Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee did not act lawfully when he used his wide ranging powers under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act in a land zoning decision last year the High Court has found.

In a ruling released this afternoon the High Court's Justice Lester Chisholm granted the application for a judicial review of Mr Brownlee's decision in October last year in which he fast tracked a Christchurch land rezoning decision.

Justice Chisholm overturned Mr Brownlee's decisions which ruled out housing development on land near Christchurch Airport owned by Independent Fisheries, supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises and other property developers.

Mr Brownlee's decision also allowed development of land elsewhere and had the effect of terminating a number of appeals to the Environment Court.


Independent Fisheries which made the application argued that Mr Brownlee did not exercise his powers for proper purposes, misapplied statutory powers, exercised power that was not necessary, deprived them of their right of access to the courts and failed to take into account relevant considerations.

Justice Chisholm upheld the application on all grounds apart from the claim Mr Brownlee failed to take into account relevant considerations.

However, Justice Chisholm said he did not believe it be appropriate to direct Mr Brownlee what he should do with respect to the land in question or its availability for development.

"That reflects that this proceeding is about the process rather than the merits. It will be for the minister to decide whether he wishes to take any further steps in relation to the applicants' lands in light of this judgement."

The case was given higher profile recently when Labour list MP Clayton Cosgrove said Mr Brownlee had submitted to the court his 2009 private members bill.

Had Mr Cosgrove's bill been picked up an passed into law, would have allowed Independent Fisheries and other landowners to develop their properties.

Mr Cosgrove claimed he was the target of a National Party smear campaign which attempted to link his promotion of that legislation to $17,500 in campaign donations he received from Independent Fisheries.