Saddle Hill legal dispute set to continue

A fight over the future of quarrying on Dunedin landmark Saddle Hill is likely to return to the courts after mediation efforts failed.

This comes as Saddle Views Estate Ltd director and quarry owner Calvin Fisher pushes a plan to return the hill to its ''former glory'' by re-filling it, which he says has attracted little interest from Dunedin City Council.

The likely return to court for the long-running conflict comes after the High Court last year ruled there was a consent for quarrying on the lower hump of Saddle Hill, but asked both parties to reach a consensus on conditions.

However, efforts to come to an agreement appear to have fallen over after two meetings, and council staff have recommended councillors leave it up to the Environment Court to decide on conditions.

Mr Fisher said yesterday he was disappointed at the direction from council staff and the lack of interest in his plan to return the hill to its former glory.

His hope was to continue quarrying the top of the hill and then return it to its ''former glory'' by re-filling it with hard fill.

This was a process used at other quarries around New Zealand, which was paid for by charging people to dump hard fill, such as concrete and brick.

This was a much better situation than leaving the summit of the hill in its current state, which due to historical quarrying was ''totally deformed from what it was''.

''When the council says they care about the hill and don't want to put it back to its former glory ... it's just disingenuous.

The fact he heard a recommendation was being made to the council through the media was typical of the ''abhorrent'' and unfair treatment his company had received.

''I don't think we are being treated as fairly as other people are and I think there are people in senior positions of authority that in our view are usurping that authority.''

In the recommendation to be voted on by councillors at an extraordinary meeting tomorrow, council resource consent manager Alan Worthington said it disagreed the resource consent allowed the top of the hill to be quarried.

''We consider the High Court decision to be clear that the top of the hill cannot be removed because that would have meant a notified application in 1960.

''There is no record of notification of the application.''

His report pointed to three examples of other consents given around the same time one was thought to have been given for Saddle Hill, saying all made reference to a finite amount of quarrying and conditions for mitigating damage to the environment.

A council landscape architect said he was concerned about the cumulative effects of quarrying at the site, saying a ''tipping point'' had either already been met or was close.

However, the report recommended councillors voted in favour of relaxing an interim enforcement order, increasing the amount of area which could be quarried on the lower part of the hill.

This was provided council staff found the expansion had ''no more than minor'' effects.

The idea for ''extensive backfilling'' to return the hill to its previous shape was a new one and not part of the 1960 consent.

If an application for backfilling was received today it would be subject to a public notification process.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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