Sludgegate: Rights for Shells, or for Human Beings
Sludgegate Update, Day 20
5pm, Monday, 18 December 2000
THE FREE RADICAL ON-LINE
Rights for Shells, or for Human Beings?
The closing submission from counsel for Adrian Chisholm was heard today. Chris LaHatte told the court that the key to this case is that Auckland City Council officers persisted with a purported sewage emergency when there was no such emergency; they persisted with a resource consent application to construct a sludge dump when they knew or must have known that the application was hopeless; and further, they persisted with this hopeless application despite it fatally damaging investor confidence in Adrian Chisholm's resort project immediately adjacent to the proposed sludge dump. These council actions in the end proved fatal to Chisholm's project.
Council eventually withdrew the consent application two days after a Ministry of Environment report highly critical of council's handling of the situation, and after Chisholm's investors had withdrawn and his project mothballed. Council contend that the reason their application to build a sludge dump was eventually withdrawn was not because the sludge consent application would - and did - ruin Adrian Chisholm, but because a historic Maori midden site was uncovered by the earthworks for the dump. What this shows is that there is greater respect for 600 year old used shells than there is for living, breathing, productive human beings. What this case tests is whether that view is correct, and whether any law exists in this country to protect human property rights.
The bizarre thing in any case is that even though council knew in late January that the midden site had been uncovered, they still lodged their consent application in February, and failed to make a Consent to Modify a Historic Site as they would have to do if they were indeed serious in their application. They persisted with the application until late April, before finally claiming that the existence of the midden site made the application untenable, and withdrawing it. By then, of course, it was too late for Adrian Chisholm.
The net result of the council's actions, said LaHatte, is that Chisholm's project was irretrievably destroyed by out of control council officers acting without delegated authority. This case tests whether the action of misfeasance offers a way to tie up such council officers. The case continues tomorrow with closing submissions from council's legal team.
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