Brownlee defends development intervention

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is defending his intervention on housing development in Christchurch which saw dozens of landowners stripped of their appeals.

Brownlee last month used special earthquake powers to pull a proposed change to Christchurch's urban growth plan out of the Environment Court, where appeals to it were set to be heard, and make it operative.

The plan change set out where growth could occur in Christchurch until 2041.

The minister said a lengthy court hearing would have taken too long and the land was needed sooner for quake-displaced residents.

The decision meant 51 appeals to the plan were thrown out of the Environment Court, a sacrifice Brownlee said was necessary.

"The area we've made available could make 45,000 sections available over a very short period of time so we think we've done the right thing."

Christchurch barrister Pru Steven, who represents some of the landowners who had appealed the plan change, said the decision went far beyond what was justified for earthquake recovery.

" The court had started to hear some of the appeals. More hearings [were] due to be held now and in the first quarter of next year but they've all been stopped in their tracks."

The move followed government intervention on Christchurch Airport's noise contour, which restricts residential development, to allow some new building at land-hungry Kaiapoi.

Steven said that meant other contour landowners no longer had the right to their day in court, as the decision to exempt only Kaiapoi was in a regional policy statement.

"You can't make a request to change a regional policy statement. The contours have only ever been in district plans before and anyone can make an application to change a district plan.

"[Landowners] are left without any ability to pursue anything else. That's the end of the road for them."

Brownlee said his legal advice differed to Steven's, and landowners did have a right of appeal. "But I don't believe it's an easy process for them."

He encouraged landowners with no contour issues and who wanted to be included in the urban growth area to get in touch with the Government, but had little consolation for those inside the contour.

"The reality is, a decision has been made. I'm sorry, but I've got to make those decisions. There is a need for people to have sections made available fairly quickly, and to protect the 24-hour operation of the airport."

Waimakariri Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove said the decision had devalued land outside the plan's development boundaries.

"Basically [Brownlee] has stolen their land.

"He's taken away their land rights because that land has very, very limited use now at all. These guys were going through their normal legal processes. To take that away without due process, without consultation, without any reference, is an outrage."

The Press