Court order sought to recoup fees from 1000 Mangawhai ratepayers
The Kaipara District Council will seek a court order to recoup about $2 million in outstanding rates from defiant Mangawhai ratepayers.
Chairman of commissioners for the council John Robertson said about 1000 ratepayers were intentionally not paying to cover arrears after a long rates strike over payments relating to the controversial Mangawhai sewerage scheme.
Mr Robertson said since the High Court ruled that validated rates were payable, some that deliberately withheld payments have paid up while others were staying put after advice from the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association (MRRA).
But the striking ratepayers say the council is employing "stand over tactics" and it should wait until after the Court of Appeal hears its appeal against the High Court ruling.
"Since June 30, a good number of them have paid up because they recognise that penalties were accumulating but regrettably some people are still encouraged not to pay yet they receive council services which others have paid for," Mr Robertson said.
He said the non-payment had impacted on council finances and upset majority ratepayers who complied with their obligations. On two occasions, he said the association didn't get remedies sought and that the Court of Appeal cases was likely to take some time.
"We'll be pursuing outstanding rates through legal channels and we've starting writing to ratepayers that are not paying up, that's what we'll do."
Mr Robertson said the council would ask the District Court for an order to enforce the High Court ruling.
And why couldn't the council wait until after the Court of Appeal ruling, he said: "There's no reason to wait. The view espoused by the association that by merely going to the Court of Appeal that rates are not due is incorrect.
"The High Court has ruled that rates are valid and unless the Court of Appeal rules otherwise, those rates are valid and must be paid," he said.
Mr Robertson said the council had already spent about $700,0000 in legal fees which was a significant amount for a small territorial authority.
Reacting to the council's latest move, MRRA chairman Bruce Rogan said it would be wise for the council to wait until after the second highest court had ruled on its appeal.
"It's a standover tactic. Their chances of getting a fixture in the District Court is very unlikely given the matter is under appeal. From the legal advice we've got, no District Court judge is likely to get involved in a matter which is under appeal," Mr Rogan said.
Mr Rogan said concerns his members have was that any rates paid regardless of court orders wouldn't be refunded.
Last month, the council rejected up to $1 million, including cheques totalling $550,000, sent by association members to cover arrears because the money was offered on the basis that all rates penalties would be cancelled.
The KDC applies two types of rates penalties. A 10 per cent "instalment" penalty is applied if landowners fail to make quarterly rates payments on time. A further 10 per cent penalty is placed on overdue rates accounts every six months.