Supreme Court rejects appeal against minister's quake rulings

The judges do not grant leave to appeal, saying "the applicants are in effect seeking ... an advisory opinion on the minister's powers".

The Supreme Court has rejected a bid by two Christchurch firms to appeal a decision relating to the way Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee used his powers over land zoning in Christchurch, saying it would be "inappropriate" for the bench to give advisory opinions on how minsters exercise their powers.

Independent Fisheries and Clearwater Land Holdings were seeking leave to overturn parts of a Court of Appeal ruling that upheld a High Court judgment setting aside a decision by Mr Brownlee to prevent residential development on private land around Christchurch International Airport, without ordering the minister to reconsider his decision.

"What the applicants seek is the reversal of some of the Court of Appeal's reasons for judgment and the restoration of the reasons for judgment of the High Court," Justices William Young and Robert Chambers say in their written judgment released today.

The Supreme Court judges did not grant leave to appeal, saying "the applicants are in effect seeking ... an advisory opinion on the minister's powers", something the court does not have jurisdiction to do and which would be "inappropriate" in any event.

Since the decision, Mr Brownlee had been following a different process using different powers, and the applicants can challenge them in the normal way if they are adversely affected, the judges say.

"When in the future the minister makes decisions under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, it is much more appropriate that any challenge to such decisions should be made and considered in the normal way, in light of the facts and circumstances underlying such decisions."

Independent Fisheries and Clearwater Land were ordered to pay $8000 in costs plus reasonable disbursements to the minister and local body authorities, with an uplift imposed because they had to file submissions for the local bodies to be joined as parties.

The original dispute arose from Mr Brownlee using powers granted under the earthquake recovery law to back local governments and the airport in rejecting land for housing.

A group of private developers had been battling over the detail of a Christchurch airport quiet zone for years before the quakes.

Independent Fisheries and Clearwater Land objected when their development opportunity was wiped out while Mr Brownlee cleared other land near Kaiapoi, also within the airport's strategic air corridor, for new housing.


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