Quarry question rests with court

Jon Jackson.
Jon Jackson.
The future of what quarrying is allowed at Saddle Hill, in Dunedin, is in the hands of the Environment Court, after both the quarry owner and the Dunedin City Council argued their cases.

Saddle Views Estate counsel Trevor Shiels QC spent the second day of a hearing yesterday arguing there were no conditions on the quarrying, and the owners had consent to quarry the entire site.

Dunedin City Council counsel Michael Garbett responded by arguing the council had called on the court to decide the extent of conditions and the scope of the quarrying, and the court had the jurisdiction to do so.

The dispute has run through various courts and the High Court's most recent decision, late last year, was that the quarry had resource consent from 1960 to quarry Jaffray Hill, when Downer began using an existing quarry for material used to build Dunedin Airport at Momona.

The issue has attracted public anger since the 1960s. Concerns have centred on the loss of the profile of the prominent landmark.

The court asked both parties to reach a consensus on the conditions but they were unable to do so and the matter went back before Judge Jon Jackson and commissioners Owen Borlase and John Mills.

Ambiguous wording in council documents and obscure points of law relating to Acts such as the 1953 Town and Country Planning Act, took much of the court's attention.

Mr Shiels spent some time on case law from the past.

He also said newspaper articles from the time, including those on council meetings, made no mention of any consent conditions.

There were controversies over the quarrying in the 1960s and 1970s, when memories of any consent were clearer, and records more available, but newspaper stories and other documents at no point suggested the work was unauthorised.

Judge Jackson suggested the council of the time may have been swayed by its need for metal from the quarry.

He said their comments ''might not necessarily be very helpful''.

Mr Shiels said he and the judge would have to ''agree to disagree'' on the matter.

He said times were different then. The Green Island ''tip'' was established in the 1950s with no sign of any public process.

In conclusion, he said there was no evidence the Taieri County Council put any conditions on its consent, and documents available suggested there was no limit on what area could be quarried.

In response, Mr Garbett said the case was not an appeal or a civil case, rather the Environment Court was asked for a declaration on the extent and conditions of quarrying.

The court had ''wide jurisdiction to do what is right''.

''I'm inclined to agree,'' Judge Jackson told him.

Judge Jackson reserved his decision, and adjourned the hearing.

There would be a site inspection, and more information for the court due in early July.

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