Penny Bright's unpaid rates result in Auckland Council move to sell her property

By Ryan Dunlop

Penny Bright at her home in Kingsland, Auckland. Auckland Council has requested the High Court sell Bright's property to recover unpaid rates and penalties dating back to 2007.
Penny Bright at her home in Kingsland, Auckland. Auckland Council has requested the High Court sell Bright's property to recover unpaid rates and penalties dating back to 2007.

Activist Penny Bright will be "fighting like hell" to save her Kingsland property after Auckland Council asked the High Court to sell the house to recoup unpaid rates and penalties.

The sale would seek to recover tens of thousands of dollars of rates and penalties dating back to 2007.

This followed an unsuccessful appeal by Bright and a statutory six-month stand down period for the council.

Auckland Council acting group chief financial officer Matthew Walker said taking enforcement action to recover unpaid rates was "the last resort and happens very rarely".

"The council has written to Ms Bright regularly over the last six months offering to resolve this matter.

"We have also offered to meet with her to discuss rates postponement, which she has declined," he said.

Bright, an activist and self-proclaimed "anti-corruption whistleblower", was shocked to find out from a news outlet that Council was attempting to sell her home for the third time.

"I'm slightly shell-shocked. It has come out of the blue."

She wanted people following the case to focus on the "lawlessness of the Auckland Council".

Bright said she put her freehold property on the line 10 years ago in her fight to get the council to become transparent and follow the legislation of Section 17 of the Public Record Act - specifically for private contracts.

The Act detailed the requirement to create and maintain records.

"How many people do you know would put their freehold property on the line?

"I want to know why it is lawful for the council to act like the Wild West on steroids.

"How can you have transparency without fully detailed public records available for scrutiny by the public?"

Bright wanted council contracts to show a unique contract number, the name of the contract, the scope of the contract, the contract finish date, the exact value of each and every contract and how the contract was tendered.

Without transparency there was space for corruption, that was where "billions of dollars" was going, she said.

She wasn't thinking about the potential of her house being sold, she would be "fighting like hell" and making a ginormous fuss.

"I will not be giving up on my house."

Since she had paid off her house in 2000, she said she worked fulltime "in the public interest".

In January 2016, the District Court entered judgment for Auckland Council against Bright for $34,182.56 for outstanding rates and penalties.

Costs were awarded in the council's favour for $13,249.20

In July 2016 Chief High Court judge Justice Geoffrey Venning dismissed an appeal by Bright in the High Court at Auckland and awarded costs in favour of the council for $7080.

The summary judgment obtained was for outstanding rates and penalties of $34,182.56, as at 30 June 2015.

The council has been awarded total costs in the District and High Courts of $20,329.20.

In May 2017 the High Court issued a notice pursuant to the Local Government Rating Act of 2002 requiring Bright to pay the judgment sum, costs and all remaining rates due on the property.

If an arrangement could not be reached with Bright and the sale of the property went ahead, it would be used to recover the full amount of outstanding rates and penalties and any further costs, including real estate agency and legal fees.

The remainder of the proceeds from the sale would be released to Bright through the Public Trust.

- NZ Herald

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