Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Irrational, unnecessary, improper and unlawful

That seems to be the High Court's view of Christchurch dictator Gerry Brownlee's recent decision to abuse his CERA powers to pass a rezoning ordinance:

In a ruling released this afternoon the High Court's Justice Lester Chisholm granted the application for a judicial review of Mr Brownlee's decision in October last year in which he fast tracked a Christchurch land rezoning decision.

Justice Chisholm overturned Mr Brownlee's decisions which ruled out housing development on land near Christchurch Airport owned by Independent Fisheries, supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises and other property developers.

Mr Brownlee's decision also allowed development of land elsewhere and had the effect of terminating a number of appeals to the Environment Court.

Independent Fisheries which made the application argued that Mr Brownlee did not exercise his powers for proper purposes, misapplied statutory powers, exercised power that was not necessary, deprived them of their right of access to the courts and failed to take into account relevant considerations.

Justice Chisholm upheld the application on all grounds apart from the claim Mr Brownlee failed to take into account relevant considerations.

Brownlee will now have to go back and redo the decision using a proper process, rather than simply using CERA to launder Christchurch City Council's position. And he'll need to show why his decisions are necessary for Earthquake recovery, rather than merely convenient for the Christchurch City Council.

Meanwhile, this points to the need for greater oversight of Brownlee's dictatorial powers. His much-vaunted "oversight board" - which includes his old boss Jenny Shipley - didn't catch this, and it has cost the government a significant sum of money. At the least, we need greater checks and balances to prevent similar abuses. But what we really need is a full review of the Act, with an eye to limiting Brownlee's powers only to what is now necessary, rather than what seemed necessary two years ago.