Wanaka resident Don McKinlay is thrilled the Court of Appeal has rejected Northlake Development’s appeal against a $42,500 District Court fine imposed after two sediment discharges polluted the Clutha River in 2017.
“The unanimous decision speaks volumes re the disregard and sanctity of not only Rockabilly Gully, but also the Hikuwai Conservation Area and the Clutha River.
“I have fought for years in an attempt to have those areas recognised for what they are.
“No stormwater emanating from any part of the Northlake development should be flowing down and desecrating that pristine area,” Mr McKinlay said.
Mr McKinlay said he had asked the Otago Regional Council to take action after a period of wet weather caused the discharges in July and August, 2017.
Civil Construction Ltd was also fined $25,500, but was not involved in the Northlake appeals to first the High Court, and then the Court of Appeal.
“I am thrilled that the court has spoken very clearly to the defendant company, that such blatant disregard for our natural environment will not be tolerated,” Mr McKinlay said.
However, he said erosion had still been occurring after rainfall in the years since 2017, with the most recent going down Rockabilly Gully after 14mm of rain received last week.
Mr McKinlay believed that restrictors placed in channels and underground structures along Northlake Dr did “absolutely nothing” to inhibit discharges.
Residents had been collecting data and he would keep advocating with the ORC for more to be done, he said.
Northlake is part of Winton Group, one of New Zealand’s largest development companies, associated with Chris and Michaela Meehan.
Winton general manager Simon Ash said last week the company took its environmental responsibilities very seriously.
“In this instance where a silt discharge originated due to an event beyond the company’s control, Winton took every possible practical measure required.
“Winton is therefore naturally disappointed by the court’s decision, but accepts the outcome,” Mr Ash said.
ORC general manager regulatory and communications Richard Saunders said the dismissal of Northlake’s appeal served as a warning to developers of their responsibilities to prevent sediment pollution.
Developers should familiarise themselves with the ORC water plan and plan change 8 and ensure sediment controls were in place before earthworks began, he said.
Otago Fish & Game environmental officer Nigel Paragreen said the decision was a “timely reminder that developers do have responsibilities for the impacts of their subdivision projects”.
Otago regional councillor Michael Laws said Wanaka would be heartened by the outcome and could have confidence there would be real consequences if the environment was damaged.
The ORC had charged Northlake with allowing contaminants to escape its Aubrey Rd development site in July and August 2017, under section 15 of the Resource Management Act.
In dismissing Northlake’s appeal, Justices Cooper, Brown and Goddard agreed with earlier District and High Court decisions that Northlake was responsible, both as an active and passive discharger and relying on advice from contractors did not shield Northlake from liability.
They also agreed a prudent developer would already have had the required level of protection in place to prevent discharges in the “not unforeseeable weather conditions” that occurred in July and August 2017.