Dunedin city councillors have partially backtracked on a
decision to reject an application for out-of-zone water
connections to a Signal Hill property.
Councillors last year rejected two applications from the
Court family to connect proposed building platforms on two
lots on their rural-zoned property to water.
City reticulation and distribution pipes run through the
A council bylaw allows water connections to existing houses
outside defined water supply areas in exceptional
circumstances, but councillors have recently been clamping
down on such connections.
The Courts' applications were turned down last year on the
basis that the circumstances were not exceptional. That meant
the houses would need to use tank supply.
The Courts said they accepted the need for tank supply only
after they were informed there were no other connections off
the distribution main, so connecting was not an option.
However, two existing connections had since been found, and
they wanted the council to reconsider.
They also wanted to argue another matter they believed
supported their claim: that the council promised their late
father, Bert Court, a connection as compensation for the use
of his land for the construction of, and ongoing access to,
the Mt Mera reservoir.
That connection related to one of the lots the modern
applications were for.
Allan Court told this week's council meeting the deal was
made verbally 40 years ago and his father had reported it to
the family multiple times. He said his father lived in an era
where deals were done verbally and with a handshake, and he
had overheard his father twice talking to council staff about
when the connections were going to be put in.
Council water and waste group manager Dr Laura McElhone told
councillors that sort of informal agreement was apparently
She had once seen an envelope with a deal made on the back of
it, and various existing payment and service arrangements
reflected deals made historically between landowners and
staff, the like of which would not happen these days.
She said staff had been able to find little evidence of an
agreement with Bert Court. There was one reference in council
records to him approaching the council in 1991 seeking rates
relief for the infrastructure on his land, and a water
connection, which was not pursued further at the time.
Staff remained opposed to the connections because they were
at odds with the council's strategic and planning documents,
and they generally strongly opposed any extra connection,
particularly to distribution mains, because of the ongoing
management of connections, she said.
Following an in-depth discussion about setting precedents,
sticking with council policy and honouring historic
agreements, councillors were divided about what to do.
Cr Andrew Noone said he knew Bert Court, had considered him
to be a man of integrity, and could believe informal
arrangements would have been the way he would have done
It came down to whether the circumstances were exceptional,
and given there was some evidence to back up what Bert Court
said, he believed the council should honour the agreement,
and moved the council allow both connections.
But Cr Staynes said the agreement could only apply to the lot
Bert Court owned at the time, and the bylaw related to
existing households, of which there was none.
He could not support both connections and had enough support
around the table that the vote was lost 8-5.
He successfully put a new motion, that due to the verbal
agreement, supported by the 1991 evidence, one connection, on
the original Court lot and to the reticulation main, be
Afterwards, Allan Court and his brother-in-law Charlie Wilson
said they were ''happy and sad'' about the result.
''We're half pleased,'' Mr Court said.
He said he believed his father also had a verbal agreement
about connecting to the second lot.