Costly mistake for Waimate council
Battle over building has already cost ratepayers more than $50,000AL WILLIAMS
Waimate District Council has conceded that a legal battle which has already cost ratepayers more than $50,000 could have been handled better.
The council will meet tomorrow to discuss its options on an issue that dates back nearly two years and resulted in the council taking civil action against Keith Williams and his company Glenkeith Industries.
Mr Williams claims he and his company were each charged with failing to apply for a certificate of acceptance and failing to comply with a notice to fix after he carried out ''urgent'' work on his garage, known as Dash's Garage, on the corner of Innes and High streets in Waimate. This followed a wall becoming unstable in December 2010.
The case was dismissed earlier this month after it was found the council's chief executive, Tony Alden, did not have the delegated authority to lay charges.
The council then passed the case on to the Department of Building and Housing.
A determination costs $287.50 for single houses, attached houses, flats and apartments up to four units, and garages and sheds.
Mayor John Coles said the council could have saved ''a fair bit'' if it had approached the department before deciding to take court action.
''What we're doing is a bit back-to-front; we could have saved a fair bit by going through the department first.''
He said the council didn't think approaching the department was an option.
''I think in hindsight that it could have been a better option.
''We thought what we were going to court with was robust; we never even got to court in the true sense.''
Mr Coles would not be drawn into discussion after councillor Peter Foley told The Herald that legal costs related to the case could spiral to $150,000.
"'If we have to pay all our costs it will cost between $140,000 and $150,000,'' Mr Foley said.
''I think it was incompetence right from the start.''
Under the Building Act a determination should be made within 60 working days after an application is received.
The department has authority to make a determination which is a binding decision. It provides a way of solving disputes or questions about the rules that apply to buildings, how buildings are used, building accessibility, health and safety.
A spokesperson for the department confirmed a complaint has been received and a process is underway.
Mr Williams has also been asked to furnish information to the department but would not comment on the case.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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