Gorse spraying still in dispute
Gorse spraying with a toxic herbicide in Whitireia Regional Park looked set to go ahead on the weekend but with more strict controls.
The controls were agreed to by Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) after Titahi Bay Residents Association (TBRA) took the issue to the Environment Court.
The agreement between TBRA and GWRC was reached after the court said it could not make a decision on the basis of information provided by TBRA alone, and suggested negotiation between the parties.
TBRA had challenged both the environmental safety and the legality of the spraying going ahead.
TBRA chairman Graeme Ebbett said the Whitireia Park Board held no legal meetings and a teleconference the board claimed was legal that passed a resolution to allow the spraying was a ‘‘sham’’.
The court did not rule on the legality of the decisions, as that is not the court’s role under the Resource Management Act.
The TBRA affidavit asked for an interim enforcement order to prohibit GWRC from spraying the park because of the risk to the environment from the metasulfuron herbicide, tradenamed Answer by DuPont.
Dupont’s own warnings about it are extreme, it says.
Mr Ebbett said the stricter conditions were not good enough, but all they could get under the circumstances.
The association was looking at all avenues to prevent the spraying going ahead until their other complaint about the board meetings’ legality and process adequacy was determined.
TBRA said the process GWRC, DOC and the board claimed they went through, involving plans and consultation, had not been properly done or not done at all.
Mr Ebbett said, contrary to claims by GWRC, there had been no consultation, no draft plan approved, and the spraying would be close to streams, wetlands and other protected areas.
The agreement between GWRC and TBRA increases the spraying setback from these areas, increases the droplet size of the spray to reduce spray drift on the wind, and increases the monitoring of the spraying.
GWRC said the spraying was legal without a notified resource consent and hearings because it is a permitted activity under the regional air quality rules under certain conditions.
Mr Ebbett said those conditions have not been complied with. He said there was no spraying plan and no plan for regeneration of plants.
GWRC and DOC have said approval was given properly. However, official documents and DOC confirmation indicate there were no legal meetings of the board to do so.
The September 30 meeting that GWRC said approved the spraying, and a subsequent ‘‘workshop’’ and ‘‘teleconference’’ meetings all appear to have been unlawful under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA).
After DOC realised the first meeting was not legal, a ‘‘workshop’’ passed a resolution even though it was recognised that workshops cannot legally make decisions and there was no quorum.
Mr McKenzie then held a ‘‘teleconference meeting’’ – whose minutes show a quorum ‘‘present’’ – and that ‘‘meeting’’ approved the spraying – despite being non-public and non-notified.
Mr McKenzie said that he believed the teleconference meeting was legal under the Reserves Act’s provisions for ‘‘ other meetings’’, and he did not know anything about the meeting being subject to LGOIMA. ‘‘We don’t want to do anything illegal.’’ He said the spraying would not be suspended while the issue was resolved.
‘‘If it turns out that the decision was illegal, we’ll just hold another proper meeting of the board and pass a new resolution.’’
Neither GWRC nor new regional councillor from Porirua, Jenny Brash, had responded to our questions about the legality of the decision.
Mr Ebbett said on Friday the group had made an urgent complaint to the Ombudsmen’s Office and the Auditor General about the illegality of GWRC’s actions.
It sought a request by the Ombudsmen’s Office for GWRC to hold off on the spraying until the legal questions and a proper planning and consultation process had been completed.
The Ombudsmen’s Office had replied that the issue was not so clearly defined as to make an urgent investigation reasonable.
Mr Ebbett said the only other course appeared to be to ask the High Court for an order – but the expense and time required made that a very difficult proposition.