Environment Court slaps Len’s face

Len Brown Smack faceOn Wednesday the Environment Court released a very interesting decision that is bound to have wiped the smile of Len Brown’s face today. The Herald has an article about it, but misses the important factors.

Plan Change 163 was an Auckland Council attempt to list properties in the Residential 1 and 2 zones of Auckland.

The decision is fascinating because it is highly unusual for the Court to make comments about process, time and who is to blame for delays and issues of process. Judge Smith has gone further to detail an anatomy of delay and has squarely pointed his finger at  Auckland Council with a 15 page savage ankle biting.

But first the background.

Auckland Council recently courted Government officials and ministers in an attempt to seek legislative change to benefit a fast track process on the Unitary Plan that would give effect to the plan on notification.

In argument Council justified that the process if appealed would likely take 3-6 years and so it additionally sought that appeals rights be limited to matters of law – which is a blatant attempt to stop the Environment Court from interfering with the plan it feels is ‘perfecto’.

To back its position, the Council foolishly fingered the Court for delays in past plan changes stating that the Court is the reason things take so long. 

A spectacularly bad move.

The Environment Court is not happy so it is of no surprise for it to have issued such a humiliating decision for Auckland Council.

The decision details a blunderbuss of mistakes and delays caused by Council and expresses ‘significant concern, both at the process and approach of the Council’.

The Court comments include a 12 page appendix time line analysis of the key steps in the process and Judge Smith comments:

‘This shows the sorry history of this appeal, from its filing in March 2007 until it’s presentation in this Court today. I don’t intend to cover every single aspect of that matter. However, given the criticism by members of Council of this Court taking upto 7 years to process appeals, it is perhaps appropriate that we look in some detail at the way in which this appeal has progressed. I must say that it is symptomatic of my experience with other appeals for other districts, including Rodney, where appeals before the Court took some two years to process, while the procedure through its various stages at district level took over 10 years.’

The Environment Court is pissed off and rightly so.

Council has a legacy of delay and poor performance where it concerns plan changes and it was utterly stupid to contemplate digging a knife into the Court and in doing so has created a venomous enemy who can cause considerable damage to Council credibility – as this decision shows.

Reading through the balance of the decision it continues to highlight substantial errors by Council and finish with questions as to how much of rate payer’s money has been wasted by Council undertaking such a poorly managed process.

Basic errors include the inclusion of 150 dwellings that were incorrectly assessed which resulted in substantial opposition. Overall Council appears to have dealt with issues and process as badly as a three year old ties it’s shoe laces.

To the lay person this decision means what?

In a nut shell – it is a severe undermining of the credibility of Auckland Council and deservedly so.

Auckland Council should not have been so foolish as to have criticised the Court without justification. The property industry and legal community will often speak of the vexed nature of Plan Change processes and how those are consistently delayed by Council who fumble through the process like a bunch of amateurs.

If Mayor Brown thought his Council had a chance of convincing the Government to legislate changes to fast track the process they went about it the wrong way.

Arrogantly Council officers and politicians have fingered everyone else and incredulously refused to accept responsibility for their ineptitude.

The Court is right to be annoyed. They have a difficult and pressured job dealing with poor decisions by Councils relating to consents but also plan changes.

It would be acceptable to infer that if Council thinks it does a good job why do so many of their plan changes get referred to Court via the appeals process where they are obfuscated and complicated by Council at every step.

And why would Council think it could finger a Court who spends so much time resolving the mistakes made by that Council and who can therefore demonstrate it.

Did Council really think the Court would sit back and let that happen?

Lenny B and his Generals have again bungled matters. This is clearly another example of how utterly useless Council is at performing it’s functions and how poor the advice is they get from their legal Counsel at Simply Gruesome.

Rather than point the finger, Council could accept that its past performance is quite abysmal and that it lacks credibility as a result.

Council could also accept that it has alienated itself from the property industry, lawyers and now the Court creating some very big and powerful enemies who are sharpening their knives and loading their guns.

The fact it has made such substantial enemies really does raise questions about Council. From the Mayor down to the officers there appears to be a fumbling array of mistakes and contemptuous behaviour. Shitting on the people, organisations and industries one needs to support their plan is not a great way to start.

