Havelock North Citizens Inc. is taking the Hastings Council to High Court over two apartment developments on Te Mata and Napier Roads.

According to HNC Inc. Chairman Geoff Harman, the group’s solicitor lodged a statement of claims and notice of proceedings on December 20th, and is expected to meet with Council lawyers in the coming month or so.

The issue has simmered since October 2006, when 200+
residents attended a meeting to consider the situation. HNC, representing 100+ active members, has raised issues ranging from
the overall fit of the Te Mata apartments with the existing character
of the neighborhood to matters of parking, road set-backs and
pedestrian safety.

To HNC, the approval of these developments by HDC without prior public notification is a travesty that cannot go unchallenged. Mr. Harman believes more seasoned planners would have recognized that the proposed developments were challengeable, and would have triggered formal notification to local residents.

The Council’s position has been that, like it or not, the developer (Robert Holden of Australia-based Conrad Properties) used legitimate provisions in the District plan (others might call them “loopholes”) to advance his proposals.

HNC, on the other hand, has received an assessment from an independent planner that points to various reasons the consent should have been denied.

So, soon the parties will be in court arguing the fine points of the law. Both sides financed, ironically, by the ratepayers!

Once again, we have the appearance of a situation where greater political sensibility on the part of Council staff (including prompt response to Official Information Act requests) might have spared HDC ratepayers considerable legal costs.

Should the HDC lose this case in the High Court, and the development
terminated, we can expect developer Holden to be knocking on the
Council’s door seeking millions in compensation.

Public consultation might or might not have changed the outcome or satisfied concerned residents. But as BayBuzz often points out, why offend in style when you can offend in substance?! Once again, the Council appears to be “all ears” to developer overtures, but tone deaf when it comes to ratepayers.

There ought to be a better way! Something for the new Hastings District CEO to think about.

Too often public bureaucracies hide behind the facade that they are not political … that they are simply applying the rules they’ve been handed. But in fact they make daily decisions that involve considerable political judgment … or ineptitude. Sooner or later our elected representatives must take ownership of what the bureaucrats do in their name … or get burned at the stake by angry voters.

Something for the Councillors to think about.

Tom

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