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Council pays $23m in expert fees for leaky home crisis

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Council pays $23m in expert fees for leaky home crisis in Auckland

Figures obtained under the Local Government Official Information And Meetings Act by Auckland Councillor for Orakei Cameron Brewer have revealed that $22.7m of ratepayers’ money has gone into the pockets of lawyers and so-called experts over the leaky home issue since the formation of Auckland Council on 1 November 2010, despite relatively low settlement numbers.

“This shows that the leaky home crisis is sadly the latest gravy train industry. With $15.6 million for legal fees and $7.1 million for technical experts, ratepayers deserve to see much less lining the pockets of the lawyers and consultants. Ratepayers will again be disgusted to hear about another huge council legal bill.”

However Mr Brewer says many leaky homeowners in dispute with council won’t be surprised.

“Some have told me they are staggered at just how many ratepayer-funded suits turn up during negotiations, all the tricks they try on, and just how long they stretch the process out – all at the cost of the suburban ratepayer, with the hourly rates invoiced huge.

“Perhaps the army of lawyers and experts should be paid only if they successfully reach a settlement, rather than being able to invoice a straight hourly rate, which seemingly is doing nothing to incentivise timely settlements with leaky homeowners already under huge pressure

“With many claimants opting to go into litigation with council, than take the Government-promoted Financial Assistance Package, we’ve seen Auckland Council arm itself with lawyers, negotiators, technical experts, and advisors and subsequently the costs have gone through the roof, with hundreds still unresolved and hours and costs still clocking up.

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“I call on Auckland Council to now reveal just who is on the gravy train and what each lawyer and expert is getting paid. The Ombudsman continues to investigate my complaint from earlier this year over the council’s refusal to disclose how much it has paid its different legal providers. It’s time for the Mayor to deliver on his promise on greater transparency and accountability. This council is good at handing out the cash, but bad at telling ratepayers who it’s going to,” says Mr Brewer.

Ends

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