The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against Environment Waikato’s Piako River Rating Scheme.
Two appellants, a group of high country farmers and former Councillor Rodney Luxton, have had their case against the legality of the rating scheme dismissed. They took their case to the Court of Appeal after losing a High Court decision on the issue. The High Court ruled that the Council had acted legally in rating upper catchment properties for the Piako River Protection Scheme and awarded costs to the Council.
The farmers claimed their land did not benefit directly from the scheme and did not materially contribute to the flooding problems the scheme was designed to avoid, so they should not have to pay rates.
The Court of Appeal has found that the Council was able to rate on the purpose the land was currently being used for, which did not require consideration of the way the land was in the past. It agreed with the Council that the appellants’ land drained naturally in such a way that it contributed to the need for the work and that its current use materially contributed to the need for the scheme.
It also agreed that the Council was entitled to regard the appellants as receiving direct benefit from the scheme.
The Court ordered the farmer group appellants to pay the Council $8000 in costs plus two thirds of its disbursements, and Mr Luxton $4000 plus one third of disbursements.
Council Chairman Neil Clarke said the outcome was a hallmark decision which was of national as well as regional importance.
“The integrity of Council processes has been vindicated in respect of this particular scheme, but also for similar rating systems like Project Watershed (Council’s project to develop a funding policy for Waikato and Waipa catchment river management, flood control and soil conservation).
“This will have implications throughout New Zealand and other councils have been anxiously awaiting this decision.”