatives and their managers to account and have been frustrated at very turn in trying to do that,'' Mr Palmer 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 and 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 have been ruled illegal.

More than 100 Mangawhai residents were at the court for the hearing - which is due to last at least until Wednesday - with proceedings screened live in a neighbouring courtroom so all the residents could watch the action.