The case concerned flooding and drainage of farms in the Moututangi District near Houhora, some 35 kilometers north of Kaitaia.
Summers, a farm owner claimed that, as a result of over-drainage and inadequate clearing of public drains, the condition of his farm had deteriorated. He sought enforcement orders for the over-drainage to cease and restoration of the conditions of his farm.
The District Council contended that the drainage works were for the benefit of the whole District under a management plan.
The court emphasized that differences of opinion could arise about how much clearing should be done at a particular time, how often any particular drain or watercourse should be cleared, the methods to be used, and how much money should be raised from the district for drainage work in any year. However, it held that the last was a political question, better decided by a democratically elected body, and one on which a court should refrain from expressing an opinion. It would be desirable for the standards of clearing and other maintenance work to be specified, to provide a context for making the other decisions. The court was of the view that the management plan proposed for the drainage district would be an appropriate document to contain such a specification.
The court declined to make any of the enforcement orders sought by the Summers and dismissed his application. It commended to the parties the value of the proposed management plan for the drainage District and the opportunities for them to take part in the formulation of its content.