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Council rated worst

KERRY GALLAGHER
Last updated 10:15 21/02/2013

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The latest Local Government League Table has put the boot into the Kaipara District Council.

The news follows heated debate as around 300 residents met with the council's commissioners at the Mangawhai Golf Club on Monday, over continuing financial problems and a dispute over rates.

These problems have pushed the council to the bottom of New Zealand's 67 local authorities in the league table produced by analyst Larry Mitchell of Puhoi.

It is even worse than the 65th position it obtained last year and Mr Mitchell says the council's ranking is well deserved. "If I could have gone any lower than 67th, I would have. We'll see what happens next year.

"Watch this space. It's a continually unfolding drama," Mr Mitchell says.

The council scored just 18 out of 50 total points.

Its total was made up of a council financial sustainability score of just 6 out of 25, the lowest in the country, and a community affordability score of 12 out of 25, the third-lowest in the country.

Comments attached to the ranking point to "serious financial difficulties" and high debt, listed at between $5000 and $10,000 per ratepayer. Mr Mitchell says problems associated with the ill-fated wastewater scheme at Mangawhai have spiralled out of control and there is no sign of any improvement in the short term.

Homeowners are still on a rates strike, and this means council is struggling to pay back its loans.

The council stepped aside in favour of government-appointed commissioners last year in the wake of the fallout from massive debt.

But allegations of illegalities, a police complaint, heated public meetings and the rates strike continue to bedevil the district, particularly in Mangawhai.

A summary accompanying the league table gives special mention to Kaipara with the editorial comment "someone should write a book on this one".

The report says 16 per cent of the councils are "extremely vulnerable (or worse)" in financial terms.

"These councils struggle either due to their poor financial condition and/or their unfavourable scale/demographics," the report says.

"They will all experience difficulties in servicing even the basic needs of their citizens as a result of their past maladministration," it says.

Auckland Council is listed at 34th on the list, compared with 35th last year.

The comments note little change with "ultra-high debt" at more than $10,000 per ratepayer but with high net equity.

The best-performing councils in the country are Clutha and Southland, tied for first.

Each scored 40 out of 50 performance points.

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At Monday's meeting, chairman of commissioners John Robertson admitted "technical breaches of the Local Government Act", but said "services had been provided" and that rates were levied correctly.

This was met with an angry response.

- Rodney Times

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