Hampton Downs Landowner Speaks On Corrections PR
My Response To The Corrections Department Report To The Minister Of Corrections Regarding Iwi And Non-Iwi Consultation For Spring Hill Men's Prison Proposal, North Waikato 17 April 2004
Lyn Milnes comments:
The prison proposal is on a piece of farm land to be accessed from Hampton Downs Road, North Waikato. When I moved here to farm and then retire, in 1992, this was a country community of about eight farming families. I was in a partnership. I bought out other interests in the partnership in late 1999 and became sole owner. In late 2000, Corrections announced it wanted to put South Auckland's big new male prison here beside me. We had earlier had a big dump proposal on the road which had affected the rural community. Now I am the woman owner of the only privately-owned farm left on the road that is not subject to big infrastructural developments.
This report to the Minister makes the matter worse from my point of view.
The Department of Corrections is trying to fudge the facts about me.
What the Minister asked his Department, about me, was whether I was bullied.
I had pointed out that a legal letter was written to me, in January 2003, by the solicitors for the Department of Corrections, that aimed to stop me taking legal action as the closest affected neighbour of the prison on Hampton Downs Road.
The letter I received said that, if I took my objections against the prison past the Council process and on to the Environment Court, serious financial penalties against me would take place. It said the Department would get the Minister to use his special powers to reverse my existing long-approved farm subdivision.
The Department is still misrepresenting the facts behind the letter.
The Department through its solicitors pretends to have had a legitimate concern that my existing small subdivision, granted two years earlier, had not been notified to neighbours. But this was a normal subdivision under the then-current zoning laws, and one the Council would not normally notify to neighbours. It would be most unusual to do so.
The Department pretends not to know that farms adjoining its site might be subdivided. But this was expressly provided for in the District zoning laws when it bought the property.
The Department pretends in its solicitors' letter that it is responding in a natural way to a land use concern. If so, why write the letter at this time, nearly two years after the subdivision was approved by Council? Approval was granted on 26 April 2001, with a normal period of several years until final approval because of landscaping and financial conditions still to be met.
Corrections had known about my subdivision for years. Even if it didn't check such matters out with Council at the time, which would be strange given its claim that it now finds them important, it had discussed it with me in early meetings after it announced its next-door prison proposal. It had asked my approval to send its experts on to my land to photograph visual impacts on my various subdivision titles long before this letter was written. Not one word was said then about any objection. I had spent time escorting the Corrections visual experts round my property and assisting with maps and information.
Corrections only objected to my subdivision when the Environment Court stage of the prison-approval process was coming up. I had put a submission in to the Council against the prison. This entitled me to continue to an appeal in the Environment Court if I wanted to. It was rather expected that I would do so. I was experienced in Environment Court proceedings. Because of an earlier massive development project on my boundary, Australasia's largest dump proposal, I had worked through a long Environment Court appeal already. Corrections knew all this.
Now, having been caught out by media and parliamentary questioning they did not expect, they are trying to get round the matter by fudging the facts of my case. This report does not reflect the true circumstances of what happened in relation to me.
The people of New Zealand should ask themselves these things:
Should a government department be pushing through a development plan by blackmailing and threatening a neighbour who is likely to object?
Should a government department be getting round the Resource Management Act by bullying people into not using their entitlements under it?
Should a government department be able to threaten people with legitimate concerns about a next-door development with getting the Minister to use judicial review to sabotage their financial assets?
The Department of Corrections' solicitors wrote me a threatening letter saying the DOC might get the Minister to overturn my small farm subdivision using judicial review, but it depended on whether I took my case to the Environment Court. By doing this, they were acting most unusually, in that:
They were threatening a very serious effect on me, to stop me taking normal legal process as I was entitled to do.
They were not simply safeguarding their normal property rights, as they claim.
My subdivision, applied for in March 2001, was granted on 26 April 2001 by Council (to be made final when a few landscaping and financial conditions were met). It had been known to the DOC years earlier. Why did it suddenly became their concern in early 2003? They decided they cared about it only when I made a submission to Council against their prison in late 2002.
Contrary to what they claim, it is NOT considered usual by Council for a small general subdivision within the zoning rules to be notified to neighbours.
Judicial reviews are rarely used and are usually quite major. It would be extremely unusual if a small farm subdivision, approved two years earlier, within the normal non-notifiable Council zoning regulations of the time, became the cause of a Ministerial judicial review.
General comments on the Report: This is clever bureaucrats managing the Minister. It could have come out of a script for the TV series "Yes Minister".
In the Report conclusions they:
* threaten to deluge the Minister with trivia in future (a Sir Humphrey type action straight out of "Yes Minister" - Ministers hate having all the detail of minor decisions dumped on their desks)
* misrepresent the facts (e.g. on my case),
* focus on bits they want to answer and avoid addressing bigger issues that they have no answer for (e.g. on my case),
• seek to appease the Minister with sugary platitudes like:
• "will tighten up our management"...
• "provide positive assurance to you..
• ." (what does this mean?)
• "consultation was the wrong word to use perhaps"
• "in the earlier stages, better management
could have been put in place"