September 2017 - Chairman's Report
Rates collection and the Judicial Review of NRC's rates in the Kaipara District
The High Court has issued its final judgement in the judicial review of the arrangements used by the regional council for the collection of rates in the Kaipara District by the Kaipara District Council. Rates collected in the five years from 2011–2016 have been 'quashed' but the Court has not ruled that those rates be refunded.
The same arrangements have been used for collecting rates in the Whangarei District and the Far North District and a similar approach used in four other regions around the country.
Ratepayers can be assured that our council has not acted irresponsibly and blatantly flouted the law. We have arranged the collection of our rates by the Kaipara, Whangarei and Far North District Councils using standard sector practice in the interests of saving our ratepayers the additional cost of maintaining a separate rates collection department within our council.
The High Court has acknowledged that the law is not as clear as it might have been and that the council had not set out to wilfully break the law.
So where to from here?
The four councils in the region have been discussing the concept of setting up one rates collection agency for the whole of the Northland region. With only 94,000 rating units in Northland, it makes no sense to have four rates collection departments with the same ratepayers having to pay for the overheads of at least two of them. This court ruling clearly prevents us from progressing with this at this time.
The first step must be to seek a change to the law to allow more comprehensive collection arrangements, therefore this is high on our agenda for when a new government is in place following the election.
In the meantime, we have the problem of dealing with the rates that have been quashed. Ratepayers can be assured that the council has always acted in good faith.
Council does have a number of options available to it and will be determining further action in due course.