A Northland company has succeeded in its appeal to overturn an Environment Court ruling that upheld a decision to refuse resource consent for the storage of relocatable houses.

Haines House Haulage Northland (HHH) applied to the Whangārei District Council for a land use consent to store relocatable houses on a site north of Whangārei between Piano Hill Rd and State Highway 1.

The site, known as Lot 2, was intended to operate as an overflow yard for houses that could not be accommodated at HHH's main yard, about 1km away on SH1.

WDC's reporting officer recommended the consent be granted. WDC appointed a commissioner to hear the application but consent was refused for reasons relating to visual impacts and amenity values. HHH appealed to the Environment Court.

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For the purposes of the appeal, HHH commissioned a further landscaping report and a vegetation management plan.

Before the court's interim decision was issued in March 2019, HHH moved a house on to a site known as Lot 1 and began work on the house and its foundations.

The house was off to the side of a residential property. The owners of that house felt Lot 1 should be limited to the grazing of horses, sheep or cattle.

Haines House Haulage has successfully appealed an Environment Court ruling on the grounds of errors of law. Photo / Mike Dinsdale
Haines House Haulage has successfully appealed an Environment Court ruling on the grounds of errors of law. Photo / Mike Dinsdale

In its interim decision, the court concluded the resource consent could only be granted as long as no buildings were placed on Lot 1, to achieve rural character and amenity.

The house remained on Lot 1 after the interim decision was issued and work continued to permanently establish it on that site. A building consent was issued in May 2019.

The court issued its final decision on July 25, 2019 dismissing the appeal and refusing the resource consent.

Justice Christine Gordon said: "I have determined that the Court did not have jurisdiction to impose a condition that there be no house on Lot 1. The essential reason for refusing consent and dismissing the appeal was that HHH had moved a house on to Lot 1. A condition that HHH could not do so would not have been lawful. It follows that the decision was unreasonable."

The court said it was also concerned about whether HHH would comply with conditions of consent given that it had installed a house on Lot 1 while the decision was pending and having regard to its work in relation to the house after the interim decision.

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HHH appealed the ruling in the High Court on the grounds there were errors of law.

A breach of natural justice was among errors of law the company alleged on appeal.

WDC maintained a neutral stance— the territorial authority neither supported nor opposed the appeal.

Justice Gordon said there was a breach of natural justice as the lower court, she said, did not consider relevant evidence it had requested including the Amended Landscape Plan before issuing its final decision.

She set aside the Environment Court's final decision and remitted the matter back to that court for further consideration.