Closed-door mediation does not mean covert deals will be made to keep appeals relating to Queenstown's biggest housing subdivision out of the Environment Court, a district council committee head says.
Queenstown Lakes District Council strategy committee chairman Leigh Overton yesterday said mediation, which was approved by the committee on Tuesday, would follow strict criteria and was a measure agreed upon to try to avoid a costly Environment Court hearing – which ratepayers would have to pay for.
"The committee still has to decide on within what scope we're happy for mediation to take place," he said.
"All submitters who have launched or attached themselves to appeals have the right to be kept informed of what's happening, and will be."
Mr Overton was responding to allegations that mediation could involve "closed-door deals".
The allegation was levelled by an objector and nearby landowner to the $300 million, 750-home Shotover Country proposed subdivision just outside Queenstown.
Protect Queenstown spokesperson Sheena Haywood, who is attached to two appeals on plan change 41, which seeks to rezone the 120-hectare lot allowing the subdivision to go ahead, made the allegations to The Southland Times on Thursday.
Mr Overton said mediation had to take place in private, but that should not be considered sinister.
"Mediation has to take place in private, but those who are part of the process, like Ms Haywood, will definitely be informed as progress takes place. Point by point decisions will be made on each point of difference relating to each appeal.
"Mediation reduces the probable length of any appeals that could end up in the Environment Court. The more we can simplify and restrict the scope of those appeals, the cheaper it is for the district's ratepayers, and we have them in mind when we want to save on court costs."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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