The wholistic package of issues and resulting train wrecks coming to light are making the Council and it’s CCO’s look like part of the Italian political arena.

And so because the Auckland Council are going about business like an Italian government it is appropriate to rename the Unitary Plan the ‘Italy Plan’.

This post was written by the The Property Merovingian


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  • Greg

    This picture cracks me up everytime :)

  • philbest

    This is not the first time judges have been pissed off with Councils completely ignoring the law, both statute and precedent interpretation. This sort of thing is an epidemic in NZ. Councils routinely use the deep pockets of ratepayers to “burn off” people trying to get their rights enforced. Access to the law needs to be made a whole lot cheaper and faster for citizens if government thinks laws they pass are going to get taken account of at all by Councils.
    Even if “costs” are awarded against the Council, who pays? Not the crooks who work there. This is the underlying problem. No accountability.

  • ratesarerevolting

    Len Brown is a fucking cunt !

    • GregM

      doo dah, doo dah.

      • ratesarerevolting

        LBIAFC………. OH DO DAH DAY

      • Mediaan

        BTW, thanks, great piece of work.

  • In Vino Veritas

    If anyone wants to quiz Red Len, he is currently sitting in the square at Ellerslie with his entourage and is available to have a chat with the natives about making Auckland the most livable city in the world. Fill yer boots.

    • Gazzaw

      I wonder if he’s gone to Ellerslie by bus or by train. He has the choice of both and he surely wouldn’t have taken the mayoral limo on the motorway. Come to think of it he probably would have gone by bus as the bus stop is closer to the Ellerslie square than the rail station. Silly me.

      • Hazards001

        Ergo why we need a rail loop and 10 billion dollar borrowing spree…do try to keep up Gazzaw :-)

    • Mr_Blobby

      Do they advertise his attempts at chatting with the natives or is it all stage managed and announced afterwards.

      • Steve (North Shore)

        Managed, you will see Len on Te News, and Waka Huia

  • Simply G has a lot of the AC’s work but Fuddle Blindly has sown up a lot more, especially on the Environment Court side of things. Pointing fingers out, load, fire…

  • cows4me

    Hardly surprising, we all know the law only applies to the peasants or ratepayers in this case. It’s fucking criminal that a council will try to by pass the law and at the same time use Gestapo tactics on anyone failing to follow the law to the letter. And what’s worst they attempt to shift the goalposts at our expense and start spewing when they don’t get away with their shit. I wonder how much this little exercise has cost the Auckland ratepayer, probably never find out, that would be another court case and of course you know who would have to pay for that.

    • Hazards001

      You should stop milking those fucking cows and get your arse up here and run for Mayor. We’ll send loopy Len down to get up at 4am and your wife can skype ya the details of the day so so he doesn’t run farm into ground!

      Hmmmm…ahhhh….nope..that’s bound to go tits up “sigh”…lying Len will just tell fucking fibs…best you keep the economy going…next candidate please!

      • cows4me

        Sorry Hazards have visited your fair city, how can I put it politely. Um…..If first prize was a weeks stay in Auckland and second prize was two weeks I would be praying for first prize.

        • Hazards001

          lmao..I know…still…..and as a quiet fyi my trade is agriculture I was born in Mangarakau raised in the Catlins.
          I’m proud to be a JAFA as this is my home now.

          And what you mean is if 1st prize was 2 weeks in Auckland and 2nd prize was one week you’d be praying for 2nd prize…but I take ya point :-)

          My point was Auckland needs and deserves an intelligent well rounded hard working leader not the fucking toss pot we have now…and not a few of the pretenders that have gone before him.

  • le sphincter

    Massive fail …

    I dont know where to start but at the beginning might be a good idea.

    And when was that , gentle readers ?

    “The Plan Change was initially notified on 25 May 2005 ….

    Whoa whoa. here. Thats right John Banks and Dick Hubbard were mayor at the time.

    This is just some left over from Banks time as Mayor… but of course he cant recall a thing about it

    • Hazards001

      Give yourself a good hard slap around the earhole and fuck off will you?