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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