Last Thursday, two lawyers, one for the Hastings Council and one for the Regional Sports Park Trust, rolled up some more billable hours at ratepayer expense.
Not by arguing the substantive merits of the sports park’s raid on Heretaunga soils to the Environment Court, which would be understandable and fair enough, but rather trying to challenge the rights of opposing citizens to make their legitimate appeal under the Resource Management Act.
First the pair presented their arguments, all based on technical objections to the submission and appeal papers filed by the HB Horticultural Land Protection Society, that the entire appeal should simply be thrown out. It seemed like they were taking one of those desperate half-court basketball shots that sometimes swings the game in the last second of play. Perhaps realising what a long-shot their gambit was, they spent as much time recommending how the Court should guide the proceedings if it did not throw the appeal out.
Hours of legal preparation, and an hour of court presentation … ka-ching, ka-ching.
Then the team moved on to their second objective — striking me as a supporting appellant to the Land Protection Society (I filed as a so-called section 274 party under the RMA).
Apart from the fact that I have probably investigated the issues surrounding the sports park more closely, on my own time and dime, than 99.99% of Bay residents — perhaps at this point even more thoroughly than the lawyers retained on ratepayer dollars — why would the Hastings Council and its appointed sports park trust footmen be so determined to prevent my becoming a party?
I suspect they’d like to isolate the Land Protection Society, so they can more easily disparage the motives for its appeal … trying to paint its members as a tiny number of malcontents out of step with the broad public.
That characterisation, which the Mayor’s lackies have promoted, is both incorrect and unfair.
Early last year BayBuzz conducted a survey, delivered randomly to 5,000 Hastings District homes, in which 80% of respondents said they opposed the sports park … 68% opposed strongly. To say that only a handful of “obstructionists” oppose the complex is patently false.
That aside, the Land Protection Society — whether it represents 15 or 15,000 members — has every right to legally pursue its legitimate objective — protecting invaluable Heretaunga Plains farming soils. That’s precisely why the RMA exists. If the Council has gotten the cart before the horse by beginning construction of the sports complex before the legal process has played out, then shame on the Council, not the Society.
Indeed, last week the Hastings Council was crowing with glee over a decision by the High Court, affirming a decision of the Environment Court, that had the effect of protecting roughly five hectares of Plains orchard land from sub-division. Interesting that the Council would fight to protect these five hectares, while bending due process in every which way to build its sports park on 30 hectares of better land at Percival Road.
Before long the Environment Court will render its decision on whether the appeal will proceed, and whether I will remain a party.
Whatever the outcome, a couple of lawyers made a few thousand last week for their diversionary tactics. If they net their half-court shot, I guess it will be adjudged a wise investment … even if at the expense of the spirit of the RMA. If their shot caroms off the backboard and misses, ka-ching, they will have wasted time and ratepayer money. But hey, this is a Council that loves a good fight with its ratepayers.
Be assured, if the appeal proceeds, BayBuzz will be courtside, one way or the other, cheering on Allan Baldock and the Horticultural Land Protection Society.