The plight of Pokeno homeowners is appalling. Four families with their life-savings tied up in their houses are being held to ransom by Waikato District Council.
Resembling Tauranga’s Bella Vista debacle where code compliance certificates were issued without proper inspections, the council claims that the finished and fully certified houses suddenly need retrospective resource consents – and that the residents should pay for the council’s mistake.
One of the group dared to make a complaint. The council’s response has been to cease talking to him. This sounds all too familiar. After failing to bully the families into forking out, the bureaucrats are trying to wear them down by dragging it out. At the time of writing, it is nine weeks for a process that the Resource Management Act requires to be completed in twenty working days. Who are these civil servants serving?
The council would rather spend money on lawyers than fixing the problem, and according to a council spokesperson, “that is standard practice”.
Is it standard practice to screw up consents? If not, then probably Gavin Ion, Waikato District Council Chief Executive Officer, should actually be trying to sort it out. That is his job as made clear by the Local Government Act 2002, Section 42 C: the chief executive is responsible for “ensuring that all responsibilities, duties, and powers delegated to…any person employed by the local authority…are properly performed…” The buck stops at the top.
If he wants to pay lawyers to do his job for him, then he should pay from his own pocket. But adding insult to injury, ratepayers including the Pokeno families are the ones paying.
Last year’s fraud investigation into Waikato District Council identified a need for process improvements. Councils (and any large institution) need to be regularly reminded that sometimes the outcome is more important than the process. If the outcome is bad, change the process.