Saddle Hill quarry declaration
Saddle Hill quarry declaration
Dunedin (Friday, 14 October 2016) – The Dunedin City Council (DCC) has welcomed the three declarations made by the Environment Court on the Saddle Hill quarry.
After being petitioned by local residents to protect Saddle Hill’s iconic ridgeline several years ago, DCC sought a court ruling on the extent of Saddle Views Estate Limited's right to quarry at Saddle Hill, so that any sale value of the hill could be determined.
The Environment Court has now made three declarations. The first relates to the 1960 consent being limited to the purpose of supplying approximately 50,000 cubic yards of rock for the construction of the airport at Momona. The second declaration decides that the 1960 consent is no longer in force. The third declaration about whether quarrying is now authorised says this depends on whether quarrying was an existing use in 1970. This third declaration circles back to DCC's long held position that any current right to quarry relies on existing use rights and cannot expand and go beyond the existing quarried area, and therefore protects the hill’s saddle-shaped outline.
DCC Chief Executive Officer Dr Sue Bidrose says the DCC is pleased about the clarity offered by the most recent decision.
”Through this entire process, we have simply sought a determination on the conditions that limit quarrying activity on the hill. We have had two judgements now that the hill cannot be quarried to the ground, and in fact that no consent now exists for unlimited quarrying, which has always been our position.”
In 2011 the DCC made an application for a declaration that the extent of any quarrying rights did not go beyond the current quarried area. The Environment Court decided in 2013 that there had never been a consent. However, this decision was overturned by the High Court in 2014. The High Court then instructed the parties to meet and try to agree what the conditions of the consent were.
The two parties were unable to agree on these conditions regarding the extent of the quarrying right. The DCC then applied to the Environment Court to establish the terms of the 1960 consent. A hearing occurred in 2015 with a final decision issued yesterday (13 October 2016).
Saddle Views Estate Limited's position has been that a consent exists for the quarry and that they have rights to quarry with very few restrictions. From that, they expressed a view that this placed a value on the hill into the millions of dollars. Although DCC had documentation of ‘consent’ being given, no copy of a consent was on file. This meant DCC had to ask the court to determine the limits of any such consent. The court has now determined the consent is not still in force, and the court stated ‘There is a resemblance to the Hans Christian Anderson story of "the emperor's new clothes" about the existence of the 1960 consent.’
“This ruling means that the hill is protected without costing the ratepayer millions of dollars. As a result of yesterday's Environment Court decision it is clear that any consent that enabled expansion of the quarry in 1960 was limited to rock to construct Momona airport. Any other rights to quarry will be based on existing use rights,” Dr Bidrose says.
There remains in place an interim enforcement order of the Environment Court preventing any quarrying outside the already quarried area and protecting the ridgeline.
The DCC won’t be making further comment at this time.