Democracy returning to Kaipara with local body elections

Democracy returning to Kaipara with local body elections

In this year's local body elections, there's one district that won't be taking its vote for granted.

The Kaipara District stretches from Mangawhai to Dargaville and for the last four years has had no mayor after an illegal budget blowout and a rates revolt saw the leaders booted out and replaced by commissioners.

But now, Kaipara's getting its democracy back.

It's been on hold since 2012 when commissioners took over and the community is ready for a local in charge.

"We need it, eh. It's like a small town and we need someone to be in control of it and doing what we want," a local told Newshub.

Kaipara's last elected council oversaw a budget blowout, when a wastewater plant almost doubled in cost, and council debt rose by tens of millions of dollars.

The project was later ruled to be illegal, but the cost was passed on to Kaipara ratepayers. Some saw their rates rise 300 percent. Around 1000 revolted and refused to pay the bill.

"There was anger in the community, that the council hadn't performed to the expectations that the community had," says Kaipara District Council Commissioners chairman John Robertson.

The commissioners who took over managed to reduce the council's debt by $15 million.

Now they're handing over to elected officials, and the man who led the rates revolt is running for mayor.

"My motivation for getting involved is to make sure the past is not forgotten and make sure any lessons that can be learned from it are learned and stay in people's heads," says candidate Bruce Rogan.

One of a remaining few still holding out on paying rates, Mr Rogan faces a bill of $20,000, which he says he will pay if elected mayor.

But his biggest rival for the mayoralty - Ruawai's Greg Gent - says Mr Rogan's holdout isn't fair.

"I think in the interim rates should've been paid. You can't bring a community to its knees, and if we'd all not paid our rates, there'd be no Kaipara District Council today," says Mr Gent.

Whoever takes the helm will do so knowing Kaipara deserves better this time around.