Rates activist Penny Bright has won a legal victory in her long-running battle against Auckland Council after an "over-zealous" council worker included additional costs on a document submitted in court.
The technical flaws in the council's evidence yesterday prompted a judge to grant Ms Bright's application to set aside a judgment allowing the council to force the sale of her home to recover rates debts totalling more than $33,000.
The veteran protester is refusing to pay rates on her Kingsland home, which had a 2011 valuation of $530,000, until the council publishes details of its deals with private contractors in a prominent position on its website.
It plans to sell her home, take the rates debt from the sale price, and give her the balance.
A hearing in Auckland District Court yesterday morning to set aside the judgment allowing the forced sale was over in little more than 35 minutes after two technical flaws were found in the council's evidence.
The Auckland Council had submitted a "rates statement" which amounted to a summary of the rates demands made by the council to Ms Bright, which the council claims date back to 2008.
Ms Bright, who represented herself in court, argued this was "not a creature of statute", and the council should have submitted every invoice and rates demand to prove she owed the money.
Judge David Harvey agreed with Auckland Council lawyer James Hassall that it would be allowed as evidence, but only if backed up by copies of the invoices in an "information capsule" annexed to the submission. This was not done.
It then emerged that some of the amounts detailed in the rates summary were not rates-related, but were reverse legal fees the council wants Ms Bright to pay in relation to the long-running court battle.
Mr Hassall admitted the document was "not accurate", and blamed an "over-zealous" council worker for including the amounts on the rates summary.
Judge Harvey said the amounts made up "almost half the claim" on the document.
Ms Bright claimed it "proves this rates statement is fundamentally flawed".
Judge Harvey said he had no choice but to set aside the judgment. But he warned Ms Bright: "You may have won this battle, but the war is not over."