14 Aug 2012

Democracy's dead in Kaipara, says deputy mayor

9:15 am on 14 August 2012

Kaipara deputy mayor Julie Geange says democracy there is dead now that commissioners are being called in to replace the district council.

The Kaipara District Council owes more than $80 million and is facing a revolt by ratepayers, some of whose rates have risen by 100%.

The Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Group says at least 2000 residents will refuse to pay rates until there's further investigation of the debt.

Problems at the council came to a head when its chief executive abruptly resigned late last year, and last month $17 million of the rates were found to be legally invalid.

Local Government Minister David Carter said on Monday that the council had asked him to appoint commissioners to take over.

Ms Geange told Morning Report she'd rather commissioners had not been appointed, and she fears Kaipara may not exist by the next election. But councillors decided, she says, that commissioners would have greater expertise in financial and risk matters.

Group sceptical about commissioners

The Mangawhai group says the Government had to step in and it hopes the commissioners will be local people. But right now, says group chairperson Bruce Rogan, "We don't have any confidence that the commissioners have got the right terms of reference or the right brief - we don't even know who they are, so we can't say that it's going to be better."

Mr Rogan says community members can only hope the commissioners will be able to get to the bottom of the debt crisis. "Something had to be done to take control away from the idiots who were running the place," he says.

Ms Geange says Mangawhai residents have bombarded the Government and media with complaints about the council.

"Mangawhai has been very vocal," she says, "but what they're saying and what they're representing isn't necessarily that of all the ratepayers in the district."

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is asking why the Government didn't act sooner.

Local government spokesperson Annette King says the slow progress must be questioned, given the Government was so quick to sack the Canterbury Regional Council and install commissioners in 2010.