A group of avocado growers granted consents to draw water from the largest wetland in Northland is seeking an urgent court hearing to challenge an appeal against the consent.
Companies and individuals, collectively known as Motutangi Waiharara Water User Group, have filed an application in the High Court at Whangārei to strike out an appeal by Far North resident Reece Burgoyne.
The group of 17 mainly avocado growers on the Aupouri Peninsula is also seeking a priority hearing date.
Commissioners appointed by the Northland Regional Council last year granted consents to the group, with a raft of conditions, to take around 2 million cubic metres of water
annually from the Aupouri aquifer to nourish 600ha of new avocado orchards at Houhora, Motutangi and Waiharara.
The Kaimaumau-Motutagi wetland is the largest in Northland and the third largest peat bog system in New Zealand. It covers about 4000 hectares, including large areas designated as scientific reserve, and a conservation area.
Burgoyne represents the Te Taumatua Ngati Kuri Research Unit based in Mangonui and is seeking to overturn NRC's decision to grant the consents by relying on issues relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and the Regional Policy Statement.
He is challenging certificates of title and claims land of cultural interest that forms part of the avocado orchard was sold to individuals.
The case was called before Justice Timothy Brewer in the High Court at Whangārei this week and a tentative hearing date of November 4 has been allocated.
Lawyer Graeme Mathias, who stood in for the group's lawyer Brookfields Lawyers, said a priority date would enable the growers to exercise the consents and water a large quantity of avocados.
Burgoyne said maybe the matter should be heard by the Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court.
With little money, Burgoyne said he was fighting for the people and claimed he had good support from throughout New Zealand.
He described granting of consents as a "miscarriage of justice" and if the avocado growers were allowed to take a huge quantity of water from the aquifer, there would be none left.
The applications for resource consent were notified on a limited basis to more than 1000 owners/occupiers of adjacent properties in October 2017, with 42 of the 57 submissions received opposing, eight supporting and seven neutral.
The Department of Conservation went to the Environment Court and successfully sought amendments to consent conditions to include more significant monitoring and sampling.
Independent commissioners David Hill (chairman) and Peter Callander, who heard the applications on behalf of the NRC, accepted submitters had expressed a reasonable concern about the safety and security of the aquifer.
Based on evidence from the applicant, experts and submitters, they were aware the aquifer was potentially vulnerable, "due to its connection to the sea and the variable amounts of rainfall recharge related to climatic changes and the clearing and planting of forestry blocks".