Judge slams council for district plan bungling

Concerned ratepayer Tom Dery opposite a proposed hillside subdivision above the Shotover River. Photo: Mountain Scene
Concerned ratepayer Tom Dery opposite a proposed hillside subdivision above the Shotover River. Photo: Mountain Scene

A prominent ratepayer is blasting Queenstown’s council as “irresponsible” for appealing a damning judgment against it.

The Environment Court last month found the council had misled the public by not making it clear, in a summary of district plan submissions, that developers wanted to rezone ‘outstanding natural landscape’ (ONL) at Queenstown’s Arthurs Point to allow an 89-lot subdivision.

Despite ONLs being of national importance, Judge Jon Jackson says finding this information in the hardcopy summary “would be like searching for a contact lens in a scatter of confetti”.

He said the submission summaries were “illogical (and therefore unreasonable) and misleading (and therefore unfair)”.

Jackson’s clear that the public interest is in getting a fair hearing of the issues, and in this case “there is a real risk that potential submitters have been deprived of the opportunity to participate”.

Further, the council’s action in removing the land from the ONL “may have been illegal”.

Aussie advertising guru Tom Dery, who was responsible for Tourism New Zealand’s world-renowned ‘100% Pure NZ’ campaign, owns a holiday home over the Shotover River from the steep development site.

He’s chairman of the Arthurs Point Outstanding Natural Landscape Society, which brought proceedings against the council.

He’s thrilled that Jackson’s suspended the rezoning of the land and ordered the council to renotify the submissions by landowners Gertrude’s Saddlery Ltd and Larchmont Developments Ltd.

However he’s unhappy the council’s appealed the judgment and is concerned this will be a further cost to ratepayers.

“I think it’s irresponsible in terms of continuing this action given the very powerful messages that came through from Judge Jackson’s judgment.”

Referring to Saturday’s council elections, he comments: “I don’t think it reflects necessarily on the politicians concerned, but I think this is an opportunity for ratepayers to stand up and say the quality of this council is not up to it, and, hopefully, whoever wins this election does something about it.”

A council spokesperson says it’s appealed the judgment “due to concerns about procedural issues”.

“The cost of an appeal in this case will not be significant.”

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