NBR Rich Lister’s helipad fight takes off

Rod Duke at war over resource consent.
Rod Duke has already begun building his helipad in Herne Bay.

NBR Rich Lister and retailer Rod Duke made an appearance in the High Court at Auckland on Thursday as a resource consent fight over a planned helipad was launched.

Environment group Kawau Island Action (KIA) has taken the legal action to stop the Briscoe Group managing director building a helipad on a retractable roof on top of his boat shed. Mr Duke, who is valued at $750 million in this year’s NBR Rich List, sat in the public gallery among several Herne Bay neighbours watching the case. 

Opening a two-day hearing before Justice Christine Gordon, KIA lawyer Gillian Chappell told the court Mr Duke and his wife lodged their application to build the helipad before the Unitary Plan went ahead.

The organisation concedes others in the area have access to their own helipads but they do not sit on public beaches as the Dukes' boathouse does on Sentinel Bay in Auckland.

Rod Duke’s Herne Bay helipad is under construction.
Rod Duke’s Herne Bay helipad is under construction.

Ms Chappell told the court how Mr Duke had been granted resource consent for the helipad without public notification. He is able to use it between 7am and 7pm on weekdays and 9am-9pm on weekends three times a week but only once a day. The Dukes had appealed to be able to use it more often, she says. 

The lawyer says the practical effect of the consent is that a person quietly enjoying the beach might be taken by surprise. She says there has been no analysis of what it means for the water or sand and how the public enjoying the beach might be impacted.

“If the public had been consulted there would have been a much more informed decision-making process … would sand blow up into children’s faces? Would children be frightened by the noise?” she asked the court.

She says the council didn’t know what to do with the application and made the wrong call in not notifying it, which would have allowed public consultation. 

The proceeding continues with Mr Duke’s interests being represented by Setareh Stienstra, while the Auckland Council’s lawyer is DLA Piper’s Diana Hartley. A representative for Mr Duke indicated he did not wish to comment at this stage. 

Rod Duke’s Herne Bay helipad is under construction.
Rod Duke’s Herne Bay helipad is under construction.

Herne Bay resident Warren McKenzie told NBR outside court 200-300 people used the beach at the peak of summer and that residents were worried about the impact of the helipad. He says people in the area were afraid to speak out against the owner of Briscoes and Rebel Sport. 

Mr Duke was sent over from Australia in 1988 tasked with turning Briscoes around.

A few months into the job, he saw potential and made a six-figure offer for the business.

The retailer started his career in an Adelaide shoe shop aged 16 and also owns about $50m worth of residential and commercial property.

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