'You’ve got to be joking': Conflicts, sickness, ignorance in big council decision

The site for the Lincoln South housing development. Photo: Supplied
The site for the Lincoln South housing development. Photo: Supplied
Only six Selwyn councillors voted when a big decision on the future of the Canterbury district was signed off.

And it can now also be revealed some Selwyn district councillors did not know voting on the District Plan would scuttle an appeal against a huge subdivision.

District councillors went behind closed doors two weeks ago to discuss and vote on approving the District Plan to meet the August 20 Government deadline for new urban density rules.

The district council could have asked for an extension like the Christchurch City Council has to allow more time for discussion, but chose not to.

There was no required date for the District Plan to be signed off, but the district council wanted it to be done at the same time as the urban density zoning rules were.

Denise Carrick.
Denise Carrick.
As a result of the councillors’ decision, the appeal on the contentious 1710-home Lincoln South subdivision to the Environment Court is now null and void.

Appeal submitters Lincoln Voice have been left ‘very frustrated’ by how the process has unfolded.

“We told them in writing that they should remove PC69 from the District Plan process. How can you approve something that is under appeal?” Lincoln Voice spokesperson Denise Carrick said.

Lincoln Voice is complaining to the Ombudsman about the process and its legitimacy.

The group has also sent a letter to the district council asking for a please explain.

“We believe that as a council you need to take a critical review of your processes; your purpose and who you are here to serve,” Carrick said.

The six councillors who voted the District Plan in were deputy mayor Malcolm Lyall (Springs Ward), Phil Dean and Sophie McInnes (Rolleston Ward), Bob Mugford and Lydia Gliddon (Malvern Ward), and Shane Epiha (Ellesmere Ward).

Mayor Sam Broughton and Ellesmere Ward councillor Elizabeth Mundt were sick, district councillor Grant Miller (Springs Ward) was also absent and did not respond to the Selwyn Times as to why.

Debra Hasson (Springs Ward) and Nicole Reid (Rolleston Ward) left the meeting due to perceived conflicts of interest and did not vote.

Malcolm Lyall.
Malcolm Lyall.
Lyall, who chaired the meeting, and had stepped away from discussion on the District Plan at previous meetings, took part and voted on this after taking legal advice.

“I took legal advice that basically said at this stage in the process where individual panels had heard all the topics over the District Plan and the reports had been put through and anytime we could have been accused of any bias had passed,” he said.

Hasson said she had upheld her perceived conflict of interest as a matter of principle, as she had done it through the whole District Plan process because she had been involved in panel hearings as an independent commissioner.

Reid did not respond to the Selwyn Times

Carrick said Lyall should have left the room for the decision, which would have meant there would have no longer been a quorum for the vote.

McInnes regrets not knowing the impacts on the appeal before it was too late.

McInnes said when it was decided what was going to be in the District Plan she thought the appeal would be able to continue. Bob Mugford thought the same.

“When we went through deciding how the variation one and independent hearings panel would be constructed and would be included, we did not expect the way that happened to make it very difficult for that appeal to go forward," said McInnes.

“We made that decision expecting they would still be able to appeal and found out later that wasn’t the case, and that was never intended."

Residents spoken to by the Selwyn Times were surprised by the process and that district councillors weren’t aware of what would happen to appeals.

“You’ve got to be joking,” said one.

Sam Broughton.
Sam Broughton.
“Unbelievable,” said another, “isn’t it their job to know these rules?”.

The only appeal avenue for Lincoln Voice now appears to be through the high court, which Carrick said would be risky and costly.

Broughton knew the appeal would be affected but did not expect every councillor to know.

"The whole process has been about a seven-year process with two election cycles, which has meant there has been a number of new elected members come in at different parts of the process.

"So I don’t think to have every councillor aware of what the decisions would mean for every piece of land in the district is reasonable to expect."