Mangawhai rates appeal decision welcomed by NRC

27 Mar 2018, 3:49 PM

The Northland Regional Council (NRC) has welcomed a Court of Appeal decision on the way it set due dates for the payment of rates and its arrangements for rate collection within the Kaipara district.

Today's favourable Court of Appeal ruling comes after the NRC filed an urgent appeal against a High Court decision quashing several years of its rates in the Kaipara district and an earlier related decision by the High Court which found two issues with the council's rating practices. (Those issues were how council set due dates for the payment of rates and its arrangements for rate collection within the Kaipara district.)

A 'relieved' council chairman Bill Shepherd says the council will need to examine today's Court of Appeal finding in more detail over the next week or two.

However, essentially – while confirming some technical breaches by the regional council – today's decision allows the regional council's appeals against the earlier High Court findings and provides much-needed clarity for ratepayers and councils all over New Zealand.

Chairman Shepherd says at the heart of the case – which had implications for local authorities nationally – was the council's use of its Kaipara district counterpart to collect rates on its behalf.

While the Court of Appeal judgement is a lengthy one and traverses a number of areas; overall it largely supports the regional council's position; the court today declaring the council's rates for the affected period valid and ordering costs against the plaintiffs (Richard Bruce Rogan and Heather Elizabeth Rogan and the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association).

It its decision, the Court of the Appeal refers to collaborative arrangements for rate collection as having "the laudable aims of minimising cost and increasing efficiencies as required of the Regional Council by the local Government Act".

"Today's decision means we can continue with the efficient administration of rates through use of shared service arrangements, providing value for money for our shared ratepayer base," Chairman Shepherd says.

"Essentially, this latest decision supports the general approach that we have been taking all along and we're grateful for it."

Chairman Shepherd says while the cost of the appeal – estimated at $170,000 to $190,000 – was not cheap, the council felt the issues at stake had been too important not to appeal and felt that position had been vindicated by today's outcome.

"The collection of rates by the district councils in the region on behalf of the regional council provides significant cost savings which benefit the region's ratepayers; the cost of setting up our own, stand-alone rates collection agency would be many times the legal costs incurred in this action."