When the supermarket chain Foodstuffs made the decision to establish a Pak 'n Save on North Shore's Wairau Rd, the internet had just been invented, cellphones were the size of bricks, Auckland's boroughs were being amalgamated into four cities and the Resource Management Act had arrived.
The economy had not long passed from an era of controlled competition and the news had not reached all local body planning officials. North Shore City Council listened to objections that a large store in the Wairau valley could draw customers from existing stores and decided the location was not suitable. So began a 20 year saga in the councils, courts and tribunals of environmental appeal that ended quietly on Wednesday's deadline for an appeal against Foodstuffs' latest consent. Finally its rival, Progressive Enterprises, appears to have given up.
Even after Foodstuffs had gone ahead and built the store with consent in 2005, Progressive went to the High Court and managed to have the consent overturned months before it was to open.
The grounds, as usual, were spurious. Progressive cited traffic problems and claimed the council was not applying its rules consistently. Nobody except the High Court was fooled. North Shore mayor Andrew Williams spoke the plain truth last year when he said the RMA was being used for anti-competitive behaviour.
A few weeks ago the High Court threw out Progressive's last bid to block the big store, which is preparing to open its doors in May. Whatever its commercial success, the supermarket will stand as a stark symbol of the follies of planning law that invites objections too widely and permits too many appeals. Applicants and objectors needs only a fair hearing and a decisive ruling. This case has been a disgrace.