Little hope seen for property owners who challenge central-city blueprint

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2012
Calendar Girls
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

BATTLE AHEAD: Les Mills, left, in Cashel St and Calendar Girls in Hereford St are buildings that could become victims of the central city plan.

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Aggrieved landowners looking to challenge the central-city blueprint in court will find it difficult to make a case, a property expert says.

Some landowners have vented their frustrations at the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, published last week, and the Government's plans to acquire land.

Calendar Girls strip club's owner has vowed to fight the Government if its inclusion in the eastern "frame" means demolishing its building.

Property lawyer Paul Calder said applicants pushing for a judicial review of the plan would have to argue that it was not for the purposes of earthquake recovery.

"It would be very hard to say [Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee] has stepped outside his powers in issuing this blueprint," he said.

"It seems to me it is fairly and squarely within the powers of the minister in terms of the [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act]. Their blueprint allocates certain key project sites within the central business district and it seems to me that's within his powers."

A judicial review could be ordered when a decision-making body had exceeded its power, committed a breach of law or natural justice, reached an unreasonable decision or abused its powers.

This argument was successfully employed by a group led by Independent Fisheries over changes Brownlee made to the 1998 Canterbury Regional Policy Statement.

A High Court judge ruled last month that Brownlee had "stepped outside the legal limits" of his earthquake powers in removing a plan change to the statement from the Environment Court, and ordered a judicial review.

Calder said upset landowners would do better to focus on compensation than fight the acquisition.

"There will be more room for debate around compensation," he said.

"I suspect that there'll be a lot of examples where the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will encourage people to consider a land swap or some other mechanism by which that capital isn't lost to the recovery of Christchurch."

The plan was implemented yesterday by amending the Christchurch district plan.

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