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Ruapehu Council ordered to pay costs by Environment Court

Ruapehu District Council ordered to pay costs by Environment Court

In a departure from the usual process of not awarding costs against a public body, the Environment Court has sided with a property owner in Ohakune and awarded costs against the Ruapehu District Council.

In the decision dated 22 December 2014 [2014 EnvC 262], the Court noted that fault lay “primarily with the [Ruapehu District] Council, who ought to have been familiar with the provisions of its District Plan”.

The Judge went on to say that the Council “failed in its duty to enforce the provisions of its district plan” [see para 33 of the decision].

Council had initially claimed that no more than 50m3 of earthworks had been moved on the site in question, not the 2600m3 MOL that it eventually transpired had been imported on to the property at Foyle St. The difference is stark.

Desmond Chung, one of the appellants noted that “it was improbable that an earthen bank approximately 6 metres in height and 30metres in length could have been constructed by 50m3 of earthworks. Simple maths evidences that so we were really very surprised when the CEO of Council denied the extent of the work”.

The Court notes that eventually Council abandoned its position in that respect [see para 30 of the decision].

Paul Ryan, another ratepayer who took the action alongside Mr Chung said “we are gratified that the Court noted that our position was “vindicated”. We have spent a lot of money resolving the problems with the work that was not properly authorised and we are disappointed that Council rebuffed our repeated attempts to resolve the matter amicably- long before all the parties spent a lot of money. Goodness knows how much ratepayer money has been spent by Council defending an indefensible position but my guess is that it is well over $100,000 of ratepayer money has been wasted”.

Other matters relating to the work in question are subject to further investigation.


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