The Environment Court has ruled that Andy Lowe’s Hill Country Corp must pay the full costs — some $300,000 — incurred by the Hastings Council in reviewing his proposed private plan change to build 1,000 housing units at Ocean Beach.

This is a terrific victory most notably for the 12,000 people who signed the Friends of Ocean Beach “Just Say No” petition and for the 200 submitters who opposed the plan change … but also for all Hastings ratepayers who otherwise would have had to foot the bill.

Chris Ryan and I, as leaders of the petition drive, prepared a submission to the Environment Court, which Chris was allowed to present despite the opposition of Hill Country’s lawyers.

Here’s what we said to the Court:

“As leaders of the public campaign against the Hill Country private plan change, we undertook significant efforts to mobilize opposition to the proposal, gathering over 12,000 petitions and stimulating nearly 200 formal submissions. Others on our team had secured legal counsel and expert witnesses and were preparing for what we expected would be an extended hearings process, followed by an appeal to this Court.

We believe that it is important for the Court to realize the breadth and depth of this opposition to the Hill Country proposal, but not because we wish to re-litigate the matter, as Hill Country counsel has suggested, because there’s no need to … we’ve already won that battle.

Rather, we believe the scope of the opposition should be of material interest to this Court and this proceeding for two reasons.

First, the public opposition had significant bearing – we would submit — on the diligence with which the Hastings District Council applied itself to the matter. The Hastings Council could have done nothing less than subject the proposal to the most rigorous and most comprehensive review.

Secondly, as an experienced developer seeking to advance a proposition of huge scope – 1000 homes on an undeveloped beach – Hill Country was fully aware of the scale of the infrastructure, cultural and environmental issues involved; the substantiality of the case they would need to make and defend for the initiative; the depth of Council review that would be commensurate with the scope of the proposal; the costs such a deliberative process would inevitably involve; and, importantly, the risks associated with advancing the proposition.

If Hill Country could possibly have been initially blind to the depth of opposition to its plan, surely the collecting of over 12,000 signatures in approximately six weeks would have awakened it. Yet they persisted.

And as a result, a huge amount of time, money and energy was spent by many citizens, as well as Council staff, dealing with the Ocean Beach affair. We think that it is only fair that Hill Country pay their accounts in full, which even then will only partly compensate the Council and these many people for their personal contribution into protecting this wonderful local asset.

Hill Country chose to spend its money on this project; the rest of us had no choice but to respond.

For ratepayers to be required, through our Hastings Council, to pay any part of the cost for this private developer’s folly, will be regarded by our community as a travesty.”

Delivered, I might add, with great passion — and a nice bit of rhetorical flourish — by Chris.

With the Court decision, no further appeals are available to Hill Country. The $300,000 must be paid. And this chapter in the Ocean Beach saga is closed.

All in all, an inspiring demonstration of what an aroused citizenry can accomplish on behalf of the environment here in Hawke’s Bay … and a powerful message to those who do yet comprehend the depth and persistence of environmental concern in our community.

Tom Belford

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6 Comments

  1. What can one add to that stated than great peoples victory

    in protecting its heritage from those whose motivation is greed.

    There are more battles to be won. Restoring the former world top ten rated free access trout fisheries of the Tuki and Mohaka to good health that drew me to NZ in 1973 are two of those.

    There are many examples across NZ of exploitation in violation of the self sustaining RMA foundation stone on which it was born.

    Central and regional governance has failed abysmally to realise and protect the boost genuine eco tourism can provide to an economy and to the well being of all that reside here. Short term gain has left mega bucks cleanups of the environment world wide

    Did we need to reinvent the wheel rather than learn from those mistakes. Use votes well this year and next.

    That is what democracy and governance by the people for the people is all about. For those who did the hard miles at Ocean beach take a bow and enjoy the moment

  2. Excellent, well done Tom, Chris and the public.

    Shows what really can be done.

    I'm overwhelmed

  3. That is fantastic news that Hill country has to pay in full. I was one of the petition signers & passionate supportes of the wonderful people who gave their time money & expertise to protect a pristine part of our coastline & heritage… Well done & thanyou.

  4. Absolutely wonderfull news. Good old fashioned "people power" won the day. Goes to show, in exactly the same way, against all the odds, the "ordinay" people rose up! Signed petitions, made umpteen submissions to council, All of which "saved" the historic Marine Parade baths site, on which the New Ocean Spa swimming baths,stands today. All of which, the then Mayor A Dick including the then, Cr B Arnott, were totally opposed! Oh dear what a shame, never mind.

    In reference to the Napier City Council's draconian actions re: footpath- signs, lets only hope, all the hard working retailers of Napier's CBD, the general public, including all the retailers in the suburbs of Ahuriri, Marewa, Onekawa, Taradale, Rise up and stick together, because they would have to believe in the tooth fairy, if they think they'll forever escape Madam Arnott's revenue gathering net? '

    And who was it said Taradale would never have the ugly revenue gathering Parking Meters? Yeah right!

    David Bosley

  5. What a fantastic result! It's really heartening to know that citizens can have such an impact. Thanks to everyone who supported this effort, and most especially to the people who persistently spearheaded the campaign. It takes a lot of energy and dedication to carry such a thing and to stay the distance.

    An anti-fluoride campaign was carried by Barbara Ison in the 1990s and through citizen energy briefly succeeded in achieving a Council vote to remove fluoride from the Hastings District water supply. This became overturned as a result of a subsequent concerted counter campaign.

    Could citizen power be mobilised again and successfully to have this toxic substance removed once and for all? Even if many don't think it is toxic (despite studies concluding that it is), there are the PRINCIPLES of CHOICE and CONSENT that need to be honoured. It is almost impossible to totally avoid consuming fluoride in this district, especially if we grow our own food, and the extra trouble and expense needed to at least have fluoride-free drinking and cooking water are quite unfair.

    Is there anyone up for this challenge? Is there a community will to change this situation which many feel jeopardizes their health and well-being? I can't offer to spearhead this but would be right behind it.

    Please bee bold and tell us through BayBuzz.

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