Auckland rates holiday hopes dashed
An embarrassing error by Auckland Council means rating notices sent out over the past month are likely invalid, but a pending fix to the stuff-up means residents are unlikely to enjoy a rates holiday.
The Auckland Council has admitted to a "minor technical issue" in its June 26 meeting where it set rates for the 2014/5 year, then passed its annual plan.
The Local Government (Rating) Act requires annual plans to be passed before rates are set, and a Council spokesperson admitted it was in breach of the law.
"Unfortunately the ordering of the agenda was not strictly in line with what is required by the Act," the spokesperson said.
To remedy the breach, the Council announced the resolutions would be passed again - this time in the correct order - at a meeting scheduled for August 14.
Auckland University associate law professor Ken Palmer, a specialist in local government legislation, said the admission signalled that recent rates notices were possibly invalid - but next week's meeting would make the matter moot.
"I suppose, theoretically, that would give you the option of being able to recover any amount paid to date - but the council would then be able to get the same amount back next week," he said.
"As far as I can see it can have that retrospective effect. The rating notices that have be sent out don't have to be resent out again," he said.
Palmer said the error was probably picked up in the wake of the Kaipara District Council debacle, where the High Court found in a provisional decision that rates had been illegally collected to fund an over-budget waste-water treatment scheme.
Parliament was required to pass retrospective legislation validating Kaipara's rates haul.
Palmer said the Kaipara case had focussed minds at local councils to ensure they were meeting both the letter and spirit of local government legislation.
Auckland's botched process has not impressed West Auckland retiree and landlord Gary Osborne, who has battled in the past with the Auckland Council-controlled Auckland Transport over land acquired for roading extensions under the Public Works Act.
"If they're resetting the rates, then the notices they're already sending out are not valid," he said.
Osborne said the error didn't reflect well on councillors.
"Isn't it amazing that none of these very experienced people didn't notice the irregularities in agenda? I think they thought it'd slip under the radar," he said.