Oravida building work in dispute

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 15:35 18/03/2014

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The property subsidiary of exporter Oravida is in a dispute over adding a balcony on an Auckland Princess Wharf building it leases from Dockland Shed Leases.

Oravida Property appeared in the High Court in Auckland in a bid to overturn an interim injunction that has stopped it from building a balcony on the Harbour Board building it leases.

Oravida Property is owned by Oravida, the scampi and dairy exporter that has recently been in the spotlight due to its connections with Justice Minister Judith Collins.

The Quay St building at the centre of the case is Oravida's New Zealand headquarters and plays host to a clutch of National Party grandees and agencies tasked with opening doors in China.

Oravida bought the building in 2011 but Dockland owns the sublease of the land.

Oravida's lawyer, Stephen Hunter, told the hearing before Justice Kit Toogood that Dockland Shed Leases believed adding a balcony would constitute a material alteration to the exterior of the building and Oravida needed Dockland's consent to make the adjustment.

Dockland is directed by Brian Fitzgerald and Mark French. Fitzgerald worked as a consultant to failed lender Strategic Finance.

Hunter said Oravida did not believe it needed Dockland's consent.

Oravida started adding a balcony to the building, but Dockland sought an injunction to stop the addition of the balcony without its consent before the work was completed.

Dockland said it would not grant consent as adding a balcony would have "irreparable" commercial impacts on Dockland as it leased several buildings in the area, Hunter said.

Dockland said if it did grant consent "everybody would be asking for one", he said.

Justice John Priestley granted an interim injunction to stop the addition of a balcony after a previous hearing on the same matter.

Dockland lawyer Liam McEntegart said consent for material alterations made to the exterior of the building would be granted at Dockland's discretion.

In addition to its application to have the injunction overturned, Oravida has applied to have correspondence from meetings between Oravida and Dockland's directors heard as evidence.

The correspondence was from meetings that largely centred on negotiations over Dockland's proposed sale of the lease of the building at 139 Quay St to Oravida Property.

Hunter said Dockland offered to sell the lease to Oravida for $250,000.

If Oravida bought the lease it would no longer need Dockland's consent to add the balcony to the building, he said.

Collins has been under scrutiny over her dealings with Oravida, of which her husband is a director, and which has also been a National Party donor.

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Collins ran into trouble over a posting on the company's website suggesting she had endorsed its products. she later received a dressing-down from Prime Minister John Key for holding back details of a dinner with company boss Stone Shi and an unnamed Chinese border official in Shanghai.

The controversy has sparked Opposition questions over the company's broader National Party links.

Oravida's website shows the company has hosted some of National's most senior ministers at various functions.

The hearing comes as Key travels to China and Hong Kong in a trip focusing on increasing agriculture and food safety co-operation, financial sector co-operation, as well as building on the strong bilateral trade and economic and political relationship.

- Fairfax Media

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