NRC to appeal High Court's decision to quash rates
The Northland Regional Council is seeking an urgent hearing to appeal against a recent High Court decision quashing several years of its rates in the Kaipara district.
The court found for the plaintiffs (the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association and Richard Bruce Rogan and Heather Elizabeth Rogan) on issues relating to the council's rating practices.
These issues were how council set due dates for the payment of rates and its arrangements for rate collection within the Kaipara district.
Last month's High Court order set aside the regional council's rates for the Kaipara district for the five rating years 2011/12 to 2015/16 inclusive and any penalties imposed by – or on behalf of the council over that same period.
The court's decision could have implications for local authorities nationally, including Whangarei and the Far North.
No order was made requiring the council to refund the rates and penalties involved. Ratepayers would need to call for a hearing of their own for this to happen.
In addition to the appeal NRC chairman Bill Shepherd says the council will approach the Department of Internal Affairs asking it for a law change clarifying the section of the Rating Act covering rates collection arrangements.
If an urgent hearing is granted, the council's appeals could potentially be heard before a three-member bench of the Court of Appeal within three to five months.
Estimated costs for the appeals are around $170,000 to $190,000. Shepherd acknowledges the costs are significant, but says the council feels the issues at stake are too important not to appeal.
Shepherd says the collection of NRC rates by the Kaipara District Council "used standard sector practice in the interests of saving our ratepayers the additional cost of maintaining a separate rates collection department."
He gave assurances "our council has not acted irresponsibly and blatantly flouted the law".
He reminded ratepayers the judge's decisions did not relate to the rates for the current financial year, or the 2016/17 financial year.
Co-plaintiff Bruce Rogan says he had hoped NRC would not take this tact.
"We offered endless options for a settlement of the process without any further disruptive consequences or the need for further court costs, including help with forwarding an appropriate Bill," he says.
The pensioners say the ongoing court battles meant they have not been able to do what they would have liked with their lives since retiring and while they don't regret their actions, they do feel resentful about the behaviour of the councils, courts and the Government.
Rogan says he hoped New Zealanders will continue to help with the fight for democracy and intends to set up a Givelittle page.