Solid Energy New Zealand had been granted a resource consent enabling it to develop and operate an open cast coalmine. The Environment Court had upheld the consent subject to conditions. The Forest and Bird Protection Society appealed to this court.
The mine footprint included red tussock wetland which comprised significant indigenous vegetation. Solid Energy was required to transfer a 12 hectare area of red tussock wetland to an intermediate site and then relocate it back in the mined area after coal extraction was finished. The Society contended that there was no evidence that the direct transfer and relocation of 12 hectares of wetland was feasible.
The Court analyzed the judgment of the Environment Court and decided that the findings of the Environment Court had to be viewed from the perspective that they were made by a specialist Court, which was frequently confronted with conflicting scientific evidence as to future events. It was of the view that the judgment of the Environment Court involved a margin of appreciation which it was impossible for this Court to match. Therefore, it was not persuaded that the Court erred by imposing the conditions relating to the direct transfer of red tussock wetland. Furthermore, the Court did appropriately assess the potential effects and impacts which the proposed mining activity entailed. The appeal was dismissed.