This case dealt with a conflict resulting from the Government’s attempt to end the occupation of a natural reserve area by holiday back owners. The area in question, Rangitoto Island, comprised some 2333 hectares and had enjoyed Crown reserve status since 1890 for recreation and for scenic purposes. However, nearly 100 years ago individuals started erecting holiday baches on Rangitoto’s coastline for weekend and vacation use. The Director-General and the Minister of Conservation had given the caretakers of these baches notice to vacate.
An association of bach owners challenged the notices’ validity. It contended that the Minister was legally required to preserve the baches, to enhance the relationship between the occupants and those baches, and to preserve the bach community as a whole.
The central question for the court was whether or not the Minister had acted lawfully when exercising his statutory discretion. The court reached an answer to this question by determining, first, whether the Minister was bound, when refusing consent to the caretakers, to take into account the relevant provisions of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 and, second, if so, whether he did take them into account.
It analyzed the relevant regulatory framework and concluded that the Minister had adopted an unduly restrictive approach to exercising his statutory power of consent because he had misunderstood his legal obligations. The Minister was expressly directed to have particular regard to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 when exercising his Reserves Act powers. He failed to do so. He would have had to carefully consider what was effectively a statement of general policy for Rangitoto before refusing consent to the caretakers to remain.
There would have been a way to preserve structures which have acknowledged historic value, while also enhancing preservation of the existing community and its relationship with the reserve’s special natural, physical and scenic features. Accordingly, the decisions to refuse consent to bach occupiers to remain in occupation of individual dwellings were set aside. The Minister was ordered to reconsider the application for occupation Rights.