Respite for island bach owners

By Anne Beston

A group of Rangitoto Island bach owners have won a court case forcing Conservation Minister Chris Carter to review his decision to evict them.

A ruling from Justice Rhys Harrison in the High Court at Auckland means the owners, who have fought for years to be able to occupy the 21 baches, can stay in the meantime.

The owners argued Mr Carter and his predecessors had not taken the 2000 Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act into account in issuing eviction notices to the owners in August 2004.

Their lawyer, Francis Cooke QC, said the act had expressly provided for communities and the baches to be preserved. He argued Mr Carter and the Auckland Department of Conservation had misunderstood provisions in the Reserves Act and the Conservation Act in trying to evict them.

In his decision, Justice Harrison agreed with the bach owners, saying Mr Carter and his department had "adopted an unduly restrictive approach" to exercising his statutory powers and had "misunderstood his legal obligations". He said the 2000 act introduced "new and different factors for the minister's consideration" and he was bound to take the relevant provisions of it into account.

Justice Harrison said he was satisfied neither the minister nor his department had done that when issuing the order to vacate. He set aside the eviction notices and ruled Mr Carter must review his decision with "explicit and careful consideration" to the Hauraki Marine Park Act.

"I prohibit the minister from taking any steps pending his decision which may have the effect of forcing owners or caretakers to vacate their baches," the judge ruled.

Yesterday a member of one of the bach families, Deodar Meggitt, welcomed the decision but said it was not clear exactly what would happen next.

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