If you're thinking about financially supporting the Island Bay Residents Association's judicial review you might want to read this first...
Residents of Island Bay and Berhampore have probably received this flyer from the Island Bay Residents Association (IBRA) in the last few days.
IBRA are well within their rights to seek a judicial review but collecting money from the public to fund it requires a level of transparency and accuracy that, in my opinion, this flyer and the associated information on their Givealittle page doesn't meet. If you want to donate to IBRA that's up to you but at least be aware of the following...
The judicial review has a very low chance of 'success'
I've written previously on why I think the judicial review is an absolutely terrible idea that I support anyway. I suggest you read that blog post in full but in summary:
Some of the information in the flyer and on the Givealittle page is misleading
The claim that "Four times now, 80% of submitters have been clear on what they want for The Parade" isn't true. I'm not even sure what 'four times' IBRA are referring to but what's absolutely clear is that was not result of the 2017 consultation that came at the end of the Love the Bay process. According to the September 2017 The Parade – Island Bay Design Option Refinement report (page 6) the quantitative consultation results actually looked like this:
It's also worth noting that IBRA's 'Option E' solution has not been consulted on four times as implied by the flyer. 'Option E' was only developed by IBRA in late 2017 in response to the four options arrived at by WCC and their consultants as a result of the Love the Bay process.
IBRA's Givealittle page also states that indicative costing for Option E is "to be confirmed but would be no more than $750k". This claim is false and IBRA has known it is false for at least 18 months. In the September 2017 Design Option Refinement report the cost of Option E is estimated to be $3.8m (page 8). Even accounting for the fact both these numbers are estimates that's a massive disparity that IBRA should have acknowledged.
There are questions about IBRA's legal status
IBRA continue to describe themselves as incorporated society, including on their Givealittle page. However, they haven't held an AGM or approved any financial statements since Oct 2017, which is a breach of their own rules. In October 2018 they announced they were delaying their AGM until February 2019 despite there being no provision in their rules to do this. This also means that they haven't published any information about their finances beyond March 2017, which is almost two years ago.
This failure is probably also a breach of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908, although in reality the Registrar of Incorporated Societies (the Registrar) is very slow to remove societies from the register for non-compliance, and the Act is so antiquated (it's been due for review for years) that it's barely enforceable.
However, the High Court might put more emphasis on IBRA's legal status and whether they can legitimately take anyone to court right now. If the court date is set for May IBRA are running out of time to hold an AGM and submit financial statements to the Registrar as per the Act, assuming the High Court would even accept that. Their rules require them to seek nominations for the committee 30 days before the meeting so the earliest they can now hold an AGM is mid-late March. Of course, they will also need a set of April 2017 - March 2018 accounts by then, which would need to be submitted to the Registrar within a month of being approved at the AGM.
Despite the fact that it might suit WCC I'd be very disappointed if the judicial review was delayed while IBRA did some of the basic house-keeping associated with being an incorporated society. As I outlined in my previous blog I'd like to see the review get through court as quickly as possible and bring a much needed conclusion to the whole saga. Any delays are also likely to cost more money in legal fees, which IBRA are funding out of the pockets of donors. In addition, if IBRA lose the judicial review and have costs awarded against them they will almost certainly then become bankrupt. That would mean the council's legal costs will fall upon ratepayers, so we all have an interest in the council's costs being kept to a minimum.
We've been here before
Many of the same people behind IBRA were behind the Democratic Voice for Island Bay (DVIB) group who threatened a judicial review back in 2015. They quickly backed down but not before they had raised approximately $15,000, of which nearly $4,000 was via this Givealittle page. If you are considering giving to IBRA this time around you really should read the Q&A are make sure you are happy with the answers given to some of the questions. The key question, of course, is what happened to the money?
Interestingly DVIB is still a registered incorporated society. According to the societies register it held an AGM on 30 September 2017 at which 8 of the 15 members were required to be present to form a quorum. At the meeting they approved annual accounts for the year ending 31 March 2016 and the year ending 31 March 2017, which is more sloppy house-keeping. It's not clear whether DVIB ever held AGMs by 30 September 2016 and 30 September 2018 in accordance with its rules. It certainly hasn't lodged any financial records past 31 March 2017 with the Registrar.
According to the societies register between September 2015 and March 2017 DVIB raised $14,168 in donations and spent $10,093 on legal fees, $379 on printing & stationary and $75 on bank fees. As at 31 March 2017 they still had $3,622 sitting in an ANZ bank account. Because they haven't lodged any annual accounts since then there is a two year gap in transparency over what happened to the money.
Basically all DVIB ever achieved was to threaten a judicial review and then almost immediately back down, and they somehow managed to spend over $10,000 on legal fees doing it. As of March 2017 they were still sitting on nearly $4,000 and it's not at all clear who's currently in control of that money and what's going to happen to it [Note 2]. The press release announcing they were giving up on a judicial review said any funds left after paying legal expenses would be "put towards initiatives in Island Bay", which is consistent with their rules, but as of March 2017 that hadn't happened.
Both DVIB's and IBRA's Givealittle campaigns are 'open goals' which means they get any money donated without having to meet a target and regardless of the outcome of their cause. Basically, if you make a donation then your money's gone no matter what happens. Of course, that's also true if you donate directly to their bank account. This time round IBRA are promising "you will get a percentage of your money back when we are successful, and if the court awards us costs" if you donate over $500.
If you were one of the people who donated to DVIB I think it would be quite reasonable for you to feel pissed off at the outcome. If you still feel inclined to financially support IBRA's judicial review but don't want to see the same outcome again then maybe ask some questions first. I'd suggest the best place to do that is IBRA's Givealittle page where Givealittle's terms and conditions at least create a minimum requirement for transparency, accuracy and completeness of answers.
Note 1. If residents are really determined to "get our wonderful wide Parade back" then a far more likely solution is for all on-street parking to be removed. That will actually create a more wonderful and wider Parade than ever before. It's worth noting that's a solution that is actually in the hands of residents right now and needs no intervention from the council. If getting a "wonderful wide Parade back" is so important, just stop parking on it.
Note 2. If anyone associated with DVIB or IBRA wants to provide information such as minutes of AGMs, up to date copies of annual accounts, names of current committee members etc I'd be happy to publish that in a subsequent blog.