Probation centre faces court threat

17:00, May 11 2010

Approval for a controversial Christchurch probation centre will not be reviewed, but opponents are threatening High Court action to stop the project.

Commissioner David Kirkpatrick ruled yesterday that the Department of Corrections had not misled the Christchurch City Council in its resource consent bid for the Ensors Rd, Waltham, centre.

He dismissed claims that the department did not consult properly, despite only six affected neighbours being told about its plans.

Kirkpatrick said he could understand how neighbours might feel, but he was unsure that their fears would be realised.

Move Over Probation chairwoman Vivienne Yeki said the decision was "a smack in the face of democracy".

She said the group would consider its options, including court action against the council for its role in the consent being granted or seeking a High Court judicial review.

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The group has held public protests against the centre, with residents concerned about a large number of offenders being brought into their neighbourhood.

The department said yesterday that public safety was its priority.

Community probation and psychological services general manager Katrina Casey said the department wanted to "engage with the community on an ongoing basis" to ensure any issues that arose when the centre opened were addressed quickly.

She said yesterday's decision meant the consent was still valid and work would continue on the site.

The department knew that residents had concerns "that are very real to them", she said.

The group has argued that Corrections provided misleading information in its resource consent proposal, including inaccuracies about the number of offenders and staff using the centre, its proximity to schools and impact on roading.

In his decision, Kirkpatrick said the proposed centre was not in a residential zone and was separated from the nearest houses by industrial land.

"It would be difficult to locate anything like this in Christchurch where it would not be relatively close to residential land."

He said there were no rules in the city plan that controlled where probation centres could go in Christchurch.

He could understand how a well-run probation service could generate positive effects, but he also understood how people who had suffered from crime and violence would fear having such a facility close by.

Kirkpatrick said the department had clearly considered alternative locations.

There was "nothing inaccurate" in the department's consent application that could have materially influenced the council's decision to grant consent, Kirkpatrick said.

The Press