Defiant Mangawhai property owners refusing to pay rates would prefer to sort out alleged Kaipara District Council rating illegalities with commissioners now running the district rather than going to court.
Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents' Association members expect Auckland barrister Kip Littlejohn to soon finalise a draft legal opinion he has provided accusing the council of arrogant disregard for the law when setting rates this year.
Association chairman Bruce Rogan said it was hoped the final legal opinion would convince the Government-appointed commissioners who took over control of the council in August to negotiate a settlement over unpaid rates.
"Hopefully, the commissioners will see we have them 'dead to rights' over the rating illegalities. If they don't, we will have to apply for a High Court review which, in the end, will do no one any good," Mr Rogan said.
What had happened in Kaipara was a tragedy, he said.
"We believe we could have negotiated with the previous councillors if their feet had been held to the fire, but the Government has dismissed everything we said," Mr Rogan said.
The owners of more than 1100 Kaipara properties, with more than half of them in Mangawhai, have not paid their 2012/13 rates. And of the owners of the remaining 12,812 properties in the district, 2644 have only part-paid their rates, many covering the amount rated for 2011/12.
Increases which have more than doubled some rates were set by the former council in a bid to deal with an $80 million debt mostly attributable to the Mangawhai sewerage scheme.
Although the previous council admitted some of its rates and fees had been imposed illegally, the commissioners have been told by Local Government Minister David Carter to enforce the rates.
The commissioners' chairman, John Robertson, says in a letter distributed with rates demands last month the commissioners "absolutely accept" there were significant issues with Kaipara rates in the past. An Auditor-General's investigation into the Mangawhai sewerage scheme was not expected to be completed for several months.