The Auckland City Council has spent $1,260,000 dollars fighting a court case against itself.
The dispute began when Panuku Development Auckland – the organisation the council relies on to complete its development projects – was instructed to build a seawall in Orewa.
In order to do this, Panuku was forced to apply for consent through the council resource consent process. The consent process, which vets all major developments in Auckland, and is supposed to apply to all developers, determines whether proposed developments can go ahead. Normally, the Auckland City Council hears all applications, but, to ensure the process was adjudicated fairly (and Auckland City Council did not grant consent to Panuku just because they had asked for the development) independent commissioners were hired to listen to Panuku’s application on the council’s behalf.
Unfortunately for Panuku and Auckland City Council, the independent commissioners rejected the application. Determined to move ahead with the plan to build a seawall, Panuku and Auckland City Council have taken the matter to court, in an effort to overturn the decision made by the council itself.
Mayor Phil Goff says, while it is regrettable the matter has gone to court, he will not apologise for hiring independent contractors to adjudicate Panuku’s application. “Not to have that process would … allow the council effectively to do whatever it liked,” he says. If the council did not hire independent contractors to review applications, it could potentially get away with breaking its own rules, as it would be “the judge in its own case” – an obviously unfair outcome.
This isn’t the first time this has happened – late last year, Panuku took Auckland City Council to court over a similar dispute. Panuku had applied to build a five-storey retail and apartment block on Dominion Road, but their application has been denied when Auckland City Council hired independent contractors to review the application. As with the Orewa case, the matter has since been taken to court. According to Radio NZ and Auckland Mayor Phill Goff, this legal dispute – which is still ongoing – has cost rate-payers more than $600,000 so far.