The need for local body reform

The Herald reports:

A rates rebellion in a small coastal town is growing as more than 500 Mangawhai residents refuse to pay an estimated $1 million or more to the debt-ridden .

Rates have soared this year by about 40 per cent for many residents – more than doubling for some – to help pay off the council’s $80 million debt, which was mainly caused by a $58 million cost blowout for a local sewage treatment system.

The total population is only 19,000, which will be around 7,300 households. So the Council sewage treatment system is a cost of $10,000 per household!

Former New Zealand cricketer Warren Stott, who runs the Riverside Holiday Park, was told earlier this year that his rates bill would increase by more than 1300 per cent from $6316 to $84,850. He’s still not happy with a revised 43 per cent increase to $9050 and worries about the effect on the local economy.

The local economy has challenges already, and this has been the final straw.

Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association chairman Bruce Rogan said residents were refusing to pay because the sewage system was an ever-expanding “Ponzi scheme” foisted on the community without its consent.

Meeting papers show councillors secretly agreed to expand and more than double the cost of the project in 2006 without telling the community for another four years and the council’s own legal opinion shows it has collected about $17 million of rates illegally.


The council resigned in August and was replaced by commissioners. Chairman John Robertson, a former National MP and Papakura mayor, said 90 per cent of residents were paying their rates, including 75 per cent in Mangawhai.

Good the Council has done, but their decisions lived on. The challenge for any reform is how do you stop something like this happening again.

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