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Wind farm witness’ opposing submission exposed by Meridian

An expert witness for Project Hayes has been caught out by Meridian having lodged a submission against the wind farm and not declaring it in his evidence for the Maniototo Environmental Society.

Paddy Baxter, a landscape architect, of Queenstown, told the Environment Court yesterday he had simply signed a submission form 15 months ago without giving it much thought and never considered at the time he would be called as a witness.

“Come on, Mr Baxter. You can’t be serious,” counsel for Meridian Andrew Beatson said.

“Are you saying you didn’t read it before you signed it?” he asked.

“It was a busy day at work,” Mr Baxter replied.

Mr Beatson said he was concerned Mr Baxter had breached the code of conduct when he became an expert witness for the appellant group, and was treating it as “a serious matter”.

“The situation is very close, if not over the boundaries of what is permissible,” Mr Beatson said.

Expert witnesses were subject to significant privilege, but Judge Jon Jackson said the onus was on the Maniototo Environmental Society as to whether it had any weight at all.

Mr Baxter said being asked to be an expert witness had caused him to re-examine his own impartiality, but he never thought to disclose his submission.

“I didn’t mention it, because I didn’t think it was required. It was no oversight,” he said.

By Aimee Wilson

The Southland Times

28 May 2008