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A nominal date next month has been set for the High Court at Timaru to consider a challenge against the Waitaki District Council approving resource consents and compliance certificates for 16 new dairy farms in the Omarama and Ohau areas.
April 27 has been tentatively set down as first call of an application to the High Court by the Environmental Defence Society seeking to overturn the council's decision last year to approve plans by Five Rivers Ltd, Southdown Holdings Ltd and Williamson Holdings for the farms which would have up to 17,850 cows.
If the initial hearing goes ahead on that date, the court will hear from the society, council and other parties about any directions that need to be made, whether a date needs to be set for a full hearing and other issues.
The proposed dairy farms have been criticised as factory farming because the companies plan to house the cows in cubicles for 24 hours a day from March to October and 12 hours a day from November to February.
The society says resource consents were granted on a non-notified basis, without any opportunity for public involvement, despite raising significant public interest issues.
It is asking the High Court to overturn the decisions, focusing on whether there had been errors in law in the council's decision-making process, not the merits of cubicle housing and animal welfare.
Apart from the Waitaki council consents, the farms' applications for water are being heard by an Environment Canterbury panel and those for dairy effluent discharges have been called in by the Government, to be considered by a board of inquiry.