Legal threats hang over a city council committee meeting tonight that will decide if wind turbines should be allowed in the Turitea Reserve.
If the infrastructural well-being committee backs putting turbines into the reserve, a protest group has threatened to take the council to the High Court to stop it.
The group, the Friends of the Turitea Reserve Society, says the plan by the council and Mighty River Power goes against the Reserves Act, and it also goes directly against the purpose of the Turitea Reserve, which is to protect plants and wildlife.
It says creating a new purpose renewable energy generation is incompatible because plants and wildlife will be harmed.
The society is demanding that the council get a declaration from the High Court that changing the purpose is legal before it continues.
If the council doesn’t do this, the society says it will go to the High Court itself to get a judge to review the council’s decision.
The committee, chaired by Peter Claridge, is caught in the middle of the legal sabre-rattling because the council’s own lawyer is recommending that the council not get the declaration.
The lawyer, John Maassen, says in a report that getting a declaration is unwarranted because it can be a drawn-out process that could end in a decision that is overturned later anyway.
He agrees there is some incompatibility, but says, legally, there does not appear to be any impediment to creating a purpose that is inconsistent to a small degree with an existing purpose.
In a letter to the council, the society’s lawyer, Andru Isac, says that as well as being incompatible, the proposed use of the reserve for a wind farm does not constitute a “local purpose” under the Reserves Act 1977.
The society is also upset at the council’s consultation process and the lack of public information provided.
The concerns over the consultation will be included in any legal action, Mr Isac says in the letter.
However, in his report, Mr Maassen says the council has “exceeded its obligations” to consult with the public.
“The consultation process has been robust and extensive.”
Some people had argued that more information is needed about the precise number and location of the turbines, he says.
“At this juncture, however, the only issue is the change of purpose.”
He also disagrees that putting turbines in the reserve contravenes the Reserves Act.
“Mighty River Power has taken advice from its solicitors Chapman Tripp and is satisfied that the change of purpose is lawful.”
The committee meets at the Convention Centre at 5pm today.
* Last month, residents of Elmira Avenue took the council to the High Court over the council’s failure to notify a resource consent application to allow an orthodontist surgery in the street.
The judge called the council’s decision unlawful and overturned the consent. The council has appealed the decision.
By Helen Harvey
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