Data source
Date of text
13 Mar 2006
Original language


Type of text
Reference number
CIV 2005-485-33
Court name
High Court of New Zealand
spatial planning

The north-east Rodney coast was regarded as being of outstanding environmental significance and was accordingly protected by stringent planning controls. The respondent proposed to establish a subdivision on a 52.8 hectare site adjacent to the coast for the purpose of eco-tourism accommodation. A part of the site was classified in the appellant’s proposed District Plan as a Significant Natural Area.
The appellant rejected the proposal. The respondent thereupon appealed to the Environment Court. The appellant Council then appealed to this Court from the interim decision of the Environment Court. The appellant contended, among others, that the Environment Court had misdirected itself in its identification of the relevant permitted baseline by having regard to a test developed by common law rather than a new provision of the Resource Management Act.
The High Court emphasized that the Environment Court should be given some latitude in reaching findings of facts within its area of expertise. The Resource Management Act was not a code. Ordinarily, it was to be read alongside the common law. In the end, the question of whether a given provision of the Act had to be taken to have over-ruled a common law principle became a matter of statutory construction. The court therefore examined the inter-relationship of the Act with the common law.
It concluded that the new provision of the Resource Management Act modified the so-called common law test by limiting the permitted baseline to the effects of activities permitted under the District Plan. Moreover, the Environment Court had committed a material error when it concluded that it was appropriate to include activities carried on pursuant to existing use rights in its assessment of the permitted baseline. The appeal before the Environment Court was to be resumed when further information was obtained.