'Relief' at granting of Mad Butcher consent

Mad Butcher franchise owner Tony Coulston had only one reaction when told Dunedin City Council resource consent for his new Dunedin retail outlet had been approved - "relief".

"It's a big relief. I thought it was never going to come," he said yesterday.

Approval came late on Thursday, one day after Mr Coulston complained publicly in an article in the Otago Daily Times about "unbelievable" delays in obtaining the consent.

He and Andrew Simms, whose company Minaret Holdings owns the Andersons Bay Rd site where the shop will go, applied for consent in November and expected it would be approved and the shop opened by February.

But they were held up by a series of issues including the introduction of new national environmental standards on January 1 which require intensive investigation of land which might be contaminated by previous uses.

The Mad Butcher site was previously a car-servicing workshop, deemed under the environmental standards to be a hazardous industry or activity.

Mr Coulston, whose Christchurch store was damaged in last year's earthquakes, said he did not know when the shop would open but hoped it would be soon.

"If I had known it was going to be this hard I could have gone somewhere else. But I'll stick with it. Now the consents have been approved I can't wait for the shop to open."

Mr Simms said he expected the shop would open by mid-July.

He speculated it had been "heat from the ODT and deputy mayor Chris Staynes" which had led to the consents being approved just after the ODT article had appeared.

"I had advised Tony not to go to the media, thinking that might make things worse with the council, but in this case, my advice was wrong."

Mr Simms said Cr Staynes had contacted him on Wednesday and told him he would try to speed up a resolution with the consent.

"It has been highly frustrating and very, very expensive. Minaret Holdings has now spent more than $60,000 on legal fees and consultants' fees trying to get the necessary consents issued for this proposal," Mr Simms said.

Mr Coulston planned to employ up to 20 full and part-time staff, Mr Simms said.

"He is going to add something to Dunedin. That's what Dunedin needs, isn't it?

"I realise there have got to be rules ... but the council has not been helpful."

Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said yesterday the timing of the approval was "co-incidental" and not related to Mr Coulston's views in the ODT. Such articles did not influence the decision-making of his staff, he said.

"The process ended when it ended. It ended when the landowner's planning consultant provided us with the confirmation we needed that the site was not contaminated by a previous use and that a new use complied with the environmental standards regulations."

Asked if Cr Staynes had hurried the consent along, Mr Worthington said he had not. Cr Staynes had not spoken to him, and he was not aware he had spoken to to any of his staff.

Mr Simms said his main concern was that the council could have issued the consent before January 1, thus avoiding the requirements of the new environmental standards.

Mr Worthington said staff did not begin to process the consent until December 21, after receiving a ruling from an independent commissioner that the consent did not have to be notified - a much longer process involving submissions, hearings and possible appeals to the Environment Court.

It was approved on January 10, the first day after the statutory resource consent Christmas holiday shut-down period, but could not be issued until the environmental standards requirements had been met.

Cr Staynes did not return calls yesterday.

- allison.rudd@odt.co.nz


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