Opponents of Waiheke Island's first commercial marina returned to court this week to try to overturn an Environment Court decision and prevent the project going ahead.
On Tuesday, Justice Ian Gault in the High Court at Auckland heard barrister James Gardner-Hopkins for SKP Inc, the save Kennedy Point group, which has been fighting for five years to stop the $72 million project.
Gardner-Hopkins raised what the group sees as errors in an Environment Court decision that approved the project. SKP said the Environment Court was wrong in rejecting its application for a re-hearing because the new evidence of Ngāti Pāoa, that it does not support the marina, is important and may have led to the marina application being declined.
Construction of the marina is due to begin soon, creating 181 berths selling from a minimum of $180,000 each.
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Tony Mair, director of Kennedy Point Marina, said late last year that building work would start in April but today parent company Kennedy Point Boatharbour's legal and planning director, Kitt Littlejohn, said no work had yet taken place because plans were still being finalised.
On December 13, the Environment Court refused an application by opponents, clearing the way for the project to go ahead. Principal Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook, sitting with two commissioners, rejected the SKP Incorporated application to hear the matter again because of new issues arising.
So the opponents went to the High Court this week.
Berths start from $180,000, depending on their location and how long they are. Of the 181 berths, 110 had been sold late last year, with contracts struck for 34 years with rights of renewal.
No total project cost has been released, but if berths sell for an average $400,000 each, the project could be worth $72 million.
Auckland marina berths go for a wide range of prices, depending on location, length and terms: Ōrākei berths are understood to sell for similar prices to Kennedy Point.
SKP said Paul Majurey, lawyer for Kennedy Point Boatharbour, left the impression "of exasperation, clearly irritated that an incorporated society, community group and Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board had dared to stand in KPBH's way and had dared to try to save a small quiet public bay from a private commercial marina development.
"The Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board offered a rousing karakia in the courtroom foyer. And with that our day in court was over. With more than 10 questions of law to consider, and a result that will most likely set an important precedent for future appeals and cases involving considerations of Māori cultural values, we expect the decision will be carefully crafted," opponents said.
Under the proposed plans, Donald Bruce Rd leading to the marina would be upgraded and widened for around $500,000, to be paid for by Tony Mair's business. That final cost is subject to Auckland Transport's design.
The car park would also be upgraded. Mair's business has appointed the main contractors for the marina build - Heron Construction, under licence from SF Marinas AB, and Total Marine.
In January, Mair expressed frustration about the length of time involved.
"We got consent in May 2017. It was appealed to the Environment Court, then [opponents] went to the High Court and lost, back to the Environment Court and lost and the Māori Land Court and lost," Mair said.
That was before this week's High Court hearing.
Littlejohn said today: "Even if they are successful, it will have to go back to the Environment Court to reconsider whether SKP gets a new hearing. If it's unsuccessful, that could be the end of it, although they can go to the Court of Appeal."
Littlejohn said a decision in the case could be issued in the next three to five weeks.