Dunedin City Council fined for road botch up

A High Court decision has slammed Dunedin City Council's (DCC) handling of a roading realignment in the city, ordering the cash -strapped authority to pay affected parties more than $185,000 in costs.

Justice Alan Mackenzie indicated in a written decision the legality of the stretch of State Highways 1 and 88 through the city  remained in question because of the council's botch up.

The judge has ordered the southern council to pay plaintiffs, whose access to their land was affected by the project,  $79,524 in costs, plus experts fees of $95,605.26, and other disbursements of $10,489.77. Collectively,  the plaintiffs are Anzide Properties, Hall Brothers Transport, and Dunedin Crane Hire (2005) .

The decision culminates a two-year battle between the parties relating to the DCC's designation of land for proposed arterial purposes.

"[In] June 2010, the council decided to realign the route for the proposed arterial so it ran adjacent to the affected land and did not cross it," Justice Mackenzie said.

As the council sought consent for the project, the plaintiffs were identified as affected parties.

But the council consequently decided to alter the designation in such a way that it would not need to acquire the affected land, the judge said.

"It did not notify any of the plaintiffs of its intention to make that change.It now accepts that it should have done so."

Even though the route no longer crossed the affected land, access to it was affected by the new road. Safety concerns expressed by the plaintiffs were largely ignored.

The road was built, a new set of traffic lights installed, and it opened April 5, 2011. Court proceedings resulted and the council's original decision was set aside. A temporary access arrangement was subsequently put into place.

 The traffic lights have remained idle for more than a year.

Justice Mackenzie indicated he was not in a position to make a decision on the future of the road. It's legal designation of the road was now uncertain.

Plaintiff representative Dunedin contractor Doug Hall declined to comment on the decision. Dunedin City Council representatives could not be reached for

Justice Mackenzie said the DCC's handling of the matter had caused further costly delays.

"Much of the expenditure incurred has been a necessary consequence of the council's attempts to achieve a different outcome from that which it agreed, despite the council having taken no formal steps to vary the consent orders.

"I consider that approach by the council has contributed significantly to the costs and has contributed unnecessarily to the time and expense of the proceedings...."

The council project was part of its realignment of the highways around the city's new Forsyth Barr Stadium, the costs awarded adding to millions of dollars of extra costs already stumped up by Dunedin ratepayers.

D Scene