In a blow for Wānaka Community Supporting Our Northlake Neighbours Incorporated, the Ministry for the Environment has turned down their request for funding for legal assistance.
The Society submitted two separate funding applications to the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund; one for the Environment Court appeal against the hotel consent decision; and the other to challenge the legality of residents’ no-objection clauses in a High Court case.
The ELA fund panel rejected the request for funding for the Environment Court appeal due to the case being a local issue and not of regional or national significance; and relatively minor significance of the Part two matters of the RMA.
In response to the request for funding for the High Court case, the ELA fund panel acknowledged that the issues raised could have potential to improve administration and efficiency of the RMA and provide some case law around covenant rights, but that it considered the ‘outcome of the private interests of the development outweighed any public interest.’
Niamh Shaw Chairman, Wanaka Community Supporting Our Northlake Neighbours Society said she had read the sentence, ‘the private interests of the development outweighed any public interest’ over a hundred times and cannot get her head around the implications of what they are trying to say..
The Society has withdrawn the Environment Court appeal but is requesting the ELA fund panel to reconsider its application for funding for the High Court Case.
Shaw said, “Many new developments around the country impose general, no-objection clauses in the residents’ land covenants. This means there is presently nobody holding developers accountable; we are trusting them to behave honourably. If they don’t, communities have no legal recourse and the no-objection clauses render the RMA ineffective.
“If this case does not proceed, it is highly unlikely that these general, no-objection covenants will be challenged. In many cases, the sections or property packages are the most accessible entry-level property available to first-time buyers, which is already a vulnerable demographic. An individual resident won’t risk the cost of going to court (and of course, if they challenge the developer in Environment Court, they are also liable for the developer’s legal costs).
“There are several layers of culpability here: the developer which has deviated so egregiously from its masterplan; the QLDC which was incredibly permissive; and the RMA which enabled this situation.
Government has mandated that local councils enable development capacity and ensure major urban development projects can be built more quickly. I’m sure including no-objection clauses in land covenants make a lot of sense to a developer who wants to remove any impediment to progress. However, this increasingly comes at a cost to residents who have no rights over their own neighbourhood or environs.
The WCSONNI continues to welcome any and all offers of financial assistance. A crowd-funding page has been started at GiveALittle: givealittle.co.nz/cause/we-object