Judge again slates council’s process

Lake Wanaka. Pnoto: ODT files
Lake Wanaka. Pnoto: ODT files
"Contradictory and confused" is how an Environment Court judge has described the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s method of reviewing its district plan.

In a decision released earlier this month, Judge Jon Jackson ordered the council to pay Wanaka company Tussock Rise Ltd $5250 — 66% of the costs the company incurred in an Environment Court appeal against the council.

He said it was unusual for cost awards to be made against a council in a plan change process and a relatively "high threshold" was required.

The costs arose from a 2018 hearing before Judge Jackson during which the council applied to have Tussock Rise’s appeal, relating to the council’s review of the district plan, struck out.

The council submitted the company’s appeal showed "no reasonable or relevant case" and amounted to "an abuse of process and is frivolous or vexatious, in the sense that it lacks the requisite jurisdiction".

But Judge Jackson refused to strike out any parts of the company’s appeal.

And now, in the decision on costs, he agreed with Tussock Rise lawyer Ben Gresson "the strike-out application was inherently unreasonable", and he considered the company had demonstrated an award of costs against the council was justified.

In the decision, he repeated a comment he made in his "strike-out decision" that described the method the council used to conduct its plan review/plan change as "contradictory and confused".

"The council, in reliance on that flawed process, still made its application for strike out despite [the company] attempting to communicate to the council that the purported lack of jurisdiction was misconceived."

One of Tussock Rise’s owners, Grant Bisset, said on Friday the company agreed with Judge Jackson that the council’s actions were "contradictory and confused" and its process "flawed".

He considered the council’s proposal to change the zoning of the company’s land and other land between Gordon Rd and Frederick St from industrial B to general industrial would make several businesses either non-complying or prohibited activities, potentially affecting the value of those properties.

"We find it particularly disappointing that [the council] sees fit to squander ratepayer funds trying to defend flawed processes that simply waste time and resources."

A council spokesman has indicated the council will comment early this week.

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