Dispute solution will cost council

Sue Bidrose
Sue Bidrose
The Dunedin City Council has agreed to cover tens of thousands of dollars of costs as part of a wider deal to resolve a three-year stormwater dispute on Otago Peninsula.

But the bill is expected to be just the start for the council, with a sale price to buy the property at the centre of the dispute, and a potential $250,000 bill to fix the flow of water to follow.

It was confirmed this week the council had reached agreement with Steve and Lorraine Hawkins, of 240 Portobello Rd, to enter binding arbitration to resolve their long-running disagreement over stormwater problems at the property.

A one-day hearing would be held next month, before independent arbitrator and barrister Sam Maling, of Christchurch, with a decision to follow.

The Hawkins went public in August to detail their three-year dispute with the council, which they blamed for an increasing volume of stormwater, and associated damage, from new homes above them in Waverley.

The council refused to accept liability, while insisting it had made ''exhaustive'' efforts to try to resolve the dispute - including earlier offers to fix the problem or buy the property.

However, the two sides continued to disagree on a valuation for the property, as the Hawkins' came in at $1.12 million and the council's at $680,000.

Mr Hawkins, contacted this week, confirmed agreement had been reached to enter binding arbitration to finally resolve the dispute.

That meant ''for all intents and purposes'' the couple's property was sold, pending a final sale price to be determined by the arbitrator, he said.

''Hopefully, we will have a favourable price and we can finally put all this behind us,'' he said.

Mr Hawkins praised the ''fantastic'' efforts of council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose in brokering the deal, which included an agreement by the council to cover the couple's costs to date.

Mr Hawkins also thanked the Otago Regional Council for its intervention, which ''helped push the DCC to a resolution in a timely manner''.

Dr Bidrose would not be drawn on costs or other details when contacted, except to say both sides wanted the dispute resolved ''as quickly as we can''.

''It will be good to have this issue resolved, for us and the Hawkins.''

It is understood the agreement on costs would cost the council tens of thousands of dollars - but less than $100,000 - although neither side would confirm the figures. But the cost to the council would not stop there, as the arbitrator's decision on the purchase price for the property would add significantly to the bill.

Mr Hawkins said it was ''probable'' the council would demolish their home once the deal was concluded.

The council would still have to pay for an engineering solution to control stormwater flowing through the property and down on to Portobello Rd.

Council asset and commercial manager Tom Osborn said the council was considering options to control erosion problems, and reduce water velocity, to ensure the flow of water did not contribute to any instability.

The council also needed to ensure Portobello Rd was protected from any slip or high-velocity water discharge coming from the property above, he said.

Initial work was expected to cost about $50,000, but more expensive work could follow - carried out in stages - if problems persisted, he said.

''All up, we could be looking at a couple of hundred grand, quite easily,'' he said.

Options would be presented to the Otago Regional Council, which had to approve the plans, at a meeting pencilled in for next Friday, Mr Osborn said.

Detailed designs would then begin, followed by construction in the first half of next year, he said.

ORC director of policy planning and resource management Fraser McRae said the work was needed, regardless of the arbitration outcome, in part to ensure the city council complied with the ORC's water plan.

He was ''heartened'' to hear the parties had reached agreement on arbitration, after previously indicating the ORC might resort to enforcement action against the city council if the situation was not resolved.

''We're seeing them moving towards getting compliance with the water plan, and that's a great thing.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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