Court Costs awarded to CRU v KCDC
Coastal Ratepayers United (CRU) has succeeded once again in its legal challenge against Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) in the Environment Court .
Coastal Ratepayers says its 100 % success rate in challenging KCDC over the Proposed District Plan (PDP), and in particular the coastal hazards, is indicative of CRU’s commitment to good law and good science.
Quentin Poole, CRU Spokesperson, points out that after the election, in 2013/14, Council did three things:
- commissioned 2 independent reports at great expense and accepted all the recommendations in these reports.
- withdrew coastal hazard areas from the PDP.
- resolved that the community would be represented in any future work through a Coastal Advisory Group (CAG).
Unfortunately, Council officers decided not to implement the resolutions of July 2014 accepting of all the recommendations of the independent report. Instead,
- staff decided to keep the old coastal hazard provisions in the current plan
- staff withdrew CAG
- staff have carried on developing new coastal hazard provisions without any community input.
CRU decision to take KCDC to Court
When CRU discovered in 2016 that Council had no intention of implementing its 2014 decisions, it took Court action to challenge the legality of what the Council had done.
Over 350 submitters on the PDP had lost their ability to present concerns and make submissions about coastal provisions because of the way that Council had proceeded.
The case was heard in November 2016. In July 2017, the Environment Court agreed with CRU and declared that Council had not followed the law in relation to withdrawing a number of PDP provisions.
Despite finding that the Council was not obliged to notify the existing hazard provisions which it intends to maintain, the Court did declare that the Council had used its power to withdraw other provisions in a way which contravened the Resource Management Act (RMA).
In response to a Council argument that the declaration should not be made because it had subsequently fixed the problems, the Court declined to endorse any specific Council action and pointed to the fact that those actions were only taken because CRU had challenged the process.
Even though Council publicly resolved 3 years ago to set up CAG and to notify a variation on coastal hazards, the Mayor now says that KCDC had an informal meeting at which most councillors decided to do something quite different.
It is not clear to which meeting the Mayor refers because those interested community groups and residents were not informed.
Appeal to High Court
CRU’s only option now is to appeal to the High Court. If it is successful, it seems possible that the whole PDP may have to be re-notified.
It would be too late in the process to make either the simple changes requested by CRU or for the Council to follow the advice that it accepted in 2014.
To date, ratepayers have paid over 6 million dollars for a flawed document which should have been fixed in 2014 had the Council only followed the independent advice for which ratepayers paid.