Court stoush looms over skifield wetland

Forest and Bird is taking the Otago Regional Council and NZ Ski to court over a protected wetland it says was destroyed by development on the Remarkables.

Environmental lawyer Sally Gepp filed the statement of claim to the High Court in Dunedin today on behalf of the organisation.

The action relates to granting of a land use consent in March to NZSki Ltd to extend its learners slope at the Remarkables skifield.

Internal regional council reports said this work would destroy the 100sq m wetland, which was protected in the council's water plan.

NZSki has refuted this, saying the work only modified the wetland. 

In the statement of claim Forest and Bird says the council failed to properly consider the Resource Management Act (RMA) when granting the consent.

This included the council disregarding ``effects on conservation values'' because it had consent from the Department of Conservation and not properly considering a science report the it commissioned.

The council ``erred in law'' by not properly considering its own water plan, Forest and Bird argued.

It also did not make reference to relevant sections of the RMA around wetlands and made an ``irrelevant'' consideration around the permissive nature of the ski zone in the Queenstown Lakes District Plan.

Forest and Bird argue in the statement of claim the project did not remediate or mitigate the "loss of the wetland".

The project involved NZSki extending the existing learners slope the skifeild, including the construction of two surface escalators, as well as track access to Shadow Basin.

The consent was not notified, despite a report by the council's resource science unit saying it should be.  

The court will now stamp the pleadings and Forest and Bird will formally serve it on NZSki and the council.

Council chief executive Sarah Gardner said it would "not be appropriate" to comment while the matter was before the court.

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson has been approached for comment.


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