Council applies to strike out activist’s defamation claim

Auckland council says costs will be sought if the application against formal mayoral candidate Penny Bright succeeds. 

Auckland Council has applied to have perennial activist Penny Bright’s $350,000 claim for damages arising from alleged defamation struck out.

Ms Bright’s defamation claim is in relation to comments made by the council in a press statement last year over her unpaid rates.

The release claimed Ms Bright had made wild and inaccurate comments about the council.

Ms Bright – a former mayoral candidate – has refused to pay rates for eight years and the council is seeking to recover almost $40,000.

She refuses to pay the rates until she knows where the council is spending them, she says.

Auckland Council’s general manager of finance Kevin Ramsay says the council did not initiate the defamation proceedings but clearly needed to respond to the claims Ms Bright has made.  

“We believe the views expressed about Ms Bright were fair and accurate and we completely reject the accusations she has made,” he says.

Auckland Council has now racked up more than $100,000 in lawyers’ fees in the battle over Ms Bright’s unpaid rates, penalties and the defamation case.

Mr Ramsay says the council has given Ms Bright “every opportunity” to resolve her outstanding rates bill in a way that would avoid financial hardship, including the option of deferment.

He says that option still remains open to her.

Yesterday, Ms Bright said she had offered to settle the matter if she received a retraction, an apology and $10,000 in damages.

But Mr Ramsay says her offer is “unacceptable.”

“It is open to Ms Bright to stop the court action at any time without further unnecessary cost to ratepayers.”

He says the courts have discretion but routinely award costs to successful parties.

He says costs will be sought if the application succeeds. 

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