The society which granted American billionaire Julian Robertson its Environmental Tick for his proposed luxury accommodation at Cape Kidnappers Station received donations from an American fund to which the billionaire has links.
Gary Taylor, chairman of the Environmental Defence Society, told the Environment Court yesterday that Mr Robertson was involved with the Environmental Defence Fund, alongside a member of the Environmental Defence Society, Professor Charles Wurster, who was a founding trustee of the American organisation.
Under cross-examination from Matthew McClelland, counsel for appellant Charles Gordon, Mr Taylor said he had known Mr Robertson for about three years and had dealings with him on around half a dozen occasions, paying him a visit in the United States.
"The society receives donations?' Mr McClelland asked. Mr Taylor replied that it did.
"Has it received a donation from Julian Robertson?" Mr McClelland asked.
Mr Taylor said it had not.
Mr McClelland asked: "Has the society received any funding from the Environmental Defence organisation in the USA?" Mr Taylor said it had.
Mr Taylor was being questioned during the third day of the Environment Court hearing into Mr Robertson's plans, being held after the Hastings District Council's hearings committee gave permission for the development by four votes to three.
"This is a substantial achievement for the applicant, and the first time that the society's Environment Tick process has been explained to the Environment Court," Mr Taylor said in his submission to the court.
"We formed the opinion that the lodge deserves a resource consent under the relevant Resource Management Act tests.
We see the Environmental Tick as a way of lifting the performance bar, of encouraging higher standards and better outcomes. Under cross-examination from Magnus Macfarlane, counsel for Rod Heaps of Gannet Beach Adventures, Mr Taylor said it was Derek Nolan, counsel for Mr Robertson, who had instigated the Environmental Tick process, after a triple-pronged appeal had been lodged.
"If the outcome had been negative we wouldn't be here today," Mr Taylor told the court.
Mr Macfarlane asked Mr Taylor whether he agreed that the proposed site for the lodge was a sensitive site.
"I don't think that the particular site is in a sensitive area. It's part of a working farm," Mr Taylor said.
"It's a pastoral landscape. It's not a piece of pristine coastal forest. It's a paddock."
Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana told the court local Maori had visited tangata whenua at Kauri Cliffs, where Mr Robertson had been responsible for a similar development, and were reassured by the way the landowner acted.
"Our tipuna (ancestors) would be happy," he said. "Our tipuna would be applauding the advent of such a development."