No consent exists for quarrying Saddle Hill

A long battle to save the ridge-line of Saddle Hill has moved closer to a conclusion with the ruling that the company quarrying the prominent landmark hasn't got consent.

The Environment Court ruled yesterday that no resource consent exists, or ever existed, for the hill to be quarried.

It will decide ''soon'' whether that means quarry owner Saddle Views Estate Ltd has existing use rights to quarry the hill and, if so, the level of those rights.

The Dunedin City Council has already told the court that if it decides there are existing use rights, they should be at a level the council says the company has already exceeded.

The would mean quarrying on the hill would cease either way.

Saddle Views Estate Ltd director Calvin Fisher said last night he had not yet seen the decision and would be viewing it with his legal team over the next few days.

He said he was shocked to hear the Dunedin City Council was ''so pleased with themselves'', as he had thought the council was neutral on the issue.

''It won't be closed. It's not the end, only the beginning.''

The council last year sought a declaration from the court over the consent's existence, following concerns the ridgeline of the landmark Dunedin hill was being destroyed by the quarrying operation.

All work on the ridgeline was stopped last November, while a decision was made.

Saddle Views Estate Ltd argued at a hearing before Environment Judge Jon Jackson and commissioners John Mills and Owen Borlase in Dunedin in December that it had historic existing-use rights from a resource consent issued about 1960, although it had provided no copy of the consent.

The court's decision has taken nine months, and involved much research and analysis of historical evidence, which Judge Jackson acknowledged earlier this year was contributing to the length of time it was taking to make a decision.

The council yesterday said it was relieved about the decision and happy an end to the matter was in sight.

It had consistently held the position that no resource consent existed, general manager of services and development Sue Bidrose said.

''The iconic nature of the hill made it inconceivable that such a consent would ever have been granted.''

It was great the council and the quarry owners would soon know what could and could not be done in the quarry.

Hearings panel committee chairman Colin Weatherall said it was a key decision in a long-running dispute.

''It's been a long road, but it's a relief the court agrees with us,'' Cr Weatherall said of the news that came in the last five minutes of his final Saddle Hill Community Board meeting yesterday.

Cr Weatherall has retired from the community board, and will retire from all local body politics at the October election, after nearly 40 years representing the Saddle Hill area.

He said it would be interesting to see whether the court decided there was any existing rights use, given no consent existed.

But if it did find that, the onus would be on the quarry operators to prove their levels of activity could be sustained over the years.

There was always potential for an appeal, but given the detail of the judges' decision and their expertise, he was ''fairly confident'' their decision would hold.

''The best news is this should protect the historic Saddle Hill ridge line for future generations.''





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