Queenstown man Basil
Walker has been unsuccessful in his attempt to block the
Otago Regional Council granting $37.5 million for the Forsyth
Barr Stadium after failing to persuade a High Court judge the
funding process was unlawful.
Apart from failing in his legal action, the undischarged
bankrupt now faces thousands of dollars in court costs after
Justice Graham Lang ruled there was "no reason why costs
should not follow the event".
Justice Lang yesterday released his decision dismissing Mr
Walker's case after a hearing last Thursday in the High Court
ORC corporate services director Wayne Scott said yesterday
the decision was no surprise for the council.
"Frankly, the challenge wasn't justifiable.
"It was unfortunate it took time and money - ratepayers' time
and money," he said.
Mr Walker said he was disappointed and concerned councils
thought people were informed if information was on a website.
He did not believe people realised the cost to the council
would be far more than $37.5 million as a result of interest
"Unless you're born after Google, it's not that easy."
Mr Walker represented himself at the hearing last week, when
he sought a judicial review of the funding decision.
Justice Lang's 26-page ruling noted Mr Walker's argument was
based on section 97 of the Local Government Act, which
prohibits councils from undertaking a "significant" new
activity, or making a decision that would significantly
affect the costs to the local authority, unless it was
explicitly provided for in the council's long-term council
Mr Walker argued the ORC had failed to disclose the interest
it would have to pay on money borrowed to provide the
But Justice Lang said the argument ignored the fact the ORC
had advised ratepayers it intended to borrow the funds and
had informed them of the likely cost of that borrowing.
He did not accept Mr Walker's argument the impact of GST was
not explicitly described as the council would be entitled to
claim a GST input tax credit equivalent to what it paid.
Mr Walker claimed the $15 million the Government had provided
for the project should be shared between the regional and
city councils, which he said had been agreed by the two
councils, but Justice Lang again differed.
"It is quite clear, however, that the Government has agreed
to provide the sum of $15 million in order to bridge the
shortfall in funding from the private sector."
It was not provided to reduce the burden on ratepayers,
Justice Lang said Mr Walker had placed "considerable
emphasis" on ratepayers outside Dunedin paying for a facility
they may never use, something he suspected lay at the heart
of his opposition.
"I accept without reservation that this may be a significant
issue for some ratepayers who live in areas outside Dunedin
"They may well feel aggrieved at the fact that they are being
asked to fund a project that they believe will be of little
or no direct benefit to them.
"I have no doubt that there will also be people who live
within Dunedin city itself who share the same view."
Only time would tell whether the new stadium would provide
benefits to the whole Otago region, but there was no
jurisdiction for the court to challenge the ORC's decision.
"The application for judicial review of the council's
decision is dismissed."
Mr Scott said the council would be pursuing costs.
Mr Walker said he was not concerned about costs and was not
ruling out an appeal.