Deal reached on stadium case date

Basil Walker leaves the High Court at Dunedin with Bev Butler after seeking an interim injunction...
Basil Walker leaves the High Court at Dunedin with Bev Butler after seeking an interim injunction against the Otago Regional Council's involvement in the new Otago Stadium. Photo by Staff Reporter.
A compromise has been reached over Queenstown property developer Basil Walker's attempts to get a High Court interim injunction to stop the Otago Regional Council putting ratepayer funding towards the Awatea St stadium within the next few weeks.

The ORC has agreed to contribute $37.5 million towards construction of the $198 million stadium, but Mr Walker went to the court asking it to prevent the ORC "from entering into a contract or providing funding in relation to construction of the proposed stadium" until the ORC finalised its 2009-10 long-term council community plan (LTCCP) in June.

Yesterday, he appeared before Justice Christine French in the High Court at Dunedin seeking a date for an urgent interim injunction application to be heard, after which the full judicial review hearing would be held.

However, after two discussions lasting about an hour in total, the ORC short-circuited the process by giving the court a binding undertaking it would not "enter into any contract" for funding the stadium, or "provide any funding" for its construction, until after its LTCCP was finalised, provided Mr Walker's full judicial review hearing could be heard by the court before June 5.

Counsel Alistair Logan said the early June deadline was required so the council could complete its LTCCP and set its rates by the end of June.

The court confirmed the case would be heard in Dunedin on June 4.

The undertaking, which Justice French said was enforceable by the court should it be breached, meant there was no need for an interim injunction hearing.

"This is a very satisfactory outcome."

Mr Logan said the ORC was happy to give the undertaking as it had never intended to hand over any money until August anyway.

During the first court session yesterday morning, about 20 people sat in the public gallery listening to the arguments, including Stop the Stadium lobby group president Bev Butler.

Only one person was in the public gallery during the second session yesterday afternoon.

In the morning, Mr Logan suggested the court "cut to the chase" and consider Mr Walker's full judicial review application case next week, rather than going through a preliminary hearing first to decide whether there was enough merit in his arguments for the court to impose an injunction.

Justice French suggested Mr Walker agree to the full hearing provided he "did not feel prejudiced or pressured" by having to be fully prepared and ready to proceed within a week.

Mr Walker said he did feel prejudiced or pressured.

"I feel I do not want to go to a judicial review process without the protection of an interim injunction."

He said it was not a matter of "rushing into it" for the convenience of the ORC or the Dunedin City Council.

"This is a serious matter. There has been a serious travesty of justice. The ORC is looking at rampant spending, which is setting a precedent which cannot be accepted by the community."

Justice French said no hearing could proceed until Mr Walker filed an undertaking of damages, a mandatory document which said he agreed to pay damages [costs] if his court case failed.

Mr Walker said he had been to an ATM on his way to court and was satisfied there was enough in his family's working account to meet damages.

"I know what I am up against. I understand completely."



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