Is Local Government in New Zealand corrupt?

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With three officers from Auckland Council CCO – Auckland Transport – now set to go on trial for bribery it is a convenient opportunity to raise the issue of corruption in local authorities.

Most ordinary citizens have no idea that corruption is rife. But there are varying types of corrupt behaviour and unless one is familiar with the law they can be overlooked.

Two of the most common forms of corruption occur so often you think it’s normal.

These two particular forms of corruption do not result in personal gain – such as back pocketing cash. But they do result in breaking the law, and they happen daily.

The first is ‘malfeasance’ and the second is ‘misfeasance’.

Both are the abuse of authority – or the position of authority.

These generally occur by breaking the rule of law. In NZ the laws that generally govern Local Government are the LGA (Local Government Act) and the RMA (Resource Management Act). Some other laws like the Public Works Act are part and parcel as well.

Breaking the law for ordinary citizens results in penalties. If caught it can do the same for those in local government but nobody is policing them so nothing happens.

‘Malfeasance’ occurs knowingly. The Council knows that the law is being broken but continues with what it is doing anyway because it knows it can get away with it. This c0vers the nasty, bullying things Councils do.

‘Misfeasance’ occurs unknowingly and amounts to negligence or recklessness. Whilst the Council didn’t know it broke the law it was stupid and should have known. Dumb people acting dumb but causing harm.

The thing is that the law should be sacrosanct to local government; a keystone of moral and ethical integrity with each and every officer careful to ensure compliance at every step.

The laws in NZ that concern local government are there to protect citizens and property owners from Councils and their CCOs.

What is striking, is the vast amount of recidivist law breaking that does occur by Councils. And the core reason for this is that they are corrupt. Rotten and contemptuously controlling and wanting their own way.

You may well have experienced the corrupt practices in simple ways:

– council planner forces you to change a particular feature of your proposed house, when no rules provide them the discretion to do so and there is no effect to warrant it. The house complies but they play games and ‘meddle’ with your design to lord over you;

– when town planners write district plans or make decisions without the empirical evidence to support those decisions;

– dodgy consultation processes that do not provide the required cost benefit analysis and costings of alternatives or have a distinct lack of information at all, meetings where they pretend to listen but nothing happens thereafter;

– district plans that propose modifications to private land, despite case law that establishes that the provision is unlawful. Like zoning for a park so that it can be purchased for park later at a devalued price;

– every time a resource consent is overturned by a court, the court is doing so because the council made the wrong decision under law;

– attempting to buy land for public works but without the lawful notices (Auckland Transport have been doing this on the rail loop land acquisitions);

– misappropriation of funds;

– not processing consents in the statutory time frame;

– discharging sewer into rivers without consent;

And on the list goes.

I urge you to tell stories today of dodgy things Councils have done to you. You’ll be surprised to learn that most of those were likely to have been ‘malfeasance’ or ‘misfeasance’ and are both unlawful. What happened may not have resulted in the council persons gaining financially but they lorded over you, abused their position of authority and made you feel like a piece of crap.

And this is actually corruption. It is so because it was an abuse of authority. The council or council person didn’t have the legal right to do it.

This is the tell-tale sign of a government culture that is in moral decay. Plenty of our Local Governments in NZ are breaking the law and regularly.

It’s time to clean them up.

 


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  • stop the ACC waste

    Internal reports from Auckland Council referred to 15 procurement staff at Auckland Transport being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. The real tragedy is that despite blatant fraud and mismanagement over a long period of time, involving hundreds of millions of dollars, nothing has changed at Auckland Transport. AT’s CEO still presides over his big empire. Maybe the overseas “study” trips funded by contractors for procurement staff and their wives and children have stopped, but does anyone believe the culture has changed, when the same people are still running AT?

    • Mine it,Drill it,Sell it.

      Any idea how I would get a copy of these Internal reports to see if I can line up some more Ducks ?

  • Bukitharon

    Just to clarify, are you arguing that there is insufficient legal process for you to pursue action against Councils when you suspect they make have broken the law? Because if so then provoking discussion of how to put these processes in place may be far more productive than sharing stories of perceived grievances

  • Thew

    I have a honest belief that there is corruption at the council in the letting of civil contracts, I see good roads and footpaths always being ripped out and replaced. Has anyone else noticed ?

    • Aucky

      I’ve mentioned this rort previously. Over two kms of perfectly preserved bluestone kerbing ripped up in One Tree Hill and replaced with concrete kerbstones. The totally unnecessary project took three weeks of contracted work to a wellknown roading company. Is it a coincidence that this kerbing has reappeared in Stonefields? It’s a very nice fit for the new development’s chintzy style.

