7 Jul 2016

Kaipara council appointment raises ratepayer ire

5:27 pm on 7 July 2016

The government has appointed Crown manager Peter Winder to support the Kaipara District Council when its governors bow out in October.

Mr Winder is one of the commissioners who have been running the council since 2012 when the council was sacked over a $80 million debt blowout and a rates revolt.

Kaipara is due to return to an elected council system this year.

Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston said Mr Winder would take responsibility for legal actions relating to past matters and allow new councillors to focus on the future.

Mangawhai ratepayers who staged a rates revolt over illegal rates, and the botched management of their sewerage system, are still challenging the council in court.

And the council itself is involved in Employment Court action against its former chief executive Jack McKerchar.

Northland MP Winston Peters said the appointment of Mr Winder makes a farce of the council's supposed return to democracy.

Mr Peters said it is an undemocratic move that did not bode well for ratepayers.

He said Mr Winder is one of the commissioners who failed to take action against the project manager of the debt ridden Mangawhai sewerage scheme.

But Mr Winder said he would have authority to make decisions relating to debt and rates but the government's terms of reference make it clear he must consult and support the councillors.

Mr Winder said the background material and evidence involved in the Kaipara council's litigation would fill a room and take a huge effort by a new council to come to terms with.

The Mangawhai Ratepayers Association said the appointment showed the government did not want ratepayers in control.

Bruce Rogan said that would ensure the new council could not hold anyone to account for the incompetence that created the $80 million debt.

"There's never been any attempt at all to hold anyone to account accept the ratepayers, who had no part in it, that's what they were put in there for - to do the government's bidding and the government's bidding was - 'bury this'. We don't want this getting out of control."

Mr Rogan said the $5 million paid to the council by the Auditor General was a tiny fraction of the damage caused in part by her auditors' negligence.