Trio told to pay for river hearing

Waitara residents have been ordered to pay consent hearing costs to the Taranaki Regional Council.

The TRC took Fiona Clark, Robert Taylor and Andrea Moore to court last year to recover $12,256.70 plus interest and costs which arose from a request for an independent hearing commission to review a resource consent application.

In July 2011 the New Plymouth District Council applied for resource consents to discharge waste water into the ocean off the Waitara River.

The trio signed a submission, under the name Friends of the Waitara River, and asked that it be heard by the independent commission.

However, when it came time to pay for the cost of the hearing the trio refused and the TRC took action in the New Plymouth District Court in December 2014.

On Wednesday Judge Gregory Ross released his decision and upheld the TRC's claim.

He said the defendants' liability on a "joint and several basis" was clear.

In his decision the judge outlined how the trio had all signed the submission and in doing so accepted they could be liable to meet the costs of the hearing.

He said they had been told the costs were estimated at $30,000 and the TRC would be obliged to run through the independent commission unless the submission was withdrawn.

The group asked for the cost to be waived but in August 2011 the TRC's consents and regulatory committee decided not to remit charges.

The deadline for submission withdrawal was then extended until September 2, 2011, but nothing changed. However Clark did withdraw a personal submission.

Just days after, on September 11, 15 people from the Friends of the Waitara River Group signed an application to become an incorporated society, and that was confirmed on October 26, 2011.

Following a three-day independent commission hearing, which began on October 31, the resource consent was granted and the TRC invoiced the trio saying the group was not incorporated when the request for a hearing occurred.

Since then demands for payment have not been met and Clark, Taylor and Moore have not accepted liability for the payment.

However, in his decision the judge said incorporation did not shift the liability to the society because Clark, Taylor and Moore had signed the submission beforehand and they were responsible for paying up.

The judge's decision was tabled at the TRC policy and planning committee meeting on Thursday and council chief executive Basil Chamberlain said the successful outcome meant ratepayers would not have to foot the bill.

Clark said she Moore and Taylor would meet with their barrister to discuss their next move.

Paying up, asking the TRC to waive the cost again, or appealing the decision were all options, Clark said.

She also said the dumping of waste water off the river was a long-running issue.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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