As indicated in this post on this site, I have now reached a financial settlement with Auckland Council.
This was Auckland Council compensating me for my time (and the professional people I had to employ on my behalf) over the last battle which was about airspace rights and balconies. Search on the Davo Tries Again tag (by simply clicking it at the bottom of this post) if you want to read the whole story.
But basically, the council decided that even though they had given me resource consent, building consent and CCC for these balconies, that I was impinging on their airspace and therefore I had to cede the balconies to them, enter into leases with them to lease the balconies back off of them and pay them an annual rental plus setup costs of around $10k for the privelege.
So at the start of this ridiculous battle, I notified the council that I would be charging for my time spent in fighting this. And once I was proved correct, I would invoice them for my time and other costs incurred.
And so after months of fighting with the council, I was indeed proved correct and proceeded to invoice them. The items on the invoice were 2xplanner’s time, 1xRMA lawyer’s time, and my time. It totaled $12,100 including GST.
Now, at this point I need to give credit to those who helped me fight this fight with Auckland Council and their CCO Auckland Transport. The main 2 were Calum Penrose and John Robinson, both members of the Manurewa/Papakura local board i.e. councillors with Auckland Council. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to win this battle. These guys are sensible, stand up guys who go in to fight for their constituents. I only have the highest praise for them.
Secondly, there were 2 independent planners I consulted with and a lawyer in the law firm I’ve dealt with for years who provided opinions, legal precedents and so on which proved emphatically that the council was incorrect in it’s assertions that they could charge me for the use of some airspace that they had already given me permission to use. I wont’ name them here in case they do not wish me to. But if you’re looking for a good planner or RMA lawyer, email me and I will provide details.
The other people who were helpful were council staff. I won’t name them, again in case they would not want me to, but they were very helpful. They are right up the top of the organisation and sort out the problems created by the staff lower down (in my experience, the planning staff at the Papakura office). The main guy I dealt with there is very professional, fair and basically just gets things done very quickly. I haven’t met him but when I picture him, I think of the Michael Clayton from the eponymous movie.
Anyway, so I invoied the council $12,100. They came back and offered $7625, which was based on them paying all of the professional’s time and half of my time. I accepted this. Why? Well for these reasons:
- If I didn’t accept their offer, I’d have to take them to court. Now I could have taken them to the disputes tribunal and maybe I would have won more. Maybe I would have lost totally, who knows?
- Not many people get money out of the council, so I was glad to get some at all. The payment was made ‘ex gratia’ (which means ‘by favour’) ie.e they were not admitting fault but agreeing to pay me something at their discretion for my troubles. I didn’t agree with the principle of this, but these things are all swings and roundabouts.
- The council are not keen to be seen to be paying for people’s time in battling the council. Why? Because of course, they would be paying out millions each year. The council staff regularly overstep their authority and try to make people do things they have no right to insist upon. And so if everyone pursued them for costs every time this happened, they’d be up a certain creek without a paddle.
And of course, this development has left me broke! And so I’ll freely admit I could use the cash! And I’d rather take the ‘bird in the hand’ that is $7625 than spend months more chasing the ‘bird in the bush’ of $12,100.
So there we go, I think it’s important for people to know that if the council jerk you around enough, you can get them to pay for that. You have to advise them upfront that you are recording your time, others time and so on i.e. give them notice that you will be charging them at the conclusion of the ‘battle’. And then you send them an invoice at the end!
But of course things would be much simpler if they would only do their jobs properly in the first place. Council planners especially need to remember that they are not little Gods of their patch and can’t do whatever the hell they like. They can only do what is fair and reasonable – and what is allowed for in the various bits of legislation and district plans.
I’ll be happy to answer any questions anyone may have.