Private prosecution against council

By Sophie Price

7 comments
Jackie Gibbes and Richard Cuthbert, from Triple R Lifestyles, outside the Central Hawke's Bay District Council building yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown
Jackie Gibbes and Richard Cuthbert, from Triple R Lifestyles, outside the Central Hawke's Bay District Council building yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown

The Central Hawke's Bay District Council has been accused of abusing its power while in public office.

Triple R Lifestyle director Jackie Gibbes and developer Richard Cuthbert have brought a private prosecution alleging misfeasance against the council. The prosecution also includes a number of council staff.

The couple have been at war with the council over development of a site where there were nine sections already earmarked for residential development.

The battleground has been littered with OIAs, delayed briefs of evidence, court cases and dismissed charges against the development company.

Triple R Lifestyles had planned to offer subdivided sites for caravans or cottages, short-term or part-time use, for mobile home owners. The council deemed the vehicles to be buildings, wanted them raised on permanent piles, and issued a notice to fix or remove them.

TRL did not comply and the company was taken to court, but the charge was withdrawn because the section had been sold to another party.

The land reverted to TRL and the council said the notice to fix remained in place.

In 2013 the Ministry of Business, Innovations and Employment overruled the council, saying that caravans on a Takapau property development did not need to be put on piles.

Mr Cuthbert said they had tried everything to resolve the issue over the past five years with the council, and that the High Court was their last resort.

"Why are we doing it? Because no one else would help us," he said. "We had no option but to file this misfeasance charge against them."

The police were called in to ensure the process of serving the papers at the council building in Waipawa went smoothly.

Ms Gibbes was surprised the mayor was "as obstructive as what he was" when he forcibly asked filming media to leave the building.

Mayor Peter Butler declined to comment when questioned about the papers served.

According to the statement of claim, the council knew that by insisting on caravans being affixed to permanent piles the whole purpose of the development would be defeated and the property would be of no interest to its intended market of motorhome and caravan owners.

As a result of the council's misfeasance, TRL's subdivision became untenable and TRL had no option but to withdraw its subdivision application to CHBDC, the statement reads.

Mr Cuthbert alleged misfeasance because he believed TRL had "damning evidence" against the council. "It is a shocking charge because it is so rare to be laid in New Zealand," he said. "But we had no other choice but to do this."

Ms Gibbes said they knew the charge would be difficult to prove but that the council's actions during the past five years had just been "inconceivable".

Mr Cuthbert said while they hoped to recover some of the costs through the court, what was more important was holding those in power to account.

The council has 25 days to file with the High Court a statement of defence.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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