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Natural Justice & the 'Coastal Environment Line' (CEL)

The Government required councils to establish a 'Coastal Environment Line' (CEL) as a map overlay in order that future purchasers of property were aware of the dangers associated with certain coastal areas where housing etc. may be being contemplated. In effect, this would remove the possibility of any future claim against Government, councils or vendors in the event of inundation for whatever reason.

Seems reasonable, and our Proposed District Plan incorporated appropriate lines that shifted over time prior to notification. This led to all manner of protest in submissions from those who believed their property values had been adversely affected. 

Well that is the short version of what was quite a complicated situation that faced the District Plan Review Panel, and Stephen Brown was engaged to undertake an 'expert' review of the proposals.  That resulted in the Coastal Environment Line (CEL) being 'revised', but was still unacceptable to a number of submitters.

The Hearings Panel then took fright, and raised the issue of 'natural justice' where the 'new' line affected properties not previously identified as part of the Coastal Environment, and directed the staff to obtain a legal opinion. This in turnconfirmed that "there is a risk of persons potentially affected being denied an opportunity to participate in the process." More lucrative work for the legal eagles on the fringe!

Staff were then directed to recommend that Council "Initiates a variation to the Proposed District Plan to include the 'revised' CEL, and notifies a variation prior to decisions on the Plan being publicly notified.  This goes to Council next Wednesday, and will almost certainly be adopted, thus opening the door for substantial challenge from everyone affected. I posit that this alone alone will delay the implementation of the Plan by several months. 

The Panel appears to have done an excellent job to date, but this is a giant 'cop-out' to be honest - the Panel should have taken the 'bull by the horns,' made its decision based on the 'expert' advice, and let the consequences, if any, flow. I cannot for the life of me see why the Environment Court would back a challenge, given the requirements the Government has mandated, and the careful processes already followed.

All this will do is to once again open the litigation gates to those who have made bad purchasing decisions in the past, and that will be at our cost. It is another case of protection for National Party (Leach!) supporters regardless of the cost, and if you think that is drawing a 'long bow,' just consider for a moment who are the likely litigants. 


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