At last week’s hearing for the Northlake hotel resource consent application, the meeting was adjourned until Friday May 24, to allow the applicant’s lawyer, Mr Goldsmith, time to prepare written closing remarks.
Present for the opposition at the hearing were Lee Overton and Lee Brown for Exclusive Developments, Niamh Shaw, Quentin Smith, Cherilyn Walthew, and lawyer James Gardner-Hopkins. Shaw explained, “James Gardner-Hopkins was recommended by a contact in Cromwell. He is a barrister with 17 years’ experience in RMA, environment, planning and natural resources law. A small group of Northlake residents funded his services.”
Shaw said, “The counsel for the applicant, Warwick Goldsmith, made the interesting choice to discuss the residents' no-objection covenants at some length on the first day.”
In her response, Shaw tackled the no-objection clause, which has proven as big a sticking point as the hotel itself.
“Mr Goldsmith… pointed out that these covenants are standard, and that the no objection covenants have never been enforced. Perhaps that depends on the definition of ‘enforced’. On every occasion a Northlake resident has made a submission in opposition to a consent application or plan change, they have been instructed to withdraw their submission by the Applicant’s General Counsel,” said Shaw.
“Mr Goldsmith stated that no submission was received by anyone with an address within AAD1 of the NSZ. Six residents opposed the Applicant’s Plan Change 53, and each withdrew upon the Applicant’s formal instruction. The residents have been instructed not to submit in opposition; and the fact that these are contractual clauses carries the threat that they could be enforced. This is a compelling reason why no submission was received by any individual with an address within AAD1 of the NSZ.
Gardner-Hopkins also addressed the no-objection covenants, and referred to how Northlake Investments Ltd has created a 'climate of fear' amongst its 300 owners. In a Radio NZ interview, an anonymous resident is quoted as saying: "Well, quite frankly, we're all terrified. These people have got humongous amounts of money and the gagging orders in our covenants are extreme." This is a sentiment felt by many within Northlake.
Gardner-Hopkins also summarised the main issues with the hotel application, in terms of its not conforming to the Northlake Special Zone (NSZ)'s objectives and policies; and its non-compliance with part two of the Resource Management Act. He also argued that the definition of ‘minor effects’ “requires an evaluative judgment with no absolute yardstick or measure”, and what is a minor affect for the developer, is not a minor affect for families living alongside a hotel.