This case dealt with the scope of powers of the Minister of Conservation in deciding about coastal permits. The plaintiff sought judicial review of a decision of the Minister of Conservation refusing to grant two coastal permits required for the coastal activities for the plaintiff’s proposed marina. The activities in question were, among others, to contain four hectares of the coastal marine zone, to dredge a marina basin and channel, and to place fill onto a salt marsh for development of a parking area.
The plaintiff argued, among others, that the Minister exceeded the scope of his powers, as his decision was based on a re-evaluation and re-determination of the evidence that had been considered by the Environment Court before.
The court analyzed the regulatory framework regarding the Ministers’ powers of assessment and decision-making under the Resource Management Act 1991. It analyzed, inter alia, the following questions: To what extent does the Minister have the power to reconsider the findings of the Environment Court? If the Minister can reconsider the evidence, did he do so fairly in this case? Was the Minister biased by way of predetermination? Was the Minister’s decision so irrational that it should be set aside upon that ground?
It concluded that Parliament had reserved to the Minister discretion to differ from the report of the Environment Court. But it was not the function of the Minister to hear witnesses and test the quality of the evidence. That was what the Environment Court did. However, the Minister had set about the task of reconsidering evidence, a power Parliament had not entrusted to him. That was an error of law.
The Minister of Conservation’s decision was therefore set aside. The Minister was directed to reconsider the whole matter to which the two restricted coastal activity applications related.