No costs awarded in court challenge

EMMA BAILEY
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014

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Les Rawlings will not be awarded costs for his successful Environment Court challenge against the Timaru District Council.

Hadlow resident Rawlings won his appeal against a neighbour's proposal to subdivide a four hectare lot off Gleniti Rd, with the intention of creating two lots, one of .774ha and another of 3.261ha.

The council's district plan allows only plots of 10ha in rural zones, unless a title was issued before 1988.

In March, Environment Court Judge John Hassan ruled the Pilcher Family Trust's application to build a four-bedroom house on their land was not a permitted activity under the Timaru District Plan.

Rawlings applied for costs against the Pilcher Family Trust and also the council, as it allowed the consent.

Rawlings said the legal challenge had cost $13,378. In his application he said the council had failed to enforce its own plan.

The Pilchers rejected the application, saying they had simply relied on the advice of the council.

In his decision, released this week, Judge Hassan declined the cost application.

"I acknowledge that there is an element of public interest benefit in the result derived by Mr Rawlings' applications to this court. However, that is not a sufficient ground, of itself, to justify a costs award. In any case it is fairly clear that the motivation behind these proceedings is Mr Rawlings' own private interests.

"I have some sympathy for the position Mr Rawlings finds himself in. He has had to incur significant expense in defending his interests. Given the history of prior involvement he and Mr Pilcher had before this court on the subdivision matter, I find the council's lack of communication with him on Mr Pilcher's building consent application surprising.

"However that does not provide a valid basis for a costs award against the council in the circumstances. In particular, the primary cause of costs being incurred against him is five loose words in the relevant plan. It is not appropriate that I make any costs award on the basis of the poor expression of the rule. I can find no fault in the council's approach to the proceedings, nor in the manner in which it carried out its enforcement and administration functions."

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- The Timaru Herald

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