Just before the local body elections, it's time to recap and then move past an unfortunate blip in the history of the Kaipara district.
In 2012, a failure in management and governance combined to see Kaipara landed with the Mangawhai sewerage scheme's financial disaster and the heaviest debt burden per ratepayer of any New Zealand district.
The council stood down and a panel of Government commissioners was installed to manage the fall-out. From 2012, the commissioners would guide and direct the council-less management in one form or another until this week, mere days before the local government elections.
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When the former panel of commissioners was disbanded in 2016, one of them, Peter Winder, was made Crown manager for Kaipara. In last week's final report to the council and the Minister of Local Government, Winder said he was confident the council had come through recovery and could now take care of its own business.
In the 2016 local elections, residents and ratepayers were able to vote for their representatives for the first time since 2012. Ruawai-based Greg Gent was elected mayor but suddenly resigned halfway through his term. Matakohe-based Dr Jason Smith won the byelection, and is running as mayor again this time.
While they were in charge, the commissioners waded through a barrage of legal action and defences related to the Mangawhai muddle while council management, staff and contractors continued to keep the district's assets and functions running.
Rates recovery court cases are ongoing, and resourced by the council. Chief executive Louise Miller said the legal activity is treated as a normal part of debtor management, to ensure outstanding rates are paid and future arrears do not create problems.
People recognise the progress the council is making, she said. The results of a customer satisfaction survey in July 2019 show 69 per cent of people were satisfied overall with the council.
As for the sewerage scheme that sent Kaipara down the toilet, it was built for just over $60 million, requiring a ratepayer debt of $58m. At June 30 this year, the amount owing was down to $42m, with $27m allocated against future development contributions.
Only $0.5m balance of the debt is being repaid by the general rate and the balance by a targeted rate on Mangawhai ratepayers.
Robust debt management over recent years has put Kaipara in a sound financial position, Miller said.
Statistics NZ figures show Kaipara's population rose from 18,963 to 22,869, or a 20.6 per cent rise since the last census. Miller said the district is now eclipsing its Long Term Plan 2018/2028 population projections.
"We're seeing great growth in Kaipara, being so close to Auckland. Helping our communities manage that influx is one of the challenges we're facing now, and preparing for,'' Miller said.
''As a small district we're finding ways to enable us to grow our communities, not only in a people sense, but in ways that bring new ideas, new thinking and new opportunities for Kaipara, and especially our young people.''
The next three years will see a full review of the Kaipara District Plan by the new council to accommodate that growth and the infrastructure it requires.
Facts about KDC
The Kaipara District Council has retained the single transferable voting (STV) system for its election which means voters will rank candidates in order of preference. They do this by placing a "1" next to their top pick, "2" next to their second option, and so on. They do not have to give every candidate a number but must use consecutive numbers.
Kaipara mayoral candidates are Dr Jason Smith and Moemoea Mohowhenua (formerly known as Benjamin Nathan).
Candidates in the four wards, which will be represented by two elected councillors, are: Dargaville: Karen Joyce-Paki, Brian McEwing, Ash Nayyar, Marnie Stewart, Jay Tane, Eryn Wilson-Collins; Kaiwaka-Mangawhai: two elected unopposed Jonathan Larsen and Peter Wethey; Otamatea: Anna Curnow, Craig Jepson, Wayne Linton, Ian Miller, Mark Vincent; West Coast - Central: Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock, Josephine Nathan, David Wills.
There are no Māori "seats" but the council has a mana whenua forum, which meets regularly.