Mangawhai rates battle ends with $115,000 payment

7:48 pm on 22 May 2020

Ten years battling against paying Mangawhai sewerage scheme rates has ended today with retired ratepayer Bruce Rogan paying $115,000 to Kaipara District Council.

Bruce and Heather Rogan say their quality of life has plummeted as a result of the stoush with Kaipara District Council.

Bruce and Heather Rogan say their quality of life has plummeted as a result of the stoush with Kaipara District Council. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Rogan and his wife Heather, both 74, made the court-ordered costs payment to the council. The couple faced losing their home under the ratings act if they did not pay up.

About 20 people protested outside Kaipara District Council (KDC)'s Mangawhai office this afternoon in solidarity with the Rogans.

"He is our folk hero," protestor and fellow one-time Mangawhai sewerage-scheme rates battler Clive Boonham said.

"My heart breaks for him. He and Heather are good solid citizens who have been let down by the council."

KDC Mayor Dr Jason Smith said councils were accustomed to people protesting.

"I am also aware there is a silent majority who think differently from the protestors," Smith said.

Rogan, Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association chair, said he felt angry after making the $115,000 payment.

The money was made up of penalties from once-outstanding rates now paid, and court costs. It grew out of 10 years battling, navigating a complicated legal fight over hugely ballooning costs for the Mangawhai ecocare sewerage reticulation scheme.

Rogan said he was now looking forward to heading out across the Mangawhai Harbour bar in his boat to catch schnapper at the Hen and Chicks islands. He would also be writing a book about the saga.

Heather said there had been thought of continuing their battle and not making today's payment. But in the last few weeks the couple had realised they did not have the energy left to fight any longer.

"I'm looking forward to having more time to catch up with our grandchildren," she said of the end of a fight that had consumed their lives.

Rogan began the battle by about 100 ratepayers against paying KDC rates over the sewerage reticulation scheme. The battle went to the Supreme Court which ruled in favour of KDC.

Boonham, a retired lawyer, said today was the end of a chapter for the Rogans but the Mangawhai sewerage scheme cost overrun-generated ratepayers' fight was not over.

"It is regrettable that the situation has come to this point. We hope this issue ends here so the council can focus on the entire district and plans for the future," Louise Miller, KDC chief executive said.

"We would like to thank Mr and Mrs Rogan for bringing this matter to a close and wish them well for the future."

KDC Mayor Dr Jason Smith said today's court-ordered costs payment 'brought the sorry saga to a final end'.

Mangawhai ratepayers were initially told the final KDC ecocare sewerage scheme would cost no more than $10.8 million when it was first announced in 2003, then $37 million in 2009 and up to more than $60 million by 2013.

The scheme's resulting financial burden on KDC led to the government appointing commissioners to run the council, in what became New Zealand's longest-ever commissioners' tenure.

The Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association exposed illegalities around the way KDC rates were collected toward the scheme's ballooning costs - which the government in December 2013 then responded to by passing legislation to legally validate their collection.

The fight reached New Zealand's Supreme Court which ruled in favour of KDC.

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