A cost-sharing agreement between the Hurunui District Council and Meridian Energy has Greta Valley businessman John Carr up in arms.
He intends to oppose Meridian’s application for its Hurunui wind farm when the case comes in front of the Environment Court later this year, saying it will have a massive negative impact on his high-end lodge and events centre, Tipapa.
However, he also wants to cross-question every expert witness and is struggling to get permission to provide his own.
This is to redress what he says is an imbalance in the evidence, in favour of Meridian.
In a landmark decision on June 16 last year, the council decided to bypass the usual commissioner-heard resource consent process and fast-track the application directly to the Environment Court to save time and as a more cost-effective option than having to defend its finding – either way – under appeal.
Under the Resource Management Act, the direct referral system allows a council to be reimbursed by the applicant for any costs incurred in securing its consultant experts and preparing its court report. The council took this course of action, negotiating a cost-sharing agreement with Meridian, which was signed on June 20.
Mr Carr’s principle beef lies with clause 8.1 of that document, which states: “The council will not seek to recover from Meridian under this agreement any costs that might be incurred for preparation and presentation of a submission . . . where that submission is opposed to granting resource consent.”
“Had Meridian entered into an arrangement with the council that was unconditional, then no problem. But they have stated that they will only pay if the council does not oppose and I believe that is illegal.”
Mr Dalley disagrees, simply on the grounds that the council is not intending to make a submission at all.
“We are obliged to seek advice on and prepare a report from council-appointed experts to assist the court with its decision-making.
“This we are doing. As previously stated, we intend to assume a neutral stance in the process and will be making no submission.
“Clause 8.1 is there to protect Meridian from requests for council-incurred expenditure such as our contribution of $50,000 to the Glenmark community group to help with the costs of its submission in opposition to the project.”
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