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Council applies to strike out defamation proceedings

Media release
30 September 2015

Auckland Council applies to strike out Penny Bright defamation proceedings


Auckland Council has applied to have Penny Bright’s defamation proceedings struck out, with the matter to be heard by the High Court at a hearing on 5 November.

The council is seeking to recover unpaid rates of $38,372.22 from Ms Bright which date back eight years.

Separately, Ms Bright has initiated defamation proceedings in relation to comments concerning her unpaid rates made by the council in a press statement last year, which the council is defending against.

Ms Bright has refused repeated offers from council to resolve the outstanding rates, in a manner which would avoid her incurring financial hardship or the sale of her house.

Auckland Council’s General Manager Finance Kevin Ramsay says: “Auckland Council did not initiate these defamation proceedings but clearly we need to respond to the claims Ms Bright has made. As we have said previously, we believe the views expressed about Ms Bright were fair and accurate, and we completely reject the accusations she has made.

“We have given Ms Bright every opportunity to resolve her outstanding rates bill in a way that would avoid financial hardship, including the option of deferment. That option remains open to her.”

“Ms Bright’s offer to settle the defamation case with an apology and a payment to her of $10,000 was unacceptable from our perspective. It is open to Ms Bright to stop the court action at any time without further unnecessary costs to ratepayers.”

The courts have discretion, but routinely award costs to successful parties. Costs will be sought if the application succeeds.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Background to Defamation proceedings

The proceedings were brought by Ms Bright following this statement, issued by Auckland Council, in October last year.

The statement followed comments made by her in this Herald interview and other media reports prior to 10 October.

Background to Ms Bright’s outstanding rates

January 2008: A final notice for rates payment is sent, as well as numerous calls made to Ms Bright. Council discussed with Ms Bright the options for rates payment, including a rebate. During the final call to Ms Bright, she advised council she disputed rates owed.

March 2008: A statement of claim to Ms Bright’s rates was filed in court.

June 2008: A statement of defence was filed in court by Ms Bright.

November 2008: A reserved judgment was filed which states Ms Bright is liable to pay the rates due to council.

April 2009: A High Court decision awards $300 in costs to Auckland Council.

October 2009: A final District Court judgment for rates and legal costs is issued.

July 2010: A query from Ms Bright, regarding the age of construction of her dwelling is received. An inspection is carried out and a letter is sent to Ms Bright, confirming there is no impact on the value of the dwelling.

April 2011: A charging order is placed on Ms Bright’s property.

October 2011: A recommendation to proceed with legal action on outstanding rates is signed.

November 2011: Notice of claim is served on and accepted by Ms Bright.

December 2011: Ms Bright serves a notice of response on council.

January 2012: Auckland Council serves information capsule to the District Court.

February 2012: Auckland Council obtains a second judgment in Ms Bright’s rates arrears case as Ms Bright failed to, in response, file an information capsule to the court.

April 2012: A second charging order is placed on Ms Bright’s property.

March 2014: A notice of intention to enforce judgment sent after no contact or payment from Ms Bright.

March 2014: In the same month, Auckland Council applies for an enforcement of judgment for rates via a rating sale.

9 October 2014: Ms Bright applies to set aside the default judgment.

10 October 2014: Two days later, Ms Bright applies for a stay of proceedings.

10 March 2014: Default judgment set aside following a hearing before Judge Harvey.

26 March 2015: Auckland Council sends an amended rates invoice to Ms Bright, minus legal fees.

12 May 2015: Auckland Council files an amended statement of claim, which now includes an application for a summary of judgment for unpaid rates from Ms Bright, dating from June 2006 to 11 March 2015.

15 June 2015: Ms Bright files a notice of opposition to the council’s application for a summary judgment in the case.


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