Watchdog Gets Kick in the Face for Christmas

We have received a kick in the face for Christmas from a High Court ruling: an order for $79,000 worth of costs against us, owed to Crown Law and the Oceana Gold mining company.

“We took a Judicial Review against Ministers Parker and Robertson and Oceana Gold to challenge the farm land at Waihi being sold to a foreign company for a proposed new gold mining toxic waste dump and we lost.

We accept losing but we do not accept that voluntary groups acting in the public interest should be punished with costs.

We took this case because the Overseas Investment Act needs clarifying and because the last Government was divided over whether this land should be sold to Oceana Gold. It was in the public interest to know whether the law allows consideration of detrimental effects in land being sold to foreign buyers or not, especially when the former Minister of Lands Eugenie Sage had declined the application only to be contradicted by Ministers Parker and Robertson.

It was sabotage of the Minister’s original decision and now we have been punished  for requiring clarification of the Government’s legal position. 

Voluntary groups acting in the public interest play a vital role in raising legal issues and there are many Court decisions that recognise the value of these efforts even when the groups lose the legal issue. 

It’s incredibly disappointing that the Judge saw fit to ask the well resourced Crown Law and Oceana Gold to apply for costs against a community group which has no money. The case we took was accepted by the  Court procedures as warranting investigation,  and now the week before Christmas we are being penalised.

Defending productive land and the environment from toxic waste dumps and fossil fuel based dinosaur industries is a public duty as is testing unclear laws. The Judicial Review was challenging the Labour Ministers for their view that jobs are the only worthy consideration. They trampled on the original decision from Minister Sage, which took a broader view of the law.

The costs awarded against us for challenging their dubious and narrow approach to both law and the environment, let alone their colleague’s decision making, are unfair and wrong.

However the greatest cost will be to the polluted land at Waihi and the wider Hauraki/ Coromandel as expansion of foreign toxic gold mining for foreign gain has now been facilitated by the Government and the High Court.”

Catherine Delahunty, Chair, Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki