NO LOCAL authority likes to have their decisions second-guessed in court, and no developer wants that kind of interference, but the legal challenge being set up by a Greytown pressure group over the FreshChoice expansion has learning benefits for everyone.

It would be easy to fall into the pattern of assuming that council decisions are invariably right, and that's a dangerous pattern to fall into.

Two years ago Kapiti residents sought a judicial review when the Kapiti District Council imposed coastal hazard flood lines on their beachside properties, effectively lowering their values. The judge said the council's reports lacked clarity, fairness and balance, and the lines were withdrawn. There have been other occasions when the Wellington City Council have been stymied by the will of the people, with the court to back them up.

It is good that every so often the will of the council is tested by the courts. Councils have a rulebook to follow -- the District Plan -- and the Resource Management Act, the latter allowing discretion with the rules if the council consider the effects to be less than minor.


There is also the idea that commercial progress in a small town is inherently a good thing. Wairarapa is not blessed with an abundance of economic opportunities to grow. Greytown is lucky to have a supermarket like FreshChoice.

A decision by the court over this judicial review will obviously hurt someone, but we all learn when we ask the judiciary to decide. The Kapiti situation is now being used as a precedent in Christchurch. Councils around New Zealand will take note of the Greytown decision. Similarly, residents associations and community groups will also be guided by it.

If the court decides their arguments lacked merit, other groups will realise community fervour doesn't always win the day, and they may adapt their argument. If they win, then the same groups will feel they had a righteous argument which the court listened to. It's all democracy. It's also money and delays, but exercising your rights can be like that.

My view for Greytown is the council made a reasonable decision to sustain a supermarket, an undeniable public good, but I appreciate the extension may jar with the "look" of the main street. Let's see what the judge thinks.