Council must pay $15K in costs

The Gore District Council has been ordered to pay more than $15,000 in costs over its failed attempt to build a new bridge over the Mataura River — but it could have been a lot more.

The council had proposed a new single-span pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Mataura River. It would also have included new water pipelines and was set to cost $3.7 million.

Resource consent was granted at a hearing last year, but the Environment Court overturned the decision in March this year and court costs were reserved.

In a decision about costs released last month, Judge Prudence Steven ordered the council to pay $15,373 to the Waimea Plains Landscape Preservation Society.

The society was after $31,368.79.

Judge Steven said an award of costs to the society was appropriate. The court had found the council’s approach to the hearing was unhelpful and there were serious deficiencies in the council’s consideration of alternatives.

She also accepted the society’s submission that the council made last-minute attempts to rectify its evidence to the detriment of the society.

The general principle was costs were not awarded against councils unless there were exceptional circumstances.

She was unwilling to grant an award that was higher than normal and it did not warrant an award of 70% of the costs, she said. The matter was not unnecessarily lengthened by the council’s conduct and awarding 70% costs would be a burden on local taxpayers.

She concluded awarding 30% of costs — $15,373 — was appropriate. She acknowledged it was a high amount of costs against a council but said the costs incurred by the society reflected its efforts.

 

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