Landscape evidence inconsistency cost

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has been warned it may face a costs order against it for presenting landscape evidence to the Environment Court that appeared to be out of step with accepted professional practice in New Zealand and had created extra work for other parties.

Environment Court Judge Jackson yesterday asked QLDC lawyer Graeme Todd to provide an "on the record" explanation why the respondent (the council) called Dr Mike Steven, of Arrowtown, to give landscape evidence in the Parkins Bay golf course resort case.

"I am grateful you did, but I think the parties are entitled to an explanation on the record," Judge Jackson said.

Other landscape architects for the appellants had said during evidence Dr Steven's landscape classification methodology was different from accepted practice.

Some also accepted there had been a long debate in their profession about landscape classification and some disagreement could be anticipated.

Dr Steven himself had also pointed out "the widening gulf over professional practice of landscape assessment within members of the [New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects] who operate in the the area of [Resource Management Act] landscape assessment".

Mr Todd explained that the council's original landscape expert in the Parkins Bay case, Keren Neal, no longer worked for the council's planning agency, Lakes Environmental.

He agreed her evidence at the council's resource consent hearing was "to the opposite effect" of that presented by Dr Steven at the Environment Court.

Ms Neal had advised the council in 2008 the Parkins Bay development site was outstanding natural landscape.

Dr Steven told the court yesterday the area was visual amenity landscape.

The issue was important because less rigorous development rules apply to visual amenity landscape.

The court has to decide what classification it will give the development site before it can apply district plan rules.

Judge Jackson said Mr Todd could have chosen not to call Dr Steven and by doing so, other parties' costs may have increased because they were put to extra work.

Mr Todd said he did not think so, because the other parties would have had to consider and respond to any other landscape architect's evidence.

Judge Jackson declared it would be an issue for costs.


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