Group hit with badminton bill

GREEN LIGHT: Hataitai's Badminton Hall has the go-ahead to expand.
GREEN LIGHT: Hataitai's Badminton Hall has the go-ahead to expand.

A community group fears it may have to disband after being hit with a huge legal bill for its failed fight against the expansion of Hataitai's Badminton Hall.

Action for Environment has been ordered to pay $28,000 to the Wellington Badminton Association, after fighting the club's resource consent to extend the hall into the town belt.

The Environment Court has made the unusual decision to order the group to pay half the association's costs of $56,840, because it says the group failed to explore a settlement and was instead "flying solo in opposition".

In the course of a two-year battle, Action for Environment appealed first to the High Court against Wellington City Council's decision to grant resource consent, and then to the Environment Court against the High Court decision.

It was usual to award only a third of legal costs in such cases, but the Environment Court said that "where a party declines to engage, in a situation where it must be apparent that it stands alone, and then fails to substantiate its position", it had to accept the risks involved.

The club was also a community group "fostering a wholesome and beneficial recreation" - not a commercial enterprise, the court said.

The city council also asked for a share of its costs of $63,186, but the court rejected that, saying the council had ratepayers who could foot the bill.

Action for Environment chairman David Lee said he found the outcome disappointing.

The group had been present at mediation talks with the council and the badminton association, but its stance was always that no development should happen in the town belt, he said.

While the council and association had agreed to a different layout, it would still encroach.

"On principle, we had to make a stand . . . I don't see how we could compromise."

The group, set up in 1972, could not afford to pay the costs, and might have to disband, he said.

Badminton association president Tui Hunter said the court's decision was a good one, but the club would be out of pocket "for some time". "We're a public interest group doing the best we can to provide a public facility."

Despite getting the consent, the project might still be shelved, as it depended on the Transport Agency's final plans for the widening of Ruahine St, she said.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council had no comment "other than that we're comfortable with the court's decision".

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Twitter: @katiechapman28

The Dominion Post