Horowhenua Shames Kapiti

coastal hazardsGuru says KCDC wasting ratepayers money on Court cases, while northern neighbours consult

Introduction by Alan Tristram

At a time when money is short for many residents — and rates are rising — it seems insane for the KCDC to be spending large sums in Court fighting its own residents.

But, as just one councillor among ten (K. Gurunathan ) seems prepared to point out, the Kapiti Coast District Council is doing just this, while its northern neighbours are taken a very different approach… and saving large sums of money in the process.

The Independent has asked Councillor K Gurunathan to explain why he thinks the KCDC is wasting ratepayers money.

Horowhenua shows Kapiti the way!

By Councilor K Gurunathan

The Horowhenua District Council has shown the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC)  – and Kapiti people — how much more politically astute they are in managing the impact of new scientific facts on coastal hazards.

The KCDC, on receiving its scientific information last year, immediately imposed it on the Property LIM (Land Information Memo) reports of 1800 properties, angering beach-front residents and triggering legal action.

But the Horowhenua District Council sought public feedback first!

Last week the Horowhenua Council,  and the Horizons Regional Council, announced they had a report undertaken by coastal hazard experts Tonkin and Taylor Ltd and …wait for it… Coastal Systems Ltd  (from the same expert, Dr Shand, who provided advice to the KCDC. So, essentially, the science is the same.)

(The Kapiti Coast and the Horowhenua not only share a common political boundary with the Kapiti Coast District Council, they also share a natural coastline exposed to coastal hazards)

But consider the different approach of the northern councils. Their joint statement says:“The primary purpose of assessments such as this one is to inform district and regional council land use and hazard management planning processes”.

So one could say that the assessment was ‘fit for purpose’.

Meanwhile, this week the High Court started to hear Waikanae Beach resident Mike Weir’s case against KCDC.

The KCDC’s argument has always been that once a local authority is in possession of a hazard report it has no choice but to stick it in the LIM (Land Information Memo) reports.

Council has claimed this was set out in section 44A of the Local Government Information and Meetings Act (LOGIMA). This stone tablet interpretation of this tenet is at the core of the Mike Weir case.

Horowhenua’s sensible approach

The Horowhenua joint statement outlines a very different approach: It says: “However, the progress by which the information is to be given effect to and communicated to interested parties, rests with Horowhenua District Council.”

So did the Horowhenua Council, on receipt of the report, cite section 44A of the Act and stick it on the LIM reports of all the affected properties? And did their councillors, on staff recommendation, rubber stamp that staff decision?

No they did not!

The joint statement says the study findings were presented to an initial meeting of interested parties: These included the Foxton Community Board and the ratepayers’ associations of Waikawa, Hokio and Waitarere beaches.

It adds: “It was agreed at the meeting that this information now needs to be conveyed to the wider communities. That will take place before the Horowhenua District Council decides on its response to the information”.

Am I the only one who is confused?  Why is it mandatory for Kapiti to stick it into the LIM reports but not so in the Horowhenua?

Does Horowhenua have different lawyers advising them on due process and the interpretation of section 44A?

KCDC ‘embroiled in costly legal process’

The conflicting approach has meant KCDC is now embroiled in a costly legal process through the High Court, while Horowhenua’s collaborative political approach looks like the best-practice model for the rest of the country.

Win or lose, the Kapiti Mike Weir case is bound to create national waves. If Weir wins, the consequences for KCDC will be huge, with possible Court action for damages filed by those impacted by proven or perceived loss of property values.

If he loses, it could mean a precedent for local authorities to put unchallenged and non-site specific information into the LIMs. Will it not skewer the fundamental intent of section 44A and trigger appeals to test the judge’s decision?

If Mike Weir wins, will KCDC appeal the case? Will the financial consequences of legal action by affected property owners force KCDC to appeal and spend even more ratepayer money doing it?

These are serious questions with serious consequences.