Tue, 9 Sep 2014 at 8:53 a.m.
A SERIOUSLY GOOD READ from the MRRA Executive (Mangawhai Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc). The newsletter follows their public meeting at Mangawhai Gym on Sunday, 7 September 2014, to which New Zealand First’s Winston Peters gave an address.
Dunedin residents and ratepayers take heed.
Another remarkable turnout in Mangawhai
This is the staunchest, toughest, fairest community in New Zealand. The solidarity you have exhibited in the face of vilification, lies, corruption, deceit, bullying and state-funded spin puts the Mangawhai people into a category that verges on martyrdom. And Sunday was proof if proof was needed that nobody is about to give up on the quest for justice.
Yesterday, 200 MRRA members and numerous members of the public turned out to hear some of the candidates for election this month talk about their policies. The MRRA had extended an invitation specifically asking the candidates to speak on local government, and what they would do in office to prevent a recurrence of what happened in Kaipara. Several parties didn’t show up, possibly because they did not have an answer to that question, and those parties that voted for the Validation Act that effectively stymied our application to the Court have to be assumed to be in favour of council law-breaking and mis-treatment of ratepayers, because they keep on rewarding it by passing retrospective legislation.
Most of those who sold us out didn’t show up
The Green candidate, David Clendon, defended the Green party’s stance by saying that if the Act hadn’t been passed the cost to the ratepayers would have been even greater. He may have believed that at the time, and that is one thing. To believe it still, after everything that has happened, demonstrates that the “Fairer Society” the Greens espouse is just another slogan to be taken with a grain of salt. However, David Clendon did have the courage to show up and take the lumps. The same cannot be said of National and Labour, the other two parties who sold us all down the river in 2013.
Can they be Trusted?
The Conservative Party’s Northland candidate promised to come to the meeting, then she phoned to say she wasn’t coming, but that Colin Craig (party leader) was coming instead. Then, on the morning of the meeting, we got a text saying he wasn’t coming either. Could people who behave like that be relied upon if they got into government? Did John Key tell him that he wouldn’t get a clear run at East Coast Bays if he fraternised with us? Where do the dirty tricks begin and end?
Those who did show up
The start-up local party led by Ken Rintoul (Focus New Zealand) sent a strong delegation along, and participated energetically in proceedings. ACT’s number 3 man, Robin Grieve likewise.
And those who answered the question posed
Only one candidate really responded to our call for information about their party’s local government policies. That was New Zealand First, represented by their leader Winston Peters. His full speech is reprinted below for those who were not present but are keen to hear what he said. In summary, he catalogued the litany of crime and wrong-doing that led to the Kaipara debacle, stated that central government had, through its persistent failure to heed the warnings, effectively (and possibly knowingly) let the whole catastrophe happen under its nose, and that it needed to make reparations.
Clive Boonham moved to tears!
A week previously, the National candidate convened his own meeting in the same venue and mustered about a third of our audience. His audience included a coterie of diehard supporters, at least one of them probably being paid by ratepayers to attend. At that meeting the candidate made the announcement that he had been in Bruce Rogan’s house and Bruce Rogan had said “Mike, if you will go after the auditor general I will hug you!”. I did once attend a meeting with Mike Sabin, at Helen Curreen’s house. When Mike made a characteristically motormouth claim that he was prepared to leave no Fairy tern unstoned in pursuit of the Auditor General, I think I responded that I would embrace any move to bring the culprits in this saga to justice. Mike is clearly in need of affection to have turned that response into an offer of man love. Why he assumed the Curreens’ place belonged to the Rogans is anyone’s guess, but perhaps he thought it didn’t much matter, because once the Validation Bill was passed all the houses would end up being owned by the banks anyway!
But the point of that little anecdote is that sometimes politicians’ speeches generate emotional responses in the audience. When Winston Peters finished speaking, the normally undemonstrative Clive Boonham rose to his feet (an event of greater significance in Clive’s case than for the ordinary citizen, owing to the distance involved in the rising), and said that the speech had brought tears to his eyes. That probably reflected the sentiment of quite a few others in the room – to hear, most of them for the first time, confirmation that we were not the villains in this piece, and to hear it from someone who just might be in a position to do something about it after the election, is very moving.
Two to Tango?
As he left the meeting Winston made it clear, with that famous disarming smile on his face, that he would study the returns from the Mangawhai polling booth very closely, and his commitment to go into bat for us would be directly linked to how hard we went to bat for him!! Sounds like a fair deal, perhaps? Rest assured that if we get shafted again in the Courts we are certainly going to need someone in the political system to be batting for us. Seriously though, SOMEBODY has to go into bat on behalf of the country’s ratepayers, and very soon.
GST on Rates
NZ First said GST should come off rates because rates are a tax and it is wrong to tax taxes. Focus NZ said that the GST on rates should not go to central government but should be used in the district in which it was collected. ACT said that under a government in which it was a part rates would not rise by more than the inflation rate, which would require regulation, which ACT said it was going to remove.
