The Environment Court and the Queenstown Lakes District
Council have halted further development of a controversial
piece of land above the Clutha River at Hawea Flat.
An interim enforcement order was issued by the Environment
Court yesterday and served on farmer Dugald Innes, as
respondent, and the council, following an application by the
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society on Friday.
Mr Innes had cleared native vegetation and ploughed the land,
which has been assessed by government departments as having
high conservation values. His actions were deemed illegal by
Forest and Bird.
The court order prevents Mr Innes from further clearance of
indigenous vegetation as defined by the Queenstown Lakes
district plan, or from watering, irrigating, oversowing or
top-dressing any part of the subject land.
Environment Court Judge John Hassan said while evidence
provided by Forest and Bird was limited, it appeared there
was a ''real risk of irreparable environmental damage''.
He said the urgency of the situation, as a result of the
recent ploughing of the site, was ''not of the applicant's
''The evidence shows a history of exchanges in recent weeks
between the applicant and the council, in terms of which the
applicant was urging that the council investigate and act.''
Council general manager, planning and development, Marc
Bretherton told the ODT on Friday - the same day the
agricultural contractor was seen leaving the site - that
based on the council's assessment of the situation and legal
advice, it had not issued an abatement notice nor any other
form of enforcement proceedings.
However, yesterday, QLDC lawyers advised Forest and Bird the
council issued an abatement notice on Mr Innes on Saturday
evening and would be serving abatement notices on landowners
Big River Paradise Ltd and Sharyn Campbell yesterday
QLDC senior communications adviser Michele Poole said because
the matter was before the court the council would not make
any further comment as it was ''not appropriate to do so''.
Forest and Bird field officer Jen Miller said the society had
never undertaken an application for an interim enforcement
order before, but ''believed such a serious step was
warranted because of the significance of the vegetation and
the failure of council to take what it considered appropriate
Mr Innes could challenge the interim order, in which case
there would be a hearing at short notice, Ms Miller said.
''The interim order is effectively maintaining the status quo
while the court process on whether enforcement orders should
be issued ... runs its course. This is likely to involve an
evidence exchange and a hearing ... [and] take a few
Forest and Bird had indicated it would modify its enforcement
order application once it had more advice on what was needed
to rehabilitate the site.
The court decision states the interim order will no longer
apply if Mr Innes obtains a resource consent for the
prohibited activities, which are considered discretionary
under the district plan.