New Zealand
Land Use, Permits, Public Participation
The plaintiffs sought interim relief regarding two decisions made by consent authorities facilitating development of a commercial and bulk retailing complex. The complex was planned on land from which a sawmill and timber treatment plant had been operated from 1949 to 1989. During the process of treating timber, soils at the site had become contaminated with chemicals used to process treated timber. The court had to decide whether the land use consent as well as the water discharge permit for the complex had been issued according to the Resource Management Act. It was of the view that the water discharge permit ought to have been publicly notified. It emphasized that a non-notification procedure should be the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, the application dealt with the discharge of contaminants into a river flowing close to a significant urban centre. While accepting that some cases could arise in which the likely effects of a discharge of contaminants was so minimal that there was no need for a public process to be undertaken, in general terms any issue that raised public health considerations should be submitted to a public participation process. The court was also satisfied that discretionary considerations weighed in favor of short term interim relief. In circumstances where public health issues could arise, they had to take precedence over the significant economic prejudice likely to be caused to the developers. It therefore ordered the defendants not to discharge any further water from the site pending further order of the court.