A luxury Waiheke Island vineyard has lost the latest round in a protracted legal dispute involving claims of drunken wine lovers, an unconsented hospitality operation and excessive noise.
Cable Bay Vineyards has been fighting Auckland Council and its immediate neighbours for more than five years in a dispute that's seen the wine business slapped with repeated abatement notices, fines, enforcement action and prosecutions.
Neighbours have lodged at least 75 noise complaints with Auckland Council about the vineyard since 2012 when owner Loukas Petrou built an unconsented restaurant extension and began serving alcohol to hundreds of patrons on the 4.5ha site's sloping lawn.
Residents say the vineyard has repeatedly thumbed its nose at its legal obligations and accuse Auckland Council of failing to properly monitor the operation over the years.
In September last year the Environment Court issued the vineyard a long-awaited retrospective consent to continue operating, but subject to 71 strict conditions to control noise and protect the rural environment's peaceful amenity.
Petrou told the Herald at the time he would "of course respect the terms of any consent granted" - before his company appealed the decision to the High Court and sought a judicial review.
Appeal documents obtained by the Herald show Petrou's lawyer alleged five errors of law by last year's Environment Court judges.
The appeal claimed the Environment Court failed to consider "relevant matters" and applied the wrong legal test.
It also claimed the court had imposed conditions "so unreasonable that no reasonable court would have imposed them" and that there had been a breach of natural justice.
Petrou and his company Cable Bay Wine Limited asked the High Court to rule the noise control conditions were unlawful and for Auckland Council to pay the vineyard's significant legal costs.
But in a just-released High Court decision, Justice Campbell dismissed the appeal, ruling there had been no errors of law or breaches of natural justice.
The judge also ordered Petrou's company to pay costs to Auckland Council and two neighbours involved in the litigation.
Justice Campbell's decision says Cable Bay feared the conditions - referred to as "strict management control to prevent enthusiastic behaviour" - would severely restrict the vineyard's activities.
But he rejected the key points put forward in the appeal, ruling the vineyard company had ample opportunity to participate in the proceedings and there had been no procedural unfairness.
"I reject any suggestion there was such a failure... my view is the Court went out of its way to provide Cable Bay (and the other parties) with opportunities to be heard."
The judge said Cable Bay had been represented by highly experienced, expert counsel and assisted by a range of experts. He dismissed claims of any natural justice breaches.
Petrou could not be reached for comment.
Michael Poland, whose property borders the vineyard, welcomed the decision but said the appeal had meant more uncertainty and more cost.
The Environment Court had come up with a "win-win" solution, giving residents an assurance their lives would not continue to be disrupted while allowing the vineyard to operate subject to a council-monitored consent.
"[Cable Bay] said they would abide by the conditions," said Poland but he claimed the company had shown an "absolute disdain" for the legal process.
In a statement, Auckland Council manager compliance response and investigations, Kerri Fergusson, said the council welcomed the High Court finding, which meant the Environment Court decision and conditions remained unchanged.
The council was now calculating its costs entitlement.
The council said last year it had been forced to take costly enforcement action against Cable Bay over an extended period due to "ongoing offending" and had successfully prosecuted the owner three times.
The High Court decision comes months after Cable Bay Wine won a landmark noise prosecution case in which its lawyer claimed chirping crickets were responsible for an excessive noise reading.
A judge ruled the accidental deletion of crucial evidence by Auckland Council noise control staff had effectively torpedoed the case.