The ex-MP chairing the government appointed commissioners running the Kaipara District Council in place of its elected councillors is being paid NZ$1,400 a day with the other three commissioners getting NZ$900 per day, Minister of Local Government David Carter says.
Carter says these fees are consistent with the daily rates for the Environment Canterbury commissioners. The fees are being paid by funds held by the Kaipara District Council, ie by ratepayers, with the commissioners also having their travel and "other costs" reimbursed out of council funds.
"This cost to the Kaipara community is balanced by the fact that the elected representatives will not be paid during the commissioners' term of appointment," Carter said.
Carter appointed the commissioners in August.
They are chairman John Robertson, who is an ex-MP National Party and United New Zealand MP and former Papakura mayor, Richard Booth, a Whangarei-based business owner and farmer, Colin Dale, who was chief executive of Manukau City Council for 21 years, and Peter Winder, a former chief executive of Auckland Regional Council and chief executive of Local Government New Zealand. Their roles aren't full time.
The appointment of the councillors came after a government review team identified serious governance and financial challenges facing Kaipara District Council that were "beyond the current councillors’ ability to resolve.” Kaipara District Council's annual report for the year to June 30, 2011, only released last month, shows total debt of just under NZ$82.9 million. Of this NZ$75.9 million is through bank loans, with interest.co.nz told ANZ holds about NZ$52 million to NZ$53 million of this, with the balance - NZ$22 million to NZ$23 million - with BNZ.
Government involvement came after the council proposed, in April, an average 31% rate increase for the 2012–13 financial year largely due to a botched sewage and wastewater scheme at Mangawhai, which has led to a rates revolt thought to involve up to a third of Kaipara ratepayers. In August the council acknowledged it had been too aggressive with its proposed rates increases, and said it would instead propose an average rate increase of 19%.
A report from Carter's review team said the council had collected NZ$17.3 million of invalid rates. Furthermore, the debt incurred by the council to fund the Mangawhai scheme, which was initially expected to cost NZ$35 million but saw it borrow NZ$58 million, and other capital works, make it one of the most indebted councils in New Zealand on a per capita basis.
"The debt per capita in the Kaipara District for the 2010–11 financial year was NZ$4,436, compared to a national average of NZ$1,296 (excluding Auckland councils). The average for rural councils was NZ$1,042," the report said.
Carter said the Government has postponed the 2013 elections for the Kaipara District Council until October 2015 with the commissioners staying in place until then.
"This will enable the commissioners to adopt the 2015-2025 long-term plan and assist with the induction of the newly elected Mayor and Councillors in October 2015," said Carter.
The councillors will be reviewing the council's financial strategy, plans, rating policies, plus debt and asset management. See Carter's full answers to interest.co.nz under the Official Information Act here, plus the terms and conditions of the commissioners' appointment. And see more on the Kaipara situation here.