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Lobby group resists call to pay $6m in withheld rates

by Northern Advercate

A plea by the Kaipara District Council for ratepayers withholding rates of about $6 million to pay up has been rebuffed by a lobby group embroiled in a longstanding spat with the territorial authority.John Robertson

Chairman of commissioners running the council, John Robertson, said that since a recent High Court decision confirmed that historic rates have been effectively validated, they were enforceable and must now be paid.

Parliament passed the Kaipara Validation Act that validated irregularities in the setting and assessing of Kaipara District rates from the 2006-07 financial year to 2011-12 in respect of a wastewater scheme.

The Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association took the council to the High Court to seek a declaration that the rates were invalid.

However, Justice Paul Heath said since the Act was passed by Parliament, he didn't have powers to declare it unlawful.

Mr Robertson said some 2000 of the 14,000 ratepayers owed the council about $6 million in unpaid rates from as far back as three years.

"I'll be putting out messages to encourage people that are holding back to pay because the court has made it absolutely clear that they are valid rates therefore they should be paid.

"For some, there's been uncertainty [on rates] because of the judicial review and the campaign by the MRRA [association] encouraging people not to pay has been quite strong over the years but I'd expect them to re-consider their stand now and to pay up," he said.

Mr Robertson said the council was servicing its debts, including loan repayment for the sewerage scheme, properly.

But association chairman Bruce Rogan said his members would stay put.

"We won't recommend payment of any dollar to this council until we get disclosure from them on how they'll deal with the council debt."

Mr Rogan said the council had cruelly levied penalty on rates that were then illegal but were now legal after the court judgment.


By Imran Ali