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Council pleased with Court decision

Environment Waikato’s appeal to the High Court on powers of entry has been dismissed – but the Council is pleased that the decision clarifies a number of contentious issues.

The Council had appealed an interim Environment Court decision late last year on its powers of property entry under the Resource Management Act, as it felt there were still areas of ambiguity. The appeal was supported by Wellington City Council and Auckland Regional Council.

The case arose from a complaint that Environment Waikato officers did not have the power to enter property, bring expert assistance or take photographs without a warrant.

Resource Use Group Manager Harry Wilson said the Environment Court decision had clarified a number of matters, and had agreed with Environment Waikato’s position that it did not need permission to undertake compliance inspections. However the Court held that a search warrant was required if a search for evidence was contemplated. It said a warrant was required if offences were suspected.

Environment Waikato had appealed that part of the decision, asking for clarification on several aspects it believed were still ambiguous.

High Court judge, Justice Venning had more clearly stated the extent of the Council’s powers and indicated that how they were used was based on the officers’ intention at the time entry to property was contemplated.

If entry was required for a compliance inspection, the Council had authority, but if it wanted to gain further evidence towards a possible prosecution, then it would need a warrant.

Mr Wilson said the decision had clarified the issues and he did not believe that the Council’s powers had been altered greatly as a result. The Council would be advising its enforcement officers on what actions they were able to take in line with the Court’s decision.

The High Court finding now goes back to the Environment Court for a final decision.

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