Most of the proceedings were videoed, and a sound recording was made of all the speeches and the exchanges afterwards.
Our Appeal of the High Court judgment
Clive Boonham addressed the meeting with a very clear explanation of the case at the Court of Appeal. He was concerned that it might have been a bit dry after all the hurly burly that went before. Nobody in the room thought that was the case at all.
Our case has three prongs:
● The true legal effect of the Validation Act
● The true legal meaning of the Protected Transaction Provisions of the LGA
● The breach of the Bill of Rights by the Commissioners in bringing their vindictive and vicious Bill to the House while our case was before the High Court.
The Rates Strike and the Bully Boys
The questions were asked “What should we do about withholding rates?”, and “What do we do if we are threatened with legal action?”
You are safe for now.
Nothing further can be added to your rates bill until the 20th November. If you are still not paying rates, hang on until we get some properly considered advice out to you about that, in good time for you to make a decision before any further penalties are applied.
If you are being sued and if you need help, we will help you.
If you are threatened with legal action and you would like help, get in touch with us. We believe that the council will have to climb some very steep hills to successfully sue any Kaipara ratepayer for non-payment of rates, and when the time comes we intend to be ready to provide a vigorous defence to anyone who is sued by this council.
Contest for YOU!
Lastly, on a lighter note, Tom Parsons made the observation that these commissioners call themselves the council, when they are not a council and are in reality nothing remotely like a council. Think of a more appropriate name for them and email it to mrra @ vodafone.co.nz We will publish the (printable!) results, and award a prize (Bennett’s chocolate fish) for the best entry.
Winston Peters’ Speech
Winston Peters spoke at the Meet the Candidates’ Meeting at the Mangawhai Gym today (Sunday the 7th of September 2014):
Posted at 3:07pm Sunday 07 Sep, 2014
There needs to be a corrective history of how this sorry saga came about.
• About 14 years ago the Beca group became head consultant for the Mangawhai sewerage project, it evaluated tenders, and awarded the tender to itself, receiving $675000 of ratepayers’ money to manage the bid process.
• The Beca group in association with the council’s chief executive officer Jack McKerchar settled on Simon Engineering from Australia as the preferred bidder.
• Simon Engineering had claimed experience in dozens of engineering projects in Australia like Mangawhai.
• Simon Engineering had no such experience other than a trailer park equivalent to a single subdivision in Mangawhai.
• Councillor Bruce Rogan sought a referral from one of Simon Engineering’s purported happy customers in Australia.
• This cautious request was attacked by Beca group project group leader Johnson and the Mayor and no information was forthcoming.
• In 2002 the local government amendment Act banned the concept of a 25 year old –build-own-operate-transfer project.
• Neither Beca or the chief executive observed the law change because the deal had already been secretly committed to.
• Councillor Rogan’s request that Simon Engineering be warned of exceeding its budget was ignored by the chief executive officer who later said that his failure to follow a council resolution was because it might have frightened the horses.
• Councillor Rogan directly advised Simon Engineering of the council resolution, which caused the company to bolt and financially go belly up.
• What remained of Simon Engineering’s skeletal remains morphed into a new creation Beca-Simon which promoted itself as a multinational infrastructure builder.
• So the project manager became the builder, or put it another way, had now organised a contract with himself.
• In time the contract ended up with Water Infrastructure Group now running the entire waste water system project.
• Quarterly reviews were denied the Kaipara councillors under threat of legal action.
• Some councillors were asking difficult questions of the relationship of Mr McKerchar and a council staff employee working on the planning for the sewerage scheme.
• The council employee transferred from the council to the Beca group who then contracted her back to provide services to the Kaipara council.
• Another sewerage scheme on the west coast of Kaipara went to the same contractors for $7 million despite the financial blow out on the Mangawhai scheme, or that another proposed tenderer at $5 million was warned off because of the affect that this tender might have on the roading contracts in the Kaipara district the following year.
• The Auditor-General was aware of the chief executive officer-council employee-cum Beca employee connection but she did not think it was relevant.
• Staff at the council lived in fear for their positions if they questioned decisions. And the chief executive officer, when appointed commissioners took over the council, was given a $240,000 handshake.
Ladies and gentlemen this is not the script for a novel or a bodice-ripping bestseller. This is a sorry litany of negligence, corruption and coverup.
The Simon Engineering connection puts one in mind of Novopay, another bunch of Aussie Ned Kellys, who took over our education payroll system despite having no experience in that business whatsoever. Costs have blown out to around $60 million, some teachers are still not getting paid despite the government picking up the skeletons of Novopay.
New Zealand First, as a result of extensive investigation, discussions, and analysis, opposed the Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and other Matters) Bill.
