The Far North District Council is scrambling to fix seven lapsed bylaws after inquiries by a dog lobby group revealed they had expired more than two years ago.
Bylaws need to be reviewed with fresh community consultation every 10 years or five years in the case of new bylaws. Otherwise, after a two-year ''grace period'', they are automatically revoked.
During last year's dog bylaw controversy lobby group Bay of Islands Watchdogs became convinced the council's reserves bylaw had been revoked.
That was relevant because council staff argued all council reserves had to be on-leash areas, otherwise the new dog bylaw would clash with the existing reserves bylaw.
During a council meeting last November the council's legal team maintained the reserves bylaw was still in force, and attempts by councillor Dave Hookway to debate the issue were shut down.
However, Watchdogs spokeswoman Leonie Exel, of Russell, kept gnawing at the issue, filing official information requests and getting the Ombudsman involved.
Earlier this week the council conceded seven of its bylaws had indeed been revoked. Work to renew them has begun with public consultation due to take place in June and July.
The bylaws are Reserves (expired 2017), Mobile Shops and Hawkers (expired 2017), Control of Vehicle Crossings (expired 2017), Control of the Use of Public Places (expired 2017), Control of Amusement Devices and Entertainment Premises (expired 2016), Land Drainage (expired 2016) and Trade Waste (expired 2016).
Strategic planning and policy manager Darrell Sargent said a combination of changes to legislation and staff movements meant the council had an incomplete list of bylaws and their review dates.
Concerns around the Reserves Bylaw prompted staff to investigate the content and status of all council bylaws.
Processes were now in place to ensure future bylaws were reviewed on time, Sargent said.
Exel said as recently as last month the council's legal services team told her all council bylaws had been reviewed as required and none had been revoked due to review noncompliance.
She was concerned she had been given incorrect information in response to an official information request, and questioned what the legal implications would be if Far North residents had been prosecuted or made to comply with a bylaw not in force at the time.
Sargent said an independent legal opinion found the council had not acted unlawfully by collecting fees or taking action under the expired bylaws. No one had been prosecuted under the expired bylaws and fees for council services were set in the Annual Plan.
Exel had been given the wrong information because the council had only recently obtained a legal opinion clarifying provisions in the Local Government Act, Sargent said.
Hookway said be believed heads needed to roll as a result of the bylaw fiasco.
"In my opinion, this seriously brings into question the competence of council's legal advisers and administration. It has taken diligent members of our community to call the council to task, and even then, it required a redirection on advice from the Office of the Ombudsman to force the council to admit its mistakes."
Elected members had yet to be briefed on the potential liability if the council had charged fees or take action under the expired bylaws, he said.
The council is not proposing significant changes to the seven lapsed bylaws but the public will be able to have a say on any desired changes.
The next bylaw due to expire, if not reviewed by September 13, is the Keeping of Animals, Poultry and Bees.