14 May 2012

Govt urged to intervene over planned rates increase

10:35 am on 14 May 2012

[b A ratepayers' group is calling on the Government to intervene in a proposed rates rise in the Kaipara district.

The district council is proposing an average rate rise of 31% to pay debts of more than $80 million. More than $50 million of that is due to cost blow-outs in the Mangawhai wastewater scheme.

The chairman of the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association says that could cause a potential rates revolt, as many residents are facing an increase of more than 100%.

Bruce Rogan told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday the district council has acted illegally during the implementation of the sewerage scheme and the Government has the power to declare the council bankrupt, which would stop a rates hike.

"The Government has many powers that it can exercise and one of them is to implement a controlled bankruptcy of the Kaipara District Council - and in bankruptcy proceedings some people don't get paid."

Deputy Mayor Julie Geange says that is not an option, but the council would consider a lower level of rates increase.

The council has asked the Office of the Auditor-General to investigate the small Northland town's wastewater scheme.

Ms Geange told Morning Report it was implemented over successive councils and has asked the office to investigate the ratepayer group's claims.

However, she says the debt still needs to be paid for and is asking the community to come up with better suggestions than a rates increase.

Residents meeting to be held

About 2500 people turned out in Mangawhai on Saturday to oppose the council's move.

The Kaipara Citizens and Ratepayers Association says it is seeking a mandate from those people and other residents to take on the council as a united front.

Chairperson Ron Manderson says he plans to meet with other residents' groups, including those from Mangawhai and Maungaturoto.

"When you have 2500 people at Mangawhai calling for resignations of council in total; when you have our association calling for the resignation of the mayor and the deputy - it's time somebody listened."

Mr Manderson says the appetite for a rates revolt is growing and the ratepayers' association also wants to look at other ways of opposing the proposed increases.

Residents' groups will meet in Dargaville on Wednesday to discuss ways of resisting the increases.