The National Party, Labour, Greens, Māori, ACT and United Future parties all supported it.
Hone Harawira, believing that New Zealand First was on to something, opposed it as well.
Illegalities in entering into loans are not mere technicalities or formalities but go to the heart of local government’s obligation to consult ratepayers before entering into large financial commitments.
Especially where the rates can be set to cover illegal loans.
In Kaipara’s case community consultation stopped at $34 million. But the scheme’s cost ended up being far more than double the price.
Contractors have taken large margins. The ANZ bank acquired the original loans at a 40%mark down, clearly having done some due diligence on the whole scheme. But that bank is insisting upon the full loan. Where Beca Group sits in this is a good question requiring answer. They were contracted to manage the project so why are they not taking a haircut as well.
But the key issue here is what is the responsibility of central government in this sorry mess. The auditor general’s office is a key agency in central government.
Retrospective legislation that is harmful to any party should be an abomination in a democracy.
In this instance, it was used as a device to brush incompetence and corruption under the carpet.
New Zealand First’s view is clear; inconvenient truths should not be buried but exposed to the cleansing light of public scrutiny.
Cover up – deny – and avoid scrutiny whilst the innocent suffer and the guilty walk away unscathed and fully paid.
How the Audit Office allowed five years of clean audits to go through on the Kaipara District Council while the sewerage scheme racked up so much debt is incredible, especially as some of you were voicing concerns early on.
How the Auditor General refused to consider many questionable matters, saying they were irrelevant, begs the question.
If that is not relevant what is?
The Auditor General’s office has a reputation for integrity but what went wrong here?
Was it that some the participants looked too big to be questioned?
However your political representatives in Parliament, from all parties, except New Zealand First and Mana, were no better.
They defended the Auditor General and take no responsibility for forgetting about you.
Former Prime Minister Norman Kirk once pointed out to MPs that it was not their job to defend the Government Department from the people; instead their role was to defend the people from the Department.
He was precisely right. So instead of defending you, 112 politicians rushed to defend the Audit Office, and they went further collectively sweeping all the wrongdoing under the carpet by voting for retrospective legislation.
The National government has wiped its hands of your problem, as have the other parties and there’s been no attempt to try and renegotiate the loans, to lessen the load, or step in do their duty by you.
There’s been no admission of the culpability of the Audit Office which should see Central Government pick up the bill for the bloated cost.
We are 13 days from an election and some of you want New Zealand First to declare its position on Coalitions now. I trust you now all understand what a betrayal of you it would be to enter pre-election Coalition arrangements without securing your interests in negotiations first. Or would you prefer someone who is ‘all tea and sympathy’ with no objective of backing it up.
National and its local MPs, past and present, should be ashamed of their underhand way of allowing the guilty to escape accountability and leaving you with the cost.
A similar matter is occurring under your eyes where the SuperGoldCard is concerned.
It has a free travel component which is under review in November, after the election.
We know the National Party wants to wind it back, although its annual cost would be a third of the Novopay debacle.
It benefits 630,000 Seniors.
Last night Minister Woodhouse on TV denied our allegations. Well, Mr Woodhouse, how do you explain the discussions between government and local body transport authorities being held behind closed doors as I speak.
Four years ago the master of Novopay was caught out on a similar denial. And now another Minister, Woodhouse, has been caught out doing the same.
With 13 days to go before the election you can vote for your political choice and remain with an albatross around your neck, or can you see with great clarity what you now must do.
Party vote New Zealand First because for you, more than probably any other group in New Zealand
It’s Common Sense
– See more at: http://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/81874-winstons-speech.html
Bullet points from Clive’s address:
We have been criticised by Robertson, Pooley and others, for appealing.
If we had won would the KDC have sucked it up like they are telling us to do, and not have appealed?
If we had won would KDC have immediately refunded all the illegal rates, pending appeal outcome?
Grounds for Appeal
● Validation ACT – What did it really validate?
● The so-called Protected Transactions-
– What do they protect
– Who do they protect
– Who is responsible for honouring them?
● New Zealand Bill of Rights Act
– There was a breach (High Court said so)
– Who committed the breach? (we think it was the commissioners, who simply cannot commit breaches of the Bill of Rights Act)
– Are they accountable for that?
Sincere thanks to those who made financial contributions at the meeting and to those who continue to help out with funding. If you have donated to the cause please don’t feel any obligation to do so again, but for those who haven’t….? As we said at the meeting, the award of costs by the High Court will go a long way to funding the cost of the appeal(s).
Our bank account number is:-
38-9012-0318164-00 and our postal address for cheques is PO Box 225 Mangawhai 0540.
Please attach your membership number 2012047.
Thank you again to those who came along and made the meeting on Sunday such a success. It might not have been our biggest turnout ever, but it was a much bigger community turnout than most politicians ever see in their lifetimes!
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr