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Property Rights Buried By A Sea Of Sludge

Sludgegate Day 4: Property Rights Buried By A Sea Of Sludge

In this country you can wake up one morning to read in your daily paper that a 7,500 square meter raw sewage dump is to be built against your boundary fence that afternoon. Such was the story Adrian Chisholm told on Day Four of his Sludgegate trial against the Auckland City Council today, Thursday.

With Friday declared a lay day, today was the last day of a week largely confined to procedural matters, but which finished with new causes of action filed by Chisholm's team, and Adrian Chisholm on the stand just beginning to tell his story of a man ruined by council actions. Monday will see the first cross examination of the trial, with Chisholm and Council Barrister David Heaney raring to get to to grips with each other.

The new causes of action alleged against the council are: 1. Misfeasance, which is an abuse of power in public office. This action alleges both malice and negligence by Council officers, who caused damage to Mr Chisholm; 2. Negligence by Council officers; 3. Breach of Natural Justice under the Bill of Rights; 4. A breach of the Fair Trading Act.

The question is often asked: Why Sludgegate? And why on earth was Waiheke apparently so obsessed with sewage?

Both questions were answered in court this week. We heard that Council pushed ahead with a dump for raw sewage on a public reserve on Chisholm's boundary despite being on an ecologicaly significant site; despite agreements between Chisholm and Council not to; despite having disturbed an archaeological site in the process; and despite having been ordered to stop by the Environment Court. The name 'Sludgegate' was coined to reflect perceived similarities with Watergate, in which the initial crime was dwarfed by the subsequent cover up.

The court also heard that sewage had become the focus on Waiheke Island of a group of anti-development activists who wanted to retain a 'night cart' system of septic tanks, sewage collection and sludge dumps. Their reason? To lessen development on the island. As one of the island's most prominent developers in the mid-nineties, Chisholm told the court he had become the target of these anti-developers, who - with the help of sympathetic Council officers - succeeded in burying him with their favourite obsession.

The case continues on Monday, and for the next two weeks.

ENDS

For further information please contact: Peter Cresswell Sludgegate Media Coordinator (025) 861 927 organon@ihug.co.nz


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