Land use ruling brings warning

A precedent-setting High Court ruling will deprive individuals of their rights over their own land, says a frustrated landowner.

The ruling, issued by Justice Judith Potter in Napier High Court, supports a previous Environment Court ruling that prevented a couple from subdividing their land because it would set a precedent.

Anthony and Janice McKenna applied to Hastings District Council for resource consent to subdivide a former orchard on the outskirts of Havelock North into two 2.5-hectare blocks and a 0.4ha one.

Subdivision was not permitted under the district plan, because it was on plains-zoned land, which the plan aims to protect for its productive use.

The application was declined in July 2007, an appeal to the Environment Court was declined last April and an appeal to the High Court in September was declined this month.

The McKennas wanted to live on one of the sections and had intended to give to the council a further 2.4ha they own alongside the adjacent Herehere Stream.

The land is clear. The couple have had no luck raising crops on the land and have been unable to find farmers interested in leasing it.

They believe the land is not very productive and of such a small size that the effect on the Heretaunga Plains would be insignificant.

While the council agreed the subdivision would have barely any effect on the productive soil resource of the plains, it believed that the application, if approved, would set a precedent that would make way for further "insidious" subdivisions.

Mr McKenna said he was extremely disappointed by the decision.

"Throughout the process there was a consensus that the effect would be no more than minor. It was also agreed the land's productive potential was negligible.

"It would be hard to find a better example of the RMA [Resource Management Act] having no consideration of an individual's rights."

Council environment manager Ian Macdonald said it welcomed the High Court ruling, which he believed would be of national significance.

"This is the first case of its kind to be taken to the High Court. It reconfirms previous decisions.

"It says a small proposal may not have any direct adverse effects on the environment but there is a potential for it to compromise the way local authorities manage resource in their district."

Mr MacDonald said there was increasing demand on plains land, which the council considered of immense economic value.

"Unless the council changes its policy regarding the plains land, this is the way that it is."

High Court costs of $12,000 were awarded against the McKennas.

The council has also lodged and application for Environment Court costs.


The Dominion Post