Saddle Hill quarry decision upheld

The Dunedin City Council has welcomed a High Court decision to uphold a ruling limiting quarrying on Saddle Hill.

However, the latest ruling does not signal the end of the long-running legal battle, as the quarry owners promised to appeal the ruling; there are also other issues outstanding.

The High Court decision released yesterday upholds an earlier Environment Court decision which found the quarry was limited to 50,000 cubic yards (38,000 cubic metres) of rock for the purpose of building a new airport at Momona based on a consent issued in 1960.

That decision was appealed by quarry operators Saddle Views Estate Ltd, but the High Court yesterday ruled against the key parts of its appeal

Council chief executive officer Dr Sue Bidrose said the decision took both parties another step closer to determining the future of quarrying on the Dunedin landmark.

''This finding on the 1960 consent is the most critical aspect of the decision.

''It means the original consent volume and purpose has been spent or used up.

''This supports the position we have always taken that any ongoing quarrying would rely on existing use rights, which would not in our view allow extending the current footprint,'' Dr Bidrose said.

Although the court overturned two of the three Environment Court declarations, the court declared those declarations were ''theoretical questions'' that had no real utility to the parties, she said.

Saddle Views Estate's Calvin Fisher said yesterday the company had 20 days to appeal to the Court of Appeal, and there was ''every likelihood we'll be doing that''.

''It's been a quarry for over 100 years and it will continue to be a quarry.''

The company was disappointed by the decision.

''We think it's a very closed mind decision.''

Mr Fisher said the quarry would still be able to operate under existing use rights.

''Operationally we believe existing use rights is just a continuum.

The company will be back in the Environment Court in Christchurch tomorrow in a bid to have an interim order limiting quarrying lifted.

Mr Fisher said the company would know more about its future after the hearing.

''That will have a serious connection with regards to ongoing existing use rights.''

''The immediate issue is to test the validity of the interim order.''

Earlier this year, Saddle Views Estate Ltd appealed an Environment Court decision, listing five ''errors of law'' it said were made when the Environment Court came down with a decision last year.

The High Court's decision set aside two declarations, which Mr Fisher agreed would have no impact on quarrying at the site.

But Justice Rachel Dunningham ruled ''in all other respects the appeal fails''.

-Additional reporting by Vaughan Elder