Brian Rudman writes:
The glass tower lawyers who dine off the battles between Auckland local bodies might soon find themselves short of spare cash for restocking their wine cellars.
As the day of the great forced marriage between the reluctant eight councils looms, the unthinkable is happening. The councils are trying to resolve all outstanding disputes between one another before they plight their troth on November 1.
For however acrimonious the fight has been, the combatants accept how ridiculous it’s going to look in the Environment Court on November 2 if the QC for the Auckland Council has to stand up and tell the judge he’s now acting for both sides in Auckland Regional Council versus Auckland City Council on, for example, wastewater discharge from “party central” on Queens Wharf.
That’s certainly a benefit to have less lawsuits where ratepayers fund both sides. So how many are there? One ? Three? Five?
Last September, in recognition of the revolution to come, the eight chief executives agreed to “accelerate the resolution of appeals between councils”.
At the time there were 287 outstanding appeals and related actions either between councils alone, or involving a third party.
By November the number of disputes had risen to 355, though it rapidly settled back to a figure of 311, where it now stands.
The good news, I guess, is that as of April 6, 35 actions had been settled and another 194 had reached the stage of officer agreement.
Some law firms are going to go into receivership.
That left 47 cases where the officers cannot agree – down from a peak of 122 in November – and another 35 where further investigation is required.
Officers are now considering which appeals are too hard to resolve and should be rushed to the Environment Court before November 1.
All heart, the Environment Court has offered to schedule additional appeals to help speed the process.
Of course from the ratepayers’ point of view, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the unresolved issues were just carried over to the new Super City organisation to be resolved in-house. The savings in legal bills would be substantial. Just how big, I haven’t been able to track down, though one insider says the ARC legal bill alone for such cases is hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
At least I would say.