WorkBoot Blogs » When a rate is not a rate
The Jonathan Salter report on the illegality of Mangawhai Ecocare rates was released yesterday. It finds that $8.8 million of rates have been unlawfully levied for Mangawhai Ecocare and a further $700,000 of unlawful targeted forestry rates. You can read the report here.
The Council press release is here.
Of course the news that the rates are invalid is nothing new. Mr Clive 'Legal Eagle' Boonham has been providing very clear and compelling proof of this both publicly and directly to elected Council for some time. In fact prior to the current years rates (not) being struck, he went to some considerable trouble to try to help the Council avoid once again voiding its rates - his email to Council is here and attached analysis is here.
I know for a fact that Council were aware of this because I tabled Mr Boonham's analysis at the very meeting where the rates were (not) struck and moved that striking the rates be delayed pending legal clarification of the matters raised, but there was no appetite for this from the Mayor or the rest of Council. You can read the motion here.
What really heightened my concerns was a lack of any argument from the Council supporting its position. I had previously (in December 2010) attempted to get to see the Council's legal opinions by moving a motion to that effect but the entire Council voted to not even be provided with the opinions.
The Mangawhai community and the ratepayers of the the district at large owe a debt of gratitude to Clive for his detailed analysis and dogged determination in the face of being treated with utter contempt by the Council. I personally believe Council owes him both public acknowledgement and a formal apology.
There are many highly qualified and talented ratepayers in this district prepared to give their time and energy to helping Council - I hope this serves to be a valuable lesson and Council will now start taking these contributions seriously.
The discussion on the invalid rates is already running - you can get involved here.
At the Wednesday meeting we also had sprung on us a recommendation to ask the Auditor General to do an investigation into the Ecocare project. The Council press release is here. (I had previously tried to get a full independent review of Ecocare carried out here. This attempt was stalled and then ignored and dropped off the agenda.) I supported the recommendation as better than nothing. However given the performance of the OAG and Audit NZ, and of elected Council, any investigation being run by them is hardly likely to be seen as independent, and therefore unlikely "to rebuild the community’s confidence in [Council]". Changing this to a truly independent investigation might be the only way (dry retch) "going forward" - ask the community what they think first? Surely not.
Let me have your thoughts on this here