Call for replacement commissioner in Far North a 'big trigger'

Wiremu Puriri greets Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones at Waitangi.
Wiremu Puriri greets Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones at Waitangi.

An appeal for support to replace the Far North District Council with a commissioner did not fall on especially fertile ground at NZ First MP Shane Jones' annual Waitangi party at his home in Kerikeri on Sunday.

The leaflet, which was unsigned, and which the Northland Age was told had been given to most if not all of Mr Jones' parliamentary colleagues who were there, called for the appointment of a commissioner on the grounds that the council was slow in issuing commercial building permits, and was suing "dozens" of ratepayers who would negotiate a settlement if they had the chance to.

The appeal for support that was handed out at Shane Jones' annual Waitangi party at his home in Kerikeri.
The appeal for support that was handed out at Shane Jones' annual Waitangi party at his home in Kerikeri.

Mr Jones said he had been unable to meet with Mayor John Carter, as he had hoped to, prior to Waitangi Day, but he wanted to talk with him, and deputy Mayor Tania McInnes, before speaking with Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. A meeting is scheduled in Kerikeri.

"As you know I am championing the regions, and any problems that might impact on that need to be addressed ASAP, but pulling the commissioner trigger would be a very big step," he said.

He would also speak to his party leader and former Northland MP Winston Peters, and if necessary would approach the Local Government Commission to see if there was some way of improving the "spirit" of the council and stakeholders.

"But first I need to talk to John," he added.

Meanwhile Mr Carter said in the 2016/17 year the council had processed 89 per cent of building consent applications within the statutory time frames, despite dealing with record numbers of applications and skill shortages as a result of the building boom.

International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) had commented positively on the council's consent processes when the accreditation body conducted a routine audit last year.

"That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement," he said.

"We are addressing issues raised by IANZ, and we try hard to remedy reasonable customer complaints when they arise.

"But neither the council nor IANZ believes it is up to ratepayers to pay for staff to correct and complete applications on behalf of developers, especially when they choose not to take advantage of pre-application meetings with staff, which speed up the processing of applications."

Nor was it correct to say the council was not willing to settle disputes outside court, he said.

"Legal action is always a last resort, and we often reach agreement by mediation or by negotiating directly with people," he said.

"We also have a duty to act in the interests of ratepayers when this approach fails."
The council was currently taking legal action against four people over unpaid debts and alleged breaches of contract, he said.

- Northland Age

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