The Mangawhai rate rebels who've been doggedly battling the Kaipara District Council in the courts have lost their latest round.
But they've vowed to fight on. The Appeal Court has found that Bruce and Heather Rogan could not refuse to pay rates because of errors in their rate invoices.
"The Rogans were not entitled to refuse payment of the rates because of the asserted errors and omissions in the rates assessments and rate invoices," the judgement says.
But the judges also found that lower courts had been wrong to find the couple were challenging the actual validity of the rates, when they did just that.
"In respectful disagreement with the views expressed in the Courts below, we do not consider that the Rogans' defence based on (council) non-compliance ... amounts to a challenge to the validity of the rates," the judgement says.
The Rogans went to the Whangarei District Court in 2015 to challenge penalties on their rate bills, citing mistakes in the due dates.
They lost that case.
The District Court ruled they were caught by Section 60 of the Rating Act, which says any challenge to the validity of rates must be heard in the High Court, and only on grounds that the council was not empowered to set the rate.
The High Court agreed, but gave the Rogans leave to go to the Appeal Court for an interpretation of Section 60.
Bruce Rogan said the Appeal Court judges were asked to rule on that matter alone and had gone well beyond that in finding the couple were obliged to pay up.
He said the court had ruled on two other sections of the Act, Secs 45 and 46, without allowing counter-arguments.
"It's the worst piece of judicial activism we have ever seen and we are going to try to get the judgement recalled because we believe that a very serious miscarriage of justice has taken place here," he said.
Mr Rogan said the case should have been referred back to the lower courts, which had incorrectly found that Section 60 applied.
The Mangawhai couple have paid their rate arrears, but are challenging penalties that built up as Mr Rogan led the charge against 40 percent rate increases imposed by the council to cover loans for the local sewerage scheme.
The council's borrowing was found by the High Court to be unlawful but the rates levied to cover it were validated by Act of Parliament.
Mr Rogan says the Appeal court ruling will be grist for the mill at the inaugural NZ Ratepayers and Residents Association conference being held in Nelson this weekend.
More than 70 registrations had been received from around the country and about 100 people were expected to attend, Mr Rogan said.