State Highway 18 priority
Transit NZ is likely to seek a priority fixture in the Environment Court to keep its State Highway 18 programme rolling.
Environment Judge Bollard adjourned 15 appeals in a court callover session today, “with a view to a judicial conference being held when a fixture allocation is in sight.” But he also said that if such a fixture looked too far away, Transit was likely to seek priority.
That would be good for Transit and the appellants, said one lawyer representing two appellants, Russell Bartlett. But he then questioned accepting the highway hearing being given priority when he had clients with appeals dating back to 1995 over North Shore City’s 1994 district plan, still unheard.
The redesigned State Highway 18 will link State Highway 1 at Albany and State Highway 16 near Kumeu, on a route combining some of the existing North Shore end of the road and a new highway section slightly further north than the existing road, which now winds slowly through suburbia at the top of the Waitemata Harbour. Transit wants to get it built over the next five years.
Judge Bollard said priority fixtures were hard to fit into a court programme which includes some major cases, including two long ones in the Bay of Plenty and another in Hauraki. “I hope Rodney’s section 62 negotiations [on contributions from developers] come to fruition. If we had that come back on our plate we’d be in queer street,” the judge remarked.
Transit’s counsel, Suzanne Janissen, said some parties to the Highway 18 case wanted issues resolved which were not part of the substantive hearing, such as whether Transit had chosen the best route, getting an outline plan and mitigating of future effects on the environment. She said these legal issues could be dealt with at a preliminary hearing and suggested two days in April. But Judge Bollard said disagreement on any of these issues at a preliminary hearing could hold Transit up for a year or two, before it got to the substantive issue of designating land along the highway route.
Route issues are at the heart of some appeals, but Ms Janissen rejected a suggestion that Transit get on with consent applications before the regional council. “Transit would not want to get into spending millions of dollars on detailed design if in in the end it can’t have the designation,” she said.
North Shore “turmoil”
Environment Judge Bollard said today he had been asked not to start listing specific appeals over North Shore City’s 1994 district plan until the city’s latest batch of councillors got their house in order.
The judge’s comments, during a callover of cases before the court, raised an issue of dealing with one side of a case (the city council, as respondent) and not the other (the ratepayers whose appeals have not been dealt with). But the judge said there was also a practical issue: “Council’s solicitors have not had an easy task, perhaps with ‘turmoil’ not being too wrong a word. If you bring on the specific ones [appeals] before you get the philosophy settled…” The judge felt that would be to deal with the plan back to front.
Counsel for some of the appellants over Transit’s State Highway 18 application, Russell Bartlett, slipped the state of play on the Shore into the hearing when the possibility arose of priority being given to the highway application.When he asked for an indication from the court, and from lawyers representing the North Shore City Council, of where the city’s district plan process was headed, “so we could find which of the North Shore appeals should have priority,” the judge made his admission on what appears to be lopsided handling.
“I was asked not to start listing cases so North Shore City Council could start organising themselves… the new batch of councillors,” he explained. When Mr Bartlett said these were the third mayor and third batch of councillors to deal with the district plan, Judge Bollard moved on to the practicality of fitting too many cases into a court programme where so many people are waiting to be heard, and of dealing with the general before the specific.
He said the court’s callover next Monday, 6 March, was an important one “where I’m hoping to receive a reasonable shakedown, so you’ll know what the general appeals are that need to be fitted in… I agree, once we know where the North Shore review is heading, we’ll know where we stand with these [other] cases.”
Environment Court appeals by six parties over Rodney District Council’s programme for widening Whangaparaoa Rd and building a bridge over the Weiti River have been adjourned — according to the council’s lawyers, to allow the Auckland Regional Council to catch up with its coastal consents programme.
The bridge would link the new northern extension of State Highway 1 at Redvale to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula’s main artery at Stanmore Bay, a project which has been on developers’ and engineers’ books at least since the mid-80s, but which private enterprise has failed to pick up because the anticipated returns do not match the cost.
Listed infrastructure company Infratil thought the 7km Weiti crossing might become its first privately run toll road in 1996, when it signed a heads of agreement with the Rodney council. The council ordered an immediate environmental impact study, but eventually Infratil backed away from the project. The subject was one of the hot issues before the commissioners inquiring into the upheaval between Rodney councillor factions and council staff (the commissioners are due to report to the Minister of Local Government, Sandra Lee, on Friday).
Former MP and first-term Rodney councillor Ross Meurant claimed no serious investor would look at the $40 million-plus project, which meant ratepayers would foot a skyrocketing bill. He had introduced two big investors to the council, but the $9 million early shortfall they identified stopped them from taking their interest further.
Adjournment of the appeals means they will not come back to court until someone applies. That may occur if the regional council continues the process of dealing with coastal consents, or if the district council resumes its property-buying programme along the proposed route.