      Who made the bucks on the way through?

  • stop the ACC waste

    The Auditor General thought the same thing about footpath contracts. http://oag.govt.nz/media/2009/footpath-contracts
    And who could forget the overbilling by the council contractor, for work not done in 2009. Council “resolved” this “misunderstanding” by getting an antique dealer to investigate and report. The contractor in question, who overbilled (and was paid) almost $90k for work not done, is still doing work for the council all over Auckland.
    Auckland Transport has been dirty for years.

  • MarcWills

    Next week in the Court of Appeal (25 & 26th) the the case for the legality of Kaipara rates demands which were found to be substantially based on illegal works authorised by the sacked previous Council will be heard. It is a very important case for ALL NZ ratepayers, since if the decision is in favour of the Council, it essentially means that Councils can do whatever they want, even if against the law, then the ratepayers are obliged to pick up the tab. This will be a landmark case, and we should all be concerned with the outcome.

  • Anthony Roberts

    One only has to look as far as the nauseating , sickening debacle surrounding the behaviours of the Kaipara District Council (now defunct – thrown out) …over many years – and replaced with a trio of National Party Jackboots ensconced to finish the job , ride roughshod and bully the community. Their mandate has been to flagrantly thumb their noses at the LGA and break just about every rule in the book. Then they have the gall to present pages of “irregularities” ( i.e illegalities ) to their cronies in Government and say “excuse me guys , could you tick all these (illegalities ) – and make them legal for us ? – thanks mate” – and call it retrospective law ! !. Is local government corrupt ??? you must be joking … from the core outwards. What is more deplorable is that no-one either in the media , nor the opposition has the Kahunas to raise the issue in headlines – rather than relegate a tiny perceived irrelevant council’s affairs to the back page. We will see how the high court appeal against this disgusting affair transpires. Wake up ..

    • Muffin

      respectfully I disagree. I think the commissioners are doing the best with a crappy situation they have inherited. I undeerstand a huge amounts of rates were raised illegally, but none the less the money was used on council business and I agree they needed to be made legal as the place was in no position to repay them. And I am one of those people who paid and are still paying so ……. I would prefer to see the previous CEO and coucillors hauled before the courts and made to suffer for 10 years of litigation./….. would be money well spent IMO

      • Anthony Roberts

        Mc Muffin , I will attempt to remain civil , although comments such as yours illustrate an absolute ignorance. Unfortunately it is those such as yourself who obviously have no idea of the actual facts and embark on a politically correct do-gooder stance for no justifiable reason. I am pleased that you are the only one who actually does knows where the $80-odd million dollars went, because nobody else does, even the auditor General or the OAG. ! Possibly you could ring them and inform them? .. and while you are at it , you could also ask where the extra $5 million dollar of community funds held in trust disappeared to ? However we do know where a quarter of a million dollars went. Into the back pocket of the CEO who has now disappeared into the ether. Get a grip – do you honestly think any recompense will be forthcoming from these characters ? I suggest you do a little study ( but you probably know the facts in reality anyway – you can’t kid a kidder) … meanwhile , return to planet earth … and see this rort for what it is.

        • Muffin

          Its funny but unreasonable and angry people like you do your crusade no favours. it really actually appears you just dont want to pay towards the running of the area. i dont know where the money went, never said I did, but at a guess I would say it was gouged out by associated consultants to the prevous CEO and COuncillors, hence my desire to see them face some retribution, regardless of whether it gains any money from them. Even been sued? it takes its toll. In the meantime maybe you should all have been more carefull with who you voted in, its your fault. You also seem overly agressive in your reply to what appeared to me to be a reasonably held counter opinion. You should get out more, relax, find other things to occupy your time.

          • Anthony Roberts

            Mc Muffin … I think your IQ test must have come back zero. There is nothing aggressive in anything I have stated. Purely the facts (contrary to your own “I would guess” statements). I can recommend a good counsellor for your over-sensitivity syndrome. You categorically stated “the money went on council business”. Therefore any lucid individual would obviously interpret that as you crowing that you knew it all. And who mentioned anything regarding my paying for anything ?
            Another of your “guesses” or assumptions , is that I voted for someone .. even without being eligible to do so. – wrong again.
            And it’s careful … not carefull …Einstein.
            You really should try and do a little more reading at home – drugs are not a good idea long-term.

          • Muffin

            It would appear you are proving my point. You have yet to produce any facts and are basically just being insulting to cover your lack of argument. It’s really pathetic. Just pony up your rates angry man. Maybe go and take some anger out on the mangroves next week, at least then you will be doing something productive. Oh and relax.

  • Deja Voodoo

    We had a client who wanted their mother to move in with them, they were converting their old double garage into a living/kitchen/bedroom area with shared bathroom / laundry. Everything would have remained open so that they could wander through the house and share a cup of tea etc. during the day. This was designed to comply with the local district plan.
    The planners weren’t happy with this as they said it would be rented out as a separate house (as mentioned, this complied with their “family flat” rule in their own district plan). Their recommendation was to lodge the current plans for resource consent as two separate units, which along with the development contribution would also lead to two lots of rates, and two separate titles that could be sold off as individual houses, despite this very clearly being one open house. Alternatively we could block off the internal access between the two units which wouldn’t need a resource consent, and the house would be considered as one unit. We explained that this wasn’t what the clients wanted, and asked them to point out the rule that they basing their decision on.
    Their response was a shrug and a comment about how it wasn’t so much a rule as much as it was an interpretation and the vibe (Mabo). The icing on the cake was when they suggest we build a wall, and knock it down after we have code compliance.

  • contractor

    Corruption by anyone must not be tolerated and policing of it in all public organisations must err on over surveillance because with the influx of people from most of the world which is highly corrupt we have to make sure it does not grow here.

  • Russell ORR

    There is some justification for the claims but there is also a lot of unjustified criticism regarding Local government. As a 4th term Councillor and Hearings Committee chair for a Council about the same size as Kaipara, I would be happy to set the record straight on many urban myths around Local Government.
    1. Local Government is Central Government’s whipping boy. It is forced to raise its revenue from landowners rather than income earners and is tasked with dealing with anything and everything that Central Government sees as unpopular.
    More to come unless I am simply abused…which is often the case.

  • Weju

    I work for a small Council and have been there for 20+ years. I am involved in the regulatory area, consents and licences etc. Some people think we sit at our desks and dream up ways to get money out of people. I can put my hand on my heart and say the council I work for is the opposite. Our teams always put our customer first and work with them to make any process they are going through as easy as possible and most certainly transparent. The regulatory area is not the easiest department to work in – animal control, parking officers, food and liquor licences, resource concerts, building inspectors etc. There are horror stories on a daily basis with our animal guys; they are threatened and abused; parking officers get abuse on a regular basis; and the people that work in this area where I work are fantastic and dedicated people. I am more involved in licensing and I can honestly say that my brief is to help and assist applicants from the beginning of the process to its end. Most fees are set by central government and our hands our tied in many areas.
    Our planning folks are also dedicated and transparent as are our building people – in many applications in building plans are lodged and we arrive at a site and the reality is that it can be nothing like the plans – same as with planning applications so this is another aspect of things having to be changed.
    I guess what I am trying to say is that where I work we do everything in our power to help our customer and we are not devious or deceptive. I know that because I work there and know the people I work with. Yes we are stymied to a certain extent by Central government but it is what it is. I am proud to work where I do and grateful that for the most part my work colleagues are good, dedicated and upstanding people. We are at the coal front and have little or no say over what things cost or rate rises.
    Please don’t write off all Councils as being evil.

    • Anthony Roberts

      Weju , Russ … I wholeheartedly agree with you. The people who are at the coalface contribute and are generally respected in doing what are often very difficult jobs. It is those who do not share the same commitment and dedication at what is perceived as the “top” , who’s agendas are entirely different. As in the case of Kaipara , and others – one or two politically-motivated bullies within a council (or any corporate for that matter) can destroy an entire organization , and exasperate it’s dedicated hard-working personnel to the point of throwing in the towel , as often happens. But the most disturbing aspect is when another hierarchy is entrenched into the same organization with the same agenda and carries on the political malaise, as if nothing ever happened. Those I have the utmost respect for ( and contrary to popular assumptions – I am not associated with) are those that make a stand and fight for something rather than lie down and roll-over. That is life … has gone on for centuries (apart from in one particular country not that long ago when everyone followed like sheep – saying “everything will be fine”.)
      When you take a look behind the door , past the dedicated people , you often find the rotten core.

  • Fred284

    This story highlights the exact thing that this subject talks about.
    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/353397/couple-battle-council-over-drainage
    Kiwi battlers against the might of the Dunedin City Council, who have their own agenda:
    When someone complains, deny liability until you have to. Then admit liability due to overwhelming evidence, but preface it with “Without Prejudice” so you can deny it again later.
    Then blame the complainants, forcing them to employ experts to refute it until they either give up or run out of money.
    3 years to go round in circles. Hold meetings, send council staff out to inspect, then do NOTHING. When complainants ask for meetings, duck-shove it by saying it is in the hands of the lawyers….

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