'I've got a case for damages' - Hall

Dunedin city councillor and businessman Doug Hall wants more than $1 million from the Dunedin...
Dunedin city councillor and businessman Doug Hall wants more than $1 million from the Dunedin City Council to cover legal costs arising from the State Highway 88 dispute. Photo by Linda Robertson
Dunedin city councillor Doug Hall is threatening to take on the Dunedin City Council again, this time in a fight for more than $1 million in legal costs.

The warning from Cr Hall came as he criticised the behaviour of some council staff during the long-running dispute over the realignment of State Highway 88.

He also defended his own actions, as a councillor taking on the council at ratepayers' expense, saying the dispute was not of his making.

''As a councillor, I shouldn't be costing the council money. But I didn't cost them the money. It's [some] council staff who cost them the money.

''The attitude some of them had to me was bloody appalling,'' he said.

The dispute was thought to have ended on Monday, when it was confirmed Cr Hall had agreed to sell his contractors' yard, beside the new section of SH88, to Emerson's Brewery.

Cr Hall confirmed yesterday he would receive $4.5 million from the sale, but said that would still leave him more than $1 million out of pocket from legal bills and other costs.

As a result, he had instructed his lawyers to approach the council to discuss a compensation package.

''I've got a case for damages against the council, including my legal costs as damages, is the way I understand it.''

Asked if he planned to take the fight to court, if needed, Cr Hall said: ''That's up to the lawyers.''

It would be the latest twist a drawn-out saga, which began when the road was realigned in 2011 and has so far cost the council, and ratepayers, more than $570,000 in legal, traffic management and other costs.

Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose would not be drawn yesterday on Cr Hall's legal threat or criticisms.

Instead, in a brief email response to Otago Daily Times questions, she said the council had helped during the sale process ''in every way that has been requested''.

Cr Hall said, as part of the deal with Emerson's, he had been given eight weeks to clean up his site and then depart, meaning he would be gone by Christmas.

His business was moving to Green Island.

That opened the way for Emerson's development of a new multimillion-dollar brewery, warehouse, retail store, bar and restaurant.

It would also allow the removal of temporary traffic control measures - two years after they went in - and the activation of traffic lights at the intersection.

The temporary measures had cost ratepayers more than $100,000 by June this year, but council staff did not respond to a request for updated figures yesterday.

It also emerged yesterday the dispute could have been resolved more than a year ago, when a ''multinational company'' approached Cr Hall wanting to buy his yard.

He also received an initial approach by Emerson's about the same time, anonymously through a third party, wanting to buy the site.

Both offers were for appropriate sums, but Cr Hall said he rejected them because he wanted to pursue court action against the council.

''I wasn't interested in selling because, as far as I was concerned, council shit on me, so I was going through the legal process to make everything come right.''

In the end, he agreed to sell to Emerson's only after a second approach from the company earlier this year. It was suggested during the meeting that if he said no to Emerson's for a second time, there was ''a chance it could be taken out of the city'', Cr Hall said.

''I'm a councillor - I'm working for the good of the city'', he said.

''I virtually had no choice. People elected me to do the best for the city, so I put my council hat on and I agreed to it.''

That left him with ''a lot of money down the tube'', and higher costs when his business began operating from a new Green Island site.

But the sale price agreed with Emerson's also ''proved the point'' after years trying to convince the council to buy him out, he said.

''I've tried to negotiate settlement and they [DCC] just tell me I'm too greedy. But I proved the point, because I got the price that I've been asking all along for my bit of land.''

Lion managing director Rory Glass said earlier this week it never contemplated moving Emerson's out of Dunedin.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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