Lagoon ownership issues ‘unresolved’
The lease for a cable-ski park at Aotea Lagoon was granted with too many issues unresolved, leaving Porirua City Council ‘‘wide open’’ for a judicial review, says a former city councillor.
In August the council voted 6-3, with four members barred from taking part because they expressed views in public prior to the debate, to grant the lease to applicant Paul Marlow.
Since then, Robert Shaw – one of the four councillors not permitted to vote – has been in correspondence with the departments of conservation and labour, seeking clarification on points around land ownership, health and safety, water quality and PCC’s process. He has been outspoken against the proposal.
He believes Mr Marlow and his backers Aquacom NZ ‘‘haven’t got a hope’’ of getting assent from the Minister of Conservation for the park, and even if they did, it faces too many obstacles at the consent stage.
Mr Shaw says in most instances, proposals get rubberstamped when placed before the minister, with the work carried out at local government level. But not in this case.
‘‘The ownership issues over the land should have been resolved before getting involved with questions of use,’’ he says. Kapi-Mana News reported in July that PCC has not officially gazetted the reserve management plan for the lagoon, meaning it had no legal basis, and that tracts of the land are owned by DOC and New Zealand Transport Agency.
Mr Shaw received a letter from the Director-general of Conservation on September 21, addressing some of his concerns.
The director-general says the minister does not assess the merits of the proposal, but considers whether council has acted within the terms of its appointment and the appropriate provisions of the Reserve Act.
‘‘The consent role of the minister under the Reserves Act would not extend to land over which the council has no legal control.’’
Mr Shaw believes previous admissions about PCC not having legal rights to the lagoon land make it impossible for the minister to grant a lease.
‘‘ We have been pushed into a decision that could become the basis of a judicial review.’’
A review is brought about by anyone who feels affected by a Government decision and wishes to challenge the way it was made.
PCC acting chief executive David Rolfe says the land ownership issues are close to resolution.
He said reserve management plans are not gazetted, only land classifications.
DOC has transferred the marginal strips of land to council and they gazetted the recreation reserve classification on September 23. The only remaining land status issue is that belonging to NZTA and ‘‘substantial progress’’ has been made. An announcement is expected soon.
Mr Marlow, meanwhile, is adamant the correct process has been followed by himself and PCC.
‘‘I have seen all the matters raised by Mr Shaw. None of the professionally-qualified and experienced independent experts I have consulted, however, share his concerns. I’ve put my best foot forward, now I just have to be patient. Should the minister grant the Reserves Act approval, I look forward to being able to present all that relevant information in the resource consent